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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Fri, Jun. 2nd, 2006 12:13 pm
Da Vinci

I recently went over to the Tecumseh branch of the ACPL and picked up a bookmark that looked interesting.  The top line reads: GUYS READ, FOR GUYS ONLY.  The description on the next line is: "Are you a guy?  Are you tired of reading what everyone else tells you to read?  Read what you want, when you want and talk about it with other guys!"  I thought that actually sounded kinda cool, maybe I would drop by sometime.  Unfortunately, I got home and kept reading: Ages 9-12.  D'oh! :_(

So, I finally borrowed The Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown) from the library to see what all the fuss is about.  I will admit, it reads quickly and is pretty engaging.  I got a small paperback version, but also reserved an illustrated copy which included pictures of all the artwork -- that was pretty cool, it was interesting to actually see what he was describing when sculptures or paintings were involved.  Some of the theories are interesting, but most are way off.

It's especially irritating when Brown modifies church history to make things more exciting.  In particular, the portrayal of the Council of Nicea is very distorted.  First off, he claims that the vote was about whether Jesus is actually divine, which is patently false.  The debate was regarding Jesus' exact relation to the Father, whether he is the same or a similar "substance."  Arius, whom the controversy is named for, still believed Jesus was divine but that maybe he wasn't quite part of the "one God" described in the Old Testament.  The final vote, which Brown claims was "relatively close," was actually a landslide -- only two bishops out of 250-318 (the exact attendance is unknown due to varying accounts) sided with the Arians.  (See article on this subject by Bart D. Ehrman.)  Brown also claims this is where the formal decision was made by Constantine and the bishops to discard Mary Magdelene's role in the church.  Now, there are some earlier writings by the Apostolic Fathers (the generation after the original apostles) that take a rather derogatory tone towards women.  However, these were all widely known and accepted leaders of the faith, not fringe elements who started claiming "secret knowledge" in Gnostic writings.  None of these leaders mention Mary Magdalene as having special status or being the actual head of the church.  It's a little hard to believe that all of those church leaders would be predisposed to disregard Mary M. within one generation, isn't it?  Even Origen, considered fairly wacky by today's theology and Christian philosophy, does not even hint of such things.

More oddly, Brown claims that Constantine was an ardent pagan who wanted to fuse the old traditions with this new fast-rising faith.  If that were the case, wouldn't he exert all of his will to make sure the traditional goddess symbols did become incorporated into Christianity, not excluded?  The theory is that Constantine needed to "make" Jesus divine by elevating him above earthly concerns, that siring a child with Mary Magdalene would be seen as making him a mere mortal and not worthy of worship.  And yet, it is because Jesus supposedly did have a child with Mary Magdalene which makes her the object of suppressed reverence!  How is it that having a child together detracts from his divinity and adds to hers?  Why does she then become the essence of the sacred feminine?

The greatest irony of this book is that Brown claims the Roman Catholic Church denies the "sacred feminine" and will do anything to suppress the role of women in religion -- has he ever noticed the other Mary?  Mary Magdelene has traditionally gotten the short end of the stick, even the Vatican has officially repudiated the whole convoluted theory that she was a whore.  However, Mary the mother of Jesus is very much a revered part of the church and its traditions.  Brown neglects to mention that Pope John Paul II was this close to declaring Mary to be "Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate for all Christians."  Depending on your point of view, this may or may not be considered gross heresy.  The point being, it doesn't sound like the church is trying very hard to suppress reverence for a woman.  So, all his arguments fall pretty flat when you take 1.3 seconds to remember this fact.  Oops!

Overall, it's an interesting read and I am glad I can converse intelligently about it now.  Even Newsweek debunks basic premises of the book (like noting that scholars overwhlemingly agree it's St. John in The Last Supper and not Mary M.), this is not the work of some fanatical Christian publication trying desperately to maintain a grip on "the masses."  If you take the story in the vein of "The CIA is trying to take over the world" or "Fluoride is a form of mind control," you will be OK.  If you think this is an accurate depiction of history that mistakenly got shelved in the Fiction section somehow, you're in trouble.

I also read Serenity: Those Left Behind, which is a graphic novel by Joss Whedon and a couple others.  It fills in the gap between the end of the Firefly TV series and the Serenity movie, with details such as why Shepherd Book left the ship and what happened to the blue-handed fellows.  My only real complaint was that it could have been longer!  It feels a little thrown together, some plot points suddenly seem to resolve in a few frames or the action doesn't quite jive.  Given how thoughtful Whedon usually is about his characters and their actions, it's slightly disappointing.  Still, it's a good read and it's nice to fill in those gaps if you are a fan.  If you are one, I recommend it; if not, you will survive without picking it up.

By the way, I watched Last Comic Standing this week and thought it was pretty good.  I thought the only irritating part was that they had a bunch of "next stage" envelopes for L.A. (about a dozen), and only 2-4 for other cities like Tempe and Miami.  Now, I am willing to concede that maybe the editing had something to do with the fact that some of the L.A. people who got through didn't seem as funny as some comics from other cities.  However, wouldn't they be showing the best lines from each of their acts?  I guess there's a chance some of the West Coast comics might have been more consistent overall rather than just a couple good lines, but still -- I have my doubts.  Are they trying to save money by giving out a bunch of envelopes in L.A. and then only having to fly the minimum number of people out for the show?  WTF?!  That really sucks, I hope that is not the case.  Well, it was still funny and I plan to watch tonight.  Something a little different, I like that.  Odd to watch it without Jay Mohr, but I think it will still be a good show.

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10CommentReply

zacho817
Zach E
Fri, Jun. 2nd, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)

I just started reading The Da Vinci Code. Not very far into it, but i have heard all the basic premises about the book. I have often wondered why the supposition of mary magdalene and jesus having a child is such a big deal. The reason I wonder that is that he was fully human and also fully devine right? well, isn't part of the human experience growing up, falling in love, siring an offspring, etc? Its probably just the fact that the bible only covers 2 or 3 years of a life that spans 32 years that creates so much mystery. Its just these 4 collections of stories that are "accepted as truth" and the other stories that exist that tell different versions and different events are regarded as complete fabrications and utterly false despite that some of them date from the same era as the gospels. Besides, how do we not know that jesus wasn't a great dad and a loving husband who is capable of being savior to the world? Heh, how's that for a secret identity?


ReplyThread
spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Tue, Jun. 13th, 2006 01:04 pm (UTC)
Truth

In response, I'd like to point you to this website:
http://www.martinlutherking.org/

This looks like a great resource on MLK Jr, right? It's an orgnaization dedicated to spreading his story and what he stood for. That's all well and good, yes? Wrong! It is actually hosted by Stormfront, a white supremacist group. Needless to say, once you actually get into the material, you find a lot of things don't jive with what you normally read in the history books. Yet many people cite this resource, oftentimes because it is listed high up in search results. This is a classic example of "good vs bad information" from library school, and how people need to be aware of where the information is coming from.

It's the same thing here. Truth is truth, and people have their own agendas when they start getting away from it. The Gospels are the most consistent record of Jesus' teachings and they almost entirely verify each other. These are written as eyewitness accounts and records of what they were told by the original apostles, not "secret knowledge" fabricated by the Gnostics. Either you believe the eyewitnesses, or you don't. Jesus says that everything the Father has told him, he shared with his disciples. We must believe that they shared everything with us, that they accurately recorded his words and deeds, that the succeeding generations knew what to look for when composing the canon of the Bible. Otherwise, Jesus' life becomes a metaphor rather than a saving reality, a fiction where anyone can add any details to his life as they so please. This MLK website looks good and sounds good, it was created within a generation of MLK's death, yet scholars would overwhlemingly reject it and the information contained therein. So, too, we cannot accept other versions that do not correspond to what we know and believe about Jesus and his teachings. Otherwise, you start traveling down a very slippery slope!


ReplyThread Parent
zacho817
Zach E
Tue, Jun. 13th, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Truth

I wasn't trying to say that the four gospels are false. I just think that they don't contain everything about Jesus' life. I do believe that he died for our sins and ascended into heaven and all that, but when I think about what I know about the time he lived in, shouldn't his family have involved him in an arranged marriage as was the custom at the time? (please stop me if I'm incorrect). Would it be such an earth-shattering travesty if the savior whom we know loved all mankind could not also be a true friend and companion to a woman? Many of the claims that The Da Vinci Code Makes do sound ludicris to me. I don't think that anything has gotten covered up. And I don't think that jesus would have ever meant mary magdalene to carry on his cause. In that time, women were unfortunately very low on the totem pole so to speak. Its just that some information gets lost across time. 2000 years is a long time, and undoubtedly things that happened in his time that were commonplace might not have been deemed noteworthy and thus not recorded.


ReplyThread Parent
zacho817
Zach E
Tue, Jun. 13th, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Truth

Hmm, looking at the other comments to this entry, I think I want to read more about this subject. I think i'll take specialk141's suggestion to read "more than a carpenter". I might also read "a case for christ". *puts on his learning cap*


ReplyThread Parent
specialk141
specialk141
specialk141
Fri, Jun. 2nd, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC)

I found your insights on The DaVinci Code very interesting. I have not yet read the book, but am currently reading the British book that it was based on (ya know, by the authors who sued Dan Brown). I, like you, find all the claims very far fetched and borderline obsurd. I have been reading it along with A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and find a lot of the arguments against Christ to be dispelled by logically minded theologians. I reccommend the book to you, it's really good!


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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Tue, Jun. 13th, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC)
A Case for Christ

Cool, thanks for the tip! Glad you thought my ramblings on the book were useful, I tried to be concrete about my disagreements rather than a vague "I didn't like it" angle. :)


ReplyThread Parent
specialk141
specialk141
specialk141
Tue, Jun. 13th, 2006 03:37 pm (UTC)
Re: A Case for Christ

Yeah, you definitely were that. Also, if you want a shorter book on the subject of Christ's identity and life, you can check out More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell. It's very similar to A Case for Christ, but it's a lot shorter. Still a good read, though!


ReplyThread Parent
tv_elf
tv_elf
tv-elf
Sat, Jun. 3rd, 2006 12:36 am (UTC)

Read Da Vinci. Giggled through it all. It does scare me that some readers don't seem to understand it is fiction. It's like the Thermians on Glaxy Quest.

[Trying to explain TV to the Thermians]
Gwen DeMarco: They're not ALL "historical documents." Surely, you don't think Gilligan's Island is a...
[All the Thermians moan in despair]
Mathesar: Those poor people.


ReplyThread
spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Tue, Jun. 13th, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
Galaxy Quest

*ROFL* That's hilarious! I never particularly wanted to see that movie, but now I think I need to check it out. It is an apt analogy for how people view that book!


ReplyThread Parent
tv_elf
tv_elf
tv-elf
Tue, Jun. 13th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Galaxy Quest

??? !!! You've never seen Galaxy Quest? You really, really must see it. It helps if you watched the original Star Trek series; it's basically a love letter to the show and the fans. (Tim Allen is a huge scifi geek.)


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