Critics of The Da Vinci Code
hasten to point out the film and the book of the same name are classified as "fiction," that they make no pretense about being history. Its defenders, including the author, state the book is "based on" legitimate "history." Many
years ago, an oddball acquaintance asked me to read the book upon which The Da Vinci Code
is based. Two items struck your humble narrator about the "non-fiction" book -- Holy Blood, Holy Grail
by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln: its almost complete lack of historical basis and unrelenting, almost oppressive tedium.
In 400 pages, the book meanders over the history of the Merovingian Dynasty of Gaul. (Now there's
a page-turner.) Visigoths! Alamanni! Guys with names like Chilperic and Childeric -- thrill at it all!
From my rusty memory, I recall being struck that the historical section of the book had 1-3 footnotes, all in the early, non-controversial chronology of France. Once it began speculating about the Priory of Sion, sacred bloodlines, etc., no citations were made whatsoever, and even the "logical" connections the authors attempted to forge did not compute. It baffled me how anyone found it the slightest bit convincing.
As one wends his way through literally scores of pages that are at best highly tangential, one realizes: the authors present the entire history of the Merovingian family to distract from the paucity of evidence for the book's thesis. The average reader, buried 'neath a hundredweight of pages on early medieval Gallican history, has lost all bearings and assumes this somehow proves the authors' point. (Or is at least related to the authors' point.) The relating of this minutiae, for some, will establish their "scholarly" status and justify their pronouncements later in the tome concerning the Holy Grail. At a minimum, the modern American reader, faced with such arcane subjects, will shake his head and conclude that he is not equipped to argue with their conclusion.
In other words, if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, bury them in something else
The conservative wings of several churches have written about the book's fantasies commendably, but their predictable opposition carries less weight in the broader society than it should: after all, what else would the secularists expect of them? Particularly important are the criticisms of secular historians who regard Holy Blood, Holy Grail
One of the keys to minimizing the damage the film will do, in addition to the Church assuring the faithful of its ahistorical assertions, is to avoid giving the impression to non-church-goers at home this is a battle between Church and society; we ought to couch it in terms of truth vs. falsehood -- a war we can surely win.
The original book, and its follow-up The Messianic Legacy
, got more mileage from this ridiculous fairy tale than deserved -- and that 20 years ago. It is sad to see the book become a bestseller, worse to see it become a major film. Worse yet to see it continue to lead astray the ever-secularizing modern Western faithful.