COLUMBIA – Don’t buy what “The Da Vinci Code” is selling.
That’s the message author and commentator Amy Welborn gave to about 100 people gathered at the University of South Carolina on April 5 for her intriguing discussion of the spiritual and theological implications of the huge international bestseller by Dan Brown.
Welborn is the author of “De-Coding Da Vinci,” a book published by Our Sunday Visitor that systematically outlines the historical inaccuracies and fallacies in Brown’s book. She wrote the book in late 2004 after “The Da Vinci Code” hit international bestseller lists and, as Welborn described, many people started to treat its assertions about the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene as historical truth. She said the book has been receiving added attention with the impending May release of the film version.
Welborn spoke at USC during a short tour around the Diocese of Charleston that included talks in Camden and Charleston.
The basic plot of “The Da Vinci Code” centers on a Harvard “symbologist” who ends up in Paris and Rome investigating a murder. He discovers that the man who was murdered was a member of a fictitious group whose purpose is to shield the truth that the legendary “Holy Grail” was really Mary Magdalene. The book contends that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, and that the real “Holy Grail” is the human bloodline of Jesus Christ on earth.
“I have to tell people, ‘You know it’s on the fiction shelf, right?” Welborn said with a laugh. “There isn’t enough time in an evening to go through all the historical mistakes in Brown’s book … for instance, there’s absolutely no evidence anywhere to suggest these two were married. No one even thought about the idea until the 20th century.”
The real purpose for her talk, she said, was not to outline all of “Da Vinci’s” errors, but to talk about what the book’s assertions do to many people who may not know much about Christianity or who are questioning aspects of their own Christian faith.
Welborn said that many people who subscribe to the “Da Vinci” version of Jesus’ life are the same people who seek a “pick and choose” form of Christianity that is watered down and not as demanding on the believer. She also said that many people have raved to her about how “Da Vinci” has started “dialogues” about different aspects of Christian and Catholic history.
She said one of the most harmful things about the portrayal of Jesus Christ in “Da Vinci” – and the persona of Christ touted by many adherents to the Mary Magdalene-as-Holy-Grail theory – is that it is not based at all on the Jesus Christ that Christians come to know through the Gospels.
“The biggest lie in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is the lie that it tells us about Jesus Christ,” she said. “The dialogue that ‘Da Vinci’ has started is precipitated on a lie because the book tells us that the Jesus of the Gospels is sort of an inhuman figure we can’t appreciate as a human being.”
Welborn said that critics of her opinions have claimed that the book helped make the figure of Christ more real and more human to them. She said that was incomprehensible to her in light of the very real humanity that shines through in the stories of Christ’s life in the four Gospels.
“In the Gospels we see Jesus as a man who cried, who got angry, who laughed, who was afraid and finally who died a real and painful death … How much more human can you get?” she asked.
Welborn’s talks were sponsored by the St. Thomas More Center at USC, St. John Neumann Church and the diocesan Office of Campus Ministry. Her book is published by Our Sunday Visitor and sells for $9.95. It can be purchased at most Catholic book stores.
Amy Welborn’s writings and blog can be found at www.amywelborn.com.