Hollywood’s latest effort, “The Da Vinci Code,” hits movie screens across Iowa and the nation today (Friday) in the face of praise — and protests. The film suggests Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child.
Ken Atkinson, a professor of religion at the University of Northern Iowa, teaches a course on the Dan Brown novel on which the new movie is based. Atkinson says “There’s just enough truth in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ that it makes it very interesting. He mentions texts like Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip. Students ask me ‘Do these texts exist?’ and I say ‘Yes’ and they say ‘Conspiracy.'”
Atkinson says he’s dumbfounded by the people across the globe who are demonstrating against the movie being shown, since it’s never been billed as anything other than fiction. He says “Many people point out to me the page at the beginning of the novel where it says ‘Fact Page.’ Some of that’s true, most of it’s not, and I tell people look at the back of the book, it says ‘fiction.’ Even though you have a ‘fact page’ it’s a work of fiction and I’m surprised so many people take it so seriously.”
Some Iowa churches are using the popularity of the book and the star-packed big budget movie as a springboard from which to base further study. Atkinson says in that context, “The Da Vinci Code” is a means by which people can grow in their faith.
He says “If it’s going to destroy people’s faith, they didn’t have much of a faith to begin with. There’s really nothing in the book that’s a threat to Christianity and I hope it compels people to read the New Testament, then look at some of these other documents, look at the history of Christianity and they’ll see that Brown, most of this book is fiction.”
Through further study, Atkinson says it becomes quite obvious why the “other” texts mentioned in the novel weren’t accepted and why they’re only of interest to scholars.