As an avid fan of The Da Vinci Code and as someone who saw the film adaptation a couple weeks ago, I was asked by P. Lincoln to add my two cents...
The DaVinci Code is a thrilling and fascinating novel in which a Harvard professor of religious symbology discovers a secret hidden in DaVinci's painting "The Last Supper"- the Holy Grail is not the legendary chalice that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper but the actual combined bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
Besides being criticized for its blurry line of fact and fiction, the novel introduces this conspiracy theory - for 2,000 years the Catholic Church has suppressed that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus Christ, mother of his royal bloodline, and ordained by him as head of the Church after his death.
Many men, intimidated by and jealous of Mary's "priestly" appointment, threatened her life, forcing her to spend the rest of her existence in hiding. Supposedly Saint Peter was one of those jealous men, and he (and a long long succession of men!) went on to take her place as pope of the Church.
As a Christian, I found the conspiracy fascinating yet faith-conflicting, but as a feminist I found myself more fascinated with the book's explanation of "the sacred feminine" and the repression women have faced as a result of Christianity.
This book mentions many pre-Christian religions - Egyptian, Roman, Greek - that celebrated the spiritual role of women (or goddesses) and their fertility. Somehow with the rise of Christianity the reverence of women became equated with evil, and such women were labeled as witches or heretics.
Not being totally familiar with the "sacred feminine" concept, I am fully aware of the oppression women have faced in the hands of religion and misogyny- the insistence on calling God a "He", the Spanish Inquisition, the exclusion of women from leadership roles in the Church, and the Pope's ban of birth control, etc.
It was pretty coincidental to me that my Philosophy professor last semester (and also a disenchanted, reformed Catholic) insisted on calling God - "She."
Radical thoughts popped in my head as I read the novel:
- How different would our society and our culture be if women were respected in a spiritual sense (beside the Virgin Mary); if women weren't just seen as the sin-causers (i.e. Eve's world-changing bite of the apple)?
- Would women be allowed to be priests, reverends, popes, etc? Would priests be allowed to marry, as did Jewish rabbis during Jesus time? How would this affect priest behaviour? Would the priest/child molestation scandals exist so prominently?
- Would a church headed by a woman be more merciful, compassionate, and more tolerant? Would it consistently stick to Jesus' ideologies - compassion and unconditional love? Would it have the heart to kill millions of people who didn't share the same religious beliefs? Would it exclude and judge people who didn't fit the mold of a "perfect Christian"?
Even if The DaVinci Code doesn't hold one bit of truth and is instead a complete mishmash of historical legends and Biblical conspiracy theories, I believe it has accomplished the most important thing that a book can do - make me think, challenge my beliefs, and inspire me to pick up another book. (Okay that's more than one, but you get the point!) I have already looked up a couple articles on the "sacred feminine" and I hope to read more in-depth books this summer.
For those interested, here are a couple resources, some found on author Dan Brown's website and others through a search on Amazon.com: