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Revising Fact With Fiction

…and speaking of Angels and Demons, dismissals about the film’s innocent fictional intentions just took another hit.

In a statement / rebuttal to The Huffington Post entitled It’s a Thriller, Not a Crusade,  director Ron Howard assured the public that he and author Dan Brown were not aligned against the Catholic Church, nor had they ever suggested their movie was anything other than a work of fiction. The problem is some people desperately want to discredit Christianity and will use anything to do it — even pseudo scientific / historical movies.

Want some proof that The DaVinci Code phenomenon is muddling historical facts and striking a major anti-theistic, conspiratorial nerve? CNN is carrying a news story about one of the media’s hottest commodities: a disillusioned former fundamentalist.

[Bart] Ehrman, a best-selling author and a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a biblical sleuth whose investigations make some people very angry. Like the fictional Robert Langdon character played by actor Tom Hanks in the movie “Angels & Demons,” he delves into the past to challenge some of Christianity’s central claims.

In Ehrman’s latest book, “Jesus, Interrupted,” he concludes:

  • Doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus and heaven and hell are not based on anything Jesus or his earlier followers said.
  • At least 19 of the 27 books in the New Testament are forgeries.
  • Believing the Bible is infallible is not a condition for being a Christian.

“Christianity has never been about the Bible being the inerrant word of God,” Ehrman says. “Christianity is about the belief in Christ.”

Ehrman has several things going for him. Not only does he approach religion through a “scientific” mindframe, he’s a “recovering fundamentalist,” both of which earn big points from the secular press. As a result, Ehrman’s become something of a media darling. He can be seen regularly on the History Channel and Discovery Channel documentaries on Christianity, and he’s appeared on National Public Radio, CNN and the BBC. He’s become an authority on all things unorthodox. I guess “seeing the light” has its perks.

Really, it’s the same old thing — secret knowledge, hidden for ages, repressed by a corrupt religious oligarchy. But now (for the price of a book, conference, or CD set), you too can know the truth “they” don’t want you to know.


It’s the connection between Bart Ehrman’s “fact” and Dan Brown’s “fiction” that I find so interesting. From the CNN article:

… Ehrman’s popularity also may be due to a larger trend. The books of people like Elaine Pagels, author of “The Gnostic Gospels,” and Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” resonate with people who believe there are parts of the Bible that the church left on history’s editing floor.

Coincidence that Ehrman and Dan Brown are referentially connected? I don’t think so. As much as folks like Dan Brown and Ron Howard repeat the “innocent fictional entertainment” mantra, their  source material (like Pagels’ “Gnostic Gospels”) presents itself as decidedly factual. It’s rather hard to believe that the DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons are “just stories” when they partake so freely of purported historical facts and are embraced so enthusiastically by a larger movement whose aim is to discredit Christianity and Scripture. This is the “larger trend” that is fueling both Ehrman and Brown’s success.

Either way, I’m not sure where the line between “fictional liberty” and “factual distortion” is. But I can’t help but see Brown’s and Howard’s disclaimer as disingenuous.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Nicole May 18, 2009, 9:12 PM

    From what I could glean from reviews of both films and people who've seen "The Da Vinci Code", they've failed on all counts (entertainment, thriller, and a crusade).

  • Jacob May 19, 2009, 9:13 PM


    I like your new picture.


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