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Writer criticizes ‘DaVinci Code’

Maureen Mullen | Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Syndicated columnist and Catholic blogger Amy Welborn criticized bestselling novel, “The DaVinci Code” for depicting a version of Jesus Christ that is inconsistent with the Gospels during a lecture in DeBartolo Hall Monday.

“The big theme of The DaVinci Code is that Christianity is the enemy to the truth,” Welborn said. “But this is not new.”

In her lecture, titled “De-Coding DaVinci: The Fact Behind the Fiction of The DaVinci Code,” Welborn explained that Dan Brown’s best-selling novel depicts “Christianity as the bad guy and we and our personal beliefs and our personal desires are good.”

Welborn explained that Brown is not the first to publish a work that attacks established Christian belief.

“Beginning in the late 19th century, there were discoveries of various Gnostic texts. More recent discoveries of The Dead Sea Scrolls, or even the Gospel of Judas have, like earlier Gnostic texts, caused “people to start writing books about the hidden sayings of Jesus.”

“There were even a couple of novels written on the theme that there are other truths to Christianity not expressed by the institutional church,” Welborn said.

She cited the 1999 film “Stigmata” as one example of a contemporary work which, like “The DaVinci Code,” presents misleading notions and erroneous beliefs of Christianity. Yet, for some reason no previous text has received quite so much hype and public attention as has “The DaVinci Code,” she said.

Welborn said what troubles her is not so much the fiction of Dan Brown’s work as it is the way in which our society has received it.

“Sometimes people say to me you know, it is just a novel. If you go buy it, its on the fiction shelf,” Welborn said. “Of course I realize that. Of course ‘The DaVinci Code’ is just a novel. In fact, I would say that ‘The DaVinci Code’ is 99 percent fiction. Paris exists. The Louvre exists. Leonardo lived.”

Other than those basic aspects of the story’s setting, there seems to be little fact to the tale, according to Welborn.

She said that she’s encountered many who accept at least some assertions of “The DaVinci Code” as truth. Welborn said readers “who lack adequate knowledge of theology and history fail to realize the inventions of the author.”

Welborn believes that many people who read the book may see Brown’s extensive bibliography and believe the book contains considerable fact. Readers may understand statements of the book’s scholarly characters-statements which, as Welborn says, “are couched in the veneer of authority”- and accept them as truth.

“What bothers me is the number of people who allow this book to shape their sense of early Christianity, shape their sense of art.” Welborn said. She said she was “distressed that ‘The DaVinci Code’ functions as so much of a distraction to Christian truth.” Its depiction of Jesus is a Gnostic Gospel-type portrayal and one that Welborn said is exceedingly inconsistent with the Jesus of the New Testament.

Welborn said she fears the release of “The DaVinci Code” film will only propagate false teachings and worsen the situation that the book has produced, she said.

“For a long time I’ve been quite puzzled by the popularity of the Gnostic Jesus and the Jesus of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and I’ve tried to figure out what is the appeal. Why do people prefer that Jesus to the Jesus of the Gospel?

“The Jesus of The Da Vinci Code says that we’re fine the way we are,” Welborn said. “But what does the Jesus of the Gospel say? Love your enemy. Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor. Blessed are the poor. Jesus says if you want to serve me, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the imprisoned …

“Of course, people don’t want that Jesus because that’s hard stuff. That’s the Gospel. And so yes, it matters. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ Jesus doesn’t save or redeem. ‘The DaVinci Code’ Jesus lies on a page, but the Jesus of the Gospels, he can change our lives.”

Welborn received her B.A. in Honors History from the University of Tennessee and her M.A. in Church History from Vanderbilt Divinity School and has worked for the Church for most of her life.

Welborn has written for the Catholic press for the past fifteen years and is currently a very popular Catholic blogger. Recently she has dedicated much of her time to discussing and lecturing about Christianity as she understands its representation in “The DaVinci Code,” which her book,”De-coding DaVinci,” examines in more detail.

Welborn said with the upcoming release of the film, it seems to her that “The DaVinci Code” is destined again to be a hotly debated topic in popular culture.