Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Divinity Code

I read The DaVinci Code a couple years ago and thought it was a fun read. Brown's book, like most fun conspiracy theory books, plays fast and loose with facts and requires the reader to play along a bit. Enjoying a good conspiracy mystery isn't all that different from enjoying an illusionist do "magic." You've got to remember that part of the fun is the deception. It's a NOVEL, people!

I guess we shouldn't be surprised when readers get confused about this since even the author (judging from some of the things he has said on his website) seems to be confused about it too. Maybe so many people taking a fictional mystery novel too seriously has Brown taking himself too seriously. Trying to gain insight about church history or theology from The DaVinci Code is like trying to learn American civics from a John Grisham novel. It's would be like White House officials learning how to do their jobs by watching West Wing. Wait -- I guess that probably does happen. Okay, so lot's of people are mixed up. Anyway....

The divinity of Jesus isn't something Christians invented or schemed up over centuries. It's not something the apostle Paul invented either. The divinity of Jesus is central to his own claims about himself. Just read the last five chapters of Matthew and you'll see it for yourself. Read the opening sentence of Mark, the earliest of the gospels, and you'll see the deity of Jesus Christ as plain as day. Read the first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John, and you'll see Jesus, the Word, God made flesh, living among us full of grace and truth.

Here are a couple interesting recent articles I've come across lately that relate to all the DaVinci Code buzz:
So Who Is Dan Brown? (Terry Mattingly, On Religion)
Breaking the DaVinci Code (Collin Hansen, Christian History Newsletter)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Why Altered Faces?

My intent for this blog is to share thoughts and ideas provoked by books, music, movies, lectures, theology, church, and the arts. With that in mind, I began my search for a name for this blog by scanning the bookshelves in my personal library.

I started down the poetry and fiction section, moving my finger across each shelf from left to right, my eyes scanning the titles and authors. Bohoeffer... Buechner... Cather... Chesterton... Dickens... Dostoevsky... Hemingway... Kerouac... Lagerlöf... Lamott... Lee... Lewis... O'Connor...Flannery O'Connor - that's it! I took Everything that Rises Must Converge off the shelf and turned to my favorite of her short stories, "Revelation."

I was deeply moved by "Revelation" the first time I read it, and every new reading has made me love it more. On several occasions, I've enjoy reading it aloud to my family and friends as we sit around the living room near the flickering flames of the fireplace.

The main character of the story, Mrs. Turpin, is awakened to a radical new view of herself, the people around her, and the meaning of life. In the final scene, as the sun goes down at the end of a long and trying day, she has a burning moment of epiphany. Her eyes are opened and she now sees all things differently. As she watches the sunset, her mind's eye sees a great procession of souls rumbling and singing their way up the color-streaked sky toward heaven.

O'Connor's writing is so beautiful and three-dimensional that I feel as though I'm standing quietly alongside Mrs. Turpin—watching the sun sink down below the trees, undergoing an inner transformation of my own, and sharing in her profound revelation about self-concept and life.

That's what good writing does to me and for me. It draws me in and opens me up. It gives me a new way to see and refines my heart. So much so, that the change is visible in my altered face.

"And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

At length she got down and turned off the faucet and made her way on the darkening path to the house. In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah."