Conservative religionists hate being portrayed as idiotic rubes by elitist liberals, but don't hesitate to paint readers of The Da Vinci Code in a questionable, biased light. The premise of this blog by Jeremy Lott at GetReligion is that readers of The Da Vinci Code are too stupid to tell fact from fiction, and are rude graverobbers to boot.
The evidence for this prejudice? A Telegraph story that describes the work of mere vandals and treasure seekers looking to get rich, not the deeds of typical fans of Dan Brown's novel. And a link to an article by Amy Welborn to make the point that Code fans take "Dan Brown's tongue-in-cheek claims to historical accuracy just a little too seriously."
I suspect most Code fans are quite able to distinguish fact from fiction. Suggesting otherwise as Welborn and Lott do is simply irresponsible. The issue is not the stupidity of Code readers, but the validity of the controversial historical theories advanced within the context of a fictional novel. Such theories suggest that Jesus "married" Mary Magdelene and sired a child, a belief that some believe is incompatible with traditional belief in the divinity of Christ.
Dan Brown writes in the FAQ on his website, "it is my belief that the theories discussed by these characters have merit." This is hardly a tongue-in-cheek claim, not should it be dismissed out of hand. Many scholars and religious folks believe there is much truth to such theories, or at least that they are at least as worthy of belief as the opposing theories of the orthodox. Conservative religionists may disagree with the theories expounded in the novel, but disagreeing with conservative historians hardly makes one an imbecile incapable of critical thinking.
Rather than portraying fans of the Code as idiots, the media would do well to investigate the merits behind the theories expounded by the novel's scholarly characters. Dan Brown writes: "Two thousand years ago, we lived in a world of Gods and Goddesses. Today, we live in a world solely of Gods. Women in most cultures have been stripped of their spiritual power. The novel touches on questions of how and why this shift occurred ... and on what lessons we might learn from it regarding our future."
It's easy for conservative religionists to focus on allegations that Dan Brown's book drops the ball on some historical details, but this is a diversionary tactic. Conservatives do not want to address the overarching factual basis behind the Code's historiography: in the past 2,000 years, there has been a major shift of religious paradigm. The previous paradigm was matriarchal and included worship of the Sacred Feminine (and it is also hailed by the gay spirituality movement as an era when same-sex expression was accepted, and folks who today would be called gay were hailed as spiritual leaders). When the characters in Dan Brown's novel talk about the decline of the Sacred Feminine in the West, they get that much of the historiography of religious evolution absolutely correct.