I read Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ several years ago and saw the film. I couldn’t put it down. It made compulsive reading.
It’s a novel of course, although the author claims that much of the history and symbolism referred to in the book are true. It suggests that Mary Magdalene and Yeshua the Nazarene were married and had a daughter, and their bloodline can be traced to this day.
The church clearly feels threatened by these ideas. They lobbied against the book and picketed cinemas where the film was shown. The Vatican even established an anti-Da Vinci Code Commission! If, as they claimed, it could be dismissed it as a mere work fiction, why all that effort to discredit it? Perhaps it’s because they recognised that it contains more than a grain of truth.
If the Da Vinci Code should be ignored because it is full of distortions, fabrications and exaggerations and has been written to put a particular slant on events, should we also dismiss that other book full of distortions, fabrications and exaggerations – the Bible? They don’t want that one ignored, of course!
The Da Vinci Code tackles head on the way women were viewed at the time the New Testament was compiled – the first four centuries CE. We know that women played their full part in the early church, but when the Emperor Constantine decreed that Christianity was to be the official religion of the Roman Empire, the church had a dilemma: Rome was a very male-dominated society. They did not want to see women elevated in any way. They were thought to be a distraction and carry a greater burden of sin than men. They felt vindicated by the story of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden – often taken as an allegory for the evil nature of woman.
In 1486 things took an even uglier turn when the Catholic Church published a guidebook on how to spot witches and what to do with them. It argued that women were more credulous and therefore more susceptible to the influence of the devil, and because women have slippery tongues, they spread the evil they knew. So wayward women had to be rooted out and eliminated by any means possible, including burning and drowning.
Today the Catholic Church still insists on a male only clergy – and a (supposedly) celibate one at that as if contact with women demeans or dirties a man. Why? Because the scriptures say Yeshua was a man, born of a virgin (allegedly), and he chose only male disciples (or did he?). And the sort of women admired by the church are invariably the meek and mild, like Mother Teresa – a wonderful woman, but not one to stand up and be counted on issues such as the root causes of poverty, injustice, inequality and disease.
Who can seriously argue that women are not just as capable of being good priests, ministers, bishops – or popes? Look again at the strengths of women: the ability to relate, give comfort to others, make peace and nurture the next generation. Aren’t these the essence of spirituality? Yeshua certainly thought so. He cared deeply for women, and he frequently put himself on the line by spending time with them and praising them.
Given the history of the Catholic Church, is there a hidden reason why it felt so threatened by The Da Vinci Code?
Perhaps many people wanted it to be true even if there is no factual basis to it!
Most people recognise that women have had a raw deal down the centuries. They warm to the notion of Yeshua’s humanity as a father and a sexual being. They no longer believe that maleness is inherently superior, and that women are unfit to play a full part in the church. And they know the Catholic Church is vulnerable on any matter to do with gender and sexual conduct.
They like the idea of a woman as Yeshua’s spiritual equal and co-leader of his movement, someone with whom to share and discuss spiritual ideas. And they would like to see a genuine reassertion of the feminine principle in our religious and spiritual life.
Thankfully these changes are gathering pace! Perhaps one day other religions that insist on divinely ordained male supremacy will follow suit.
©David Lawrence Preston, 16.10.2017
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Balboa Press, 2015