I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine earlier this year about whether we should accept Noah or not. The conclusion I came to was that it’s fine for Biblical stories to be told as fiction with changes, so long as the character of God remains intact. In the case of Noah, my friend didn’t believe it had. If that’s true in Noah, it’s screamed in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.
The beginning of the book seems innocent enough, as it pertains to religion and Christianity specifically. Robert Langdon, an expert in religious symbolism, is in Paris when a museum curator is murdered. He’s invited by the French police to the crime scene because there are some strange circumstances surrounding his death that clearly pertain to symbolism. His body is contorted into a pentagon and there’s a message written on the floor that is only discernible by blacklight. As Langdon keeps pulling at the mystery, it gets unraveled further and further, turning into one of the most fascinating mysteries you’ll ever read. It’s a bit like National Treasure applied to French history, but on a far more epic level. But as the book gets farther along, you soon learn that Dan Brown’s ability to make this a compelling story isn’t really a good thing.
As the story progresses, it turns out that the police have asked Langdon to help them on the case not because they genuinely need his help, but because he’s their prime suspect. It’s a classic French interrogation practice, where they ask the prime suspect to assist on the investigation in some way, hoping he or she will say something to incriminate themselves along the way. With the help of cryptologist Sophie Neveu, who also happens to be the curator’s granddaughter, Langdon escapes, pulling more and more at the thread of this mystery while they’re at it.
The two of them eventually discover that Sophie’s grandfather was high up in a secret organization known as the Priory of Sion. The Priory of Sion is an organization which believes that Jesus had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. More specifically, they believe that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a daughter with her, and that his bloodline exists to this day. The church, they contend, smeared her name to cover up this secret by claiming that she was a prostitute (interestingly enough, the Bible never confirms the oft-cited fact that she was a reformed prostitute).
If the nature of this secret in the book was only that Jesus was married while on Earth, that would be one thing, but the book goes much further. The Priory of Sion, the good guys guarding a precious secret in this story, are described by Langdon as “The female goddess worship cult.” There are several references to “the sacred female,” which isn’t fully explained until the end of the book, when a reference is made to a female deity alongside Yahweh, the God of the Bible. There are two expressions of this that are particularly disturbing. The first is that Mary Magdalene is exalted to the point that she is essentially deity. Similar to how Mary has been exalted beyond her humanity in some cases, you can pray to and even worship Mary Magdalene. In fact, a large plot point of the book is that the Holy Grail actually refers to Mary Magdalene, and the search for the Holy Grail is a search to worship at the bones of Mary Magdalene. Even beyond idolatry, this extends into worshiping a human as a god, and putting her on equal footing with God (Brown likely took some inspiration from the Gnostic gospel The Gospel of Mary, which is supposedly written by Mary Magdalene and elevates her quite a bit, but has been evaluated by historians as being written around 200 A.D., making it impossible for Mary to be the author).
As obviously anti-Christian as that sentiment is, that’s not the worst encroachment that the book makes. It also makes a somewhat large plot point out of a sex rite (this isn’t described in detail, and what detail exists is extremely vague, but the event is referenced numerous times). It doesn’t do this to make a negative example out of it, but instead defends it. As a matter of fact, Langdon says there is “nothing perverse about it,” because it is celebrating fertility, the thing that makes the “sacred feminine” so holy, since giving birth is a miracle in and of itself.
It’s hard to know where to even start with all of these problems. Obviously Dan Brown didn’t intend to propagate this as fact, but instead as an intriguing mystery story, yet the problems are still present. A book that insists orthodox Christians are the villains, that worshiping female goddesses is perfectly acceptable, and which defends sex rites, reminiscent of temple prostitution that we read about in the Old Testament, has no place in any Christian’s book collection. Sometimes aesthetic quality and good writing are not positive things that make us reconsider whether we should take part in it, but are instead qualities which make the work far more dangerous to investigate.