The World’s Story vs. A Fable for Our Age
Every age has its story — a story
that gets read and reread, told and retold; a story that helps to define the age.
For 2,000 years, the Christian story has been the world’s story — the Greatest Story Ever Told. For the past couple of years, a new fable — The Da Vinci Code — has made an attempt to corrupt and upstage the greatest story.
The great British author and
storyteller G.K. Chesterton wrote that every story must contain three basic
elements: a thing to be loved, a thing to be fought, and a thing that both
loves and fights. In a classic children’s story, those three elements would be
represented by a princess, a dragon and a prince.
Let’s compare the story of the world to the Da Vinci Code fable.
The Christian story uses all three
The thing to be loved is the soul, Mary and the spotless bride of the Church. Not only is Mary a person to be loved, but she herself loves so perfectly that she is chosen by God to carry his Son in her womb. That action brings about not only the redemption of mankind, but the salvation of the world.
The thing that must be fought is the devil, depicted in both Genesis and Revelation as a serpent. The Evil One seeks to devour the child, but Mary and her son crush the head of the serpent.
In the Christian story, it is the
Church — founded by Christ and his apostles, and handed down to priests in
union with their bishops and bishops in union with the pope — that both fights
and loves. The Church fights doctrinal error and heresy, and by so doing
protects Christ and his Mother.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him,” wrote Chesterton.
And so it is with the Church.
It fights not because it hates,
but because it loves Mary and the child whom she bore.
It’s fascinating to note that the only two times in history when papal infallibility has been invoked have been the two dogmas that protect the person of Mary — her Immaculate Conception in 1854, and her Assumption into Heaven in 1950.
According to Church doctrine, Mary
is protected not only from the devastation of original sin, but also from the
sting of death itself.
Catholic dogma is typically proclaimed when it is under attack. In the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, the Church predicts the impending modern attacks on the Blessed Virgin Mary and comes to her defense.
The Da Vinci Code, by comparison, isn’t a timeless,
eternal story. Instead, it’s a throwaway beach-novel, a weak fable for our age.
Author Dan Brown turns the world’s story on its head.
That which must be loved, in the Code, is the “sacred feminine” — the erroneous idea that Christ wanted us not to worship him, but the feminine as exemplified by Mary Magadalene. The fable says that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene.
In the novel, the dragon that must
be fought is the Roman Catholic Church, the misguided clergy and a murderous
And that which both loves and fights is the enlightened scholar, professor Robert Langdon, who heroically “saves” the female, Sophie Neveu, from the clutches of the patriarchal Church and an all-male priesthood.
Brown’s argument is summed up quite well in the character of Leigh Teabing’s claim that, “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”
Among the book’s supposed revelations are that Christ wasn’t who he said he was, that he wasn’t divine, that he didn’t intend to create a Church founded upon Peter and the apostles, that he married and had children and that the Catholic Church has lied and murdered people to protect this “secret.”
The Code rearranges the characters of the Christian story and twists their relationships. His fable attempts to remake Christ in our own image, and by so doing proves to be an attack not only upon Christ and his Church, but also on Mary his mother.
As interesting as the characters
that Brown includes in his fable, there is one central character — given
Chesterton’s trinity of characters — that is missing.
By the Code’s substitution of the Church as the dragon, Brown has created a fable that lacks a true dragon.
Is it merely an oversight to create a story in which the Church is the “enemy,” but the real enemy is nowhere to be found?
It sounds like the mantra of our
age: “The devil doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as sin. There is no
The setup is the French poet Charles Baudelaire’s observation — that “the devil’s first wile is to convince us that he does not exist” — encased in a novel.
Who would create and advance such a twisted story? One could rightly argue that the Evil One — the missing dragon — is actually behind any story that attempts to hijack the Christian narrative.
That which attacks the Church comes from the Evil One. He, ultimately, is the one behind the story. Hence, he has conveniently created a story in which he, himself, is absent.
Contrast the Code’s approach with that of two successful motion pictures of the
past few years — The Exorcism of Emily
Rose and The Passion of the Christ.
Both films chose to personify evil. In fact, Mel Gibson purposefully inserted Satan as a character to remind us that he does exist — portraying him as an androgynous, ambiguous, slightly attractive yet repulsive figure that provokes the Roman guards. The devil also mocks the mother of Christ, the only other character in the film who seems to be able to see him.
The Code, too, mocks the mother of Christ. It is a fundamental attack
on Mary. For, it is the Blessed Virgin Mary, not Mary Magdalene, who is the
true feminine icon for the Church. Christ protects the spotless bride — the
Church. To degrade the Church is to desecrate Mary — the authentic “sacred
If we accept the premise of the novel, that Christ wasn’t divine, it makes a mockery of the Immaculate Conception, Mary’s perpetual virginity, Mary’s fiat, and the Assumption.
Her Yes to God and her role in
salvation history become utterly meaningless. Why would God need to preserve
Mary from the stain of original sin or save her from death itself if she were
not mother of the divine?
Whereas Christ takes our sins upon himself, suffers and dies upon the Cross, his mother is never injured physically.
At the cross, Christ gives his mother to John for safe-keeping. He bequeaths to the apostles, in the same way, the Church for their safeguarding through history.
The Church — Chesterton’s prince — exemplified by the fraternity of Christ and the priesthood, protects Mary from attacks, both physical and doctrinal. In the divine plan, the feminine is protected by the Father and the all-male clergy. This patriarchal and fraternal order is, of course, a structure of oppression to be despised and rejected by modern feminists.
The great mystery and paradox of the Church is that it is both the feminine — the spotless bride — and the masculine — the apostolic Church. It is both that which is loved and that which fights. That’s why the Christian story is so great. That’s why it is the story of every age. It’s a complete story, not a neutered one.
Claims such as The Da Vinci Code’s
are nothing new. Every new claim to redefine Christ is nothing more than an old
heresy that’s been recycled and given new clothes. Arianism
sought to deny Christ’s divinity. Nestorianism sought
to deny Mary as the Mother of God.
In the end, Brown’s claims, too, shall pass into history an unremembered fable.
Drawing from Chesterton, we might say that The Da Vinci Code is “ridiculous and deserves to be ridiculed.”
Meanwhile, the everlasting story —
the Christian narrative — will continue on.
It is the ultimate romance. The hero sacrificially lays down his life out of love, and then returns victorious even over death, death on a cross. As the early apostles and martyrs of our own era have shown us, it’s a story worth dying for.
For that reason, it will endure.
The Christian story, about a princess, a dragon and a prince, will be told by our children and their children’s children until the ultimate hero and dragon slayer — Jesus Christ — returns in glory.
Tim Drake serves as the
Register’s senior writer.
- June 11-17, 2006