I was beginning to suspect that I was the last person on the planet who hadn’t read The DaVinci Code, and so I remedied that situation last weekend. I like a good page turner as much as the next guy, and this was a good one. But man, I can sure see why this is riling up the orthodox Christians, especially the Catholics. Because if Jesus had a wife, and Constantine chose to unite the Roman Empire under Christianity for political rather than religious convictions, then myths are shattered, the center cannot hold, and some rough beast is certainly starting to slouch.
The idea of the "Sacred Feminine" is a new one for most Christians. There are no sacred females in Christianity, unless you count Mary, who was a mother, yes, but not the sort of woman that most women, or men, can relate to—notwithstanding the images of the BVM painted on abandoned bathtubs in Stearns County. There was no sex, after all.
Contrast this with the various other religions of the early Christian era. For example, here’s a description from the Aeneid of Venus, the goddess of love, and the mother of Aeneas, the Trojan hero and founder of Rome. He’s just been talking to her in the woods:
She spoke, and as she turned away, her rosy neck brightened,
And from her head breathed the aroma of divine ambrosia;
Down to her feet flowed her garment,
And by her step, she was revealed a goddess.
Jesus certainly never talked about his mother that way, at least according to what we know from the Bible as it’s been transmitted. Venus is, well, hot. And Mother Mary—she’s pretty much the good old androgynous, handmaid-of-the-lord, giving-up-everything-for-the-kid kind of mom.
People who have actually done their homework on the history of the early church don’t give a lot of credence to The DaVinci Code’s tale of Mary Magdalene as Mrs. Jesus Christ. (According to esteemed medieval historian and oenophile Oliver Nicholson, the Magdalene tale arose in the Middle Ages.) I am old enough to remember when Nikos Kazantzakis’ book, The Last Temptation of Christ, caused an uproar at my high school, years before Martin Scorsese scratched the scab again with his film version. (God bless the Jesuits for disregarding Rome and assigning it to high school juniors.) Jesus and Magdalene were married in that book, too, but since there wasn’t a hot Parisian cryptologist and a murder mystery involved, it sold about twenty-seven million fewer copies than The DaVinci Code.
Silly history aside, The DaVinci Code does have a symbolic purpose. Dare I say a book about symbols is a symbol? Dare I opine that part of its appeal is its fictional struggle against the patriarchal nature of Christianity and the established church’s hold on the flock? Why not? This is just an essay in a magazine and probably won’t be reprinted in enough languages to tick off the Vatican to the point of excommunicating me. Also, if I do get in trouble, I can always blame it on the Jesuits, and whoever is currently filling Tomas de Torquemada’s shoes will just nod knowingly.
So why does this all remind me of Michele Bachmann? Beats the hell out of me, but it did. OK, I admit it—it was the sexless obedient servant thing. And maybe we’ll throw in the omniscient overbearing church thing. While we’re at it, the hiding behind the trees at the gay rally at the Capitol and the cowering in the bathroom when confronted by some disagreeable lesbians recall some aspects of the thrilling DaVinci chase scenes, as well.
Speaking of chase scenes, in the upcoming mad dash across the sixth congressional district, Michele, you can bet, will be playing the part of the Opus Dei-trained and Church-sanctioned albino assassin. She’ll be using the weapons provided by her church, and its armorer, Karl Rove, to try to squelch the story of Patty Wetterling, who actually does symbolize family values. Except, unfortunately for Wetterling, protecting children just isn’t as visually eloquent as the images of the yucky kissing gays that we’re going to be treated to, courtesy of Bachmann.
In the last congressional campaign, Bishop Mark Kennedy put Wetterling’s pictures in ads right next to Osama bin Laden’s. How’s that for a powerful symbol? (And you thought the Church calling Magdalene a whore was bad.) I can hardly wait to see what Rove and Bachmann come up with this time. We don’t yet know any specifics of the Rovian symbology, but I’m willing to bet it’s going to involve Wetterling officiating at a gay marriage ceremony.
But, like The DaVinci Code, politics is all about the supremacy of symbols over actual fact. That’s what makes a good story, after all.