Invite Accepted

“It doesn’t surprise me that a fundamentalist such as yourself would be so closed minded as to not believe that even the possibility of something such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code could possibly happen. You people have the inability to think outside the box.”

E-mails such as this one confirm what many Christians have been saying for the last three years: Many readers of Dan Brown’s novel are believers. Not believers in the Jesus of history, but one ginned up with pseudo-history. Not believers in the Christ revealed in time and space, but an imaginary one coded in conspiracy and intrigue.

And not believers in fact, but in fantasy — a fantasy they believe thoroughly exposes the errors and lies of the Catholic Church. After all, as the New York Daily News gushed in a 2003 review, Brown’s “research is impeccable” — a tenet of faith that has been repeated a thousand times over by numerous reviewers, readers and talking heads.

But the recent court case in London further revealed what many critics have said all along: Brown’s touted research was, in fact, pathetic — and much of it was done by his wife. As Brown explained in his witness statement: “Blythe’s female perspective was particularly helpful with this book, which deals so heavily with concepts like the sacred feminine, goddess worship and the feminine aspect of spiritually.”

Apparently wanting to have it both ways, Brown told reporters in London that he is a “committed Christian.”

British actor Paul Bettany, who plays Silas, the albino Opus Dei “monk,” in the upcoming Da Vinci Code movie, admitted puzzlement about criticism aimed at the movie, saying, “I’ve heard rumors in the press about Catholics being upset about it but I haven’t met one yet and I haven’t had a chat with anyone who’s upset with us.”

Those rumors sound a lot like Brown’s research. They’re difficult to verify and conveniently vague. But at least Bettany admits he’s not actually met a Christian angry about the movie. Yet more and more pundits and fans of Dan Brown have expressed sober but empty concern over “angry” and “fearful” Christians. Yes, so angry and fearful that many of the Christians in question, including me, have embraced radical tactics such as writing books and articles, giving talks and creating websites filled with information. What next — cartoons?

Meanwhile, director Ron Howard told Newsweek last December that there will be “no placating” Christians in his cinematic version of the novel.

“It would be ludicrous to take on this subject and then try to take the edges off,” he explained. “We’re doing this movie because we like the book. … It’s a fascinating story to adapt and essentially it’s a great opportunity to entertain and provoke conversation.”

Ah, so we’re actually supposed to talk about the Code? Well, yes, Brown says on his website. “The more vigorously we debate these topics,” he opines, “the better our understanding of our own spirituality. Controversy and dialogue are healthy for religion as a whole. Religion has only one true enemy — apathy — and passionate debate is a superb antidote.”

So there you have it: Dan Brown has given Christians permission to dialogue and debate about his novel and his “facts.” And to do so passionately. And since we’d hate to be apathetic in our criticisms, we gladly take up his kind invitation.

Carl E. Olson is editor of