The past few days have been wedged with work. A new book on the Gnostic gospels has been engaging most of my attention. Among the other, far less interesting tasks, was the trial of reading one of the hottest books on the market.
I have to confess that, despite all of the hoopla surrounding Dan Brown’s 2003 blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code, I had studiously avoided reading it. While I’m usually quick to check out whatever has become the latest hot topic in popular culture (don’t get me started on the grueling effort it took to watch the first seasons of both Survivor and American Idol), in this case was hard pressed to care. After reading several reviews it was quickly apparent to me that Brown’s book was nothing more than a warmed over, fictionalized version of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a work I had read in 1989 or 1990 (the memory, thankfully, has faded with time). I had no time for rehashing old fairytales, so I eagerly passed and assumed that in time the interest level would fade.
Boy, was I wrong. The Da Vinci Code continues to come up in conversation after conversation, with even seasoned Christians asking me what I think of the outlandish claims that Brown and his characters make. In the wake of Brown’s success, publishing houses have gone spawned waves of books either extolling or damning the background to The Da Vinci Code. I must confess that my own humble work-in-progress would not have been likely had not the publisher seen the possibility of grabbing a piece of Da Vinci pie.
In one sense, I’m delighted. I’ve never had quite so good a reason to stroll into metaphysical bookstores and strike up conversations with complete strangers. Gnosticism has become a hot commodity. Harold Bloom may very well be right in calling it “the American religion”, for it certainly seems to strike a chord in our self-involved, authority-allergic age. At long last, a way to remake Christianity into a cult of self-knowledge as divine knowledge. I wouldn’t be half so concerned if it wasn’t that the typical evangelical is already mired in a kind of self-referential spirituality. It’s only a short hop-skip-and-jump from where we are to where Valentinus, Basilides and Marcion still hold court.
This week is all about the ‘detailed book outline’ (dum-dum-dummmmm!), but I’m hoping to get around to continuing the urban ascetic line of thought. Also, I’m sneaking in snatches of William Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination, which is very stimulating. I’d love to get some reaction to a few of the juicier bits.
One thought I’ll throw out right away; is a poor theology of sacrament, particulary the Eucharist, to blame (entirely or in part) for the inability of evangelicals (in the United States, to be specific) to resist being coopted by the dominant cultural and political values in American life? I’ll try to find a clearer way of expressing that once I have more than a few free moments.