Biafra Nigeria World Weblogs


BNW: Biafra Nigeria World Magazine



BNW: Insight, Features, and Analysis

BNW Writer's Block 

BNW News and Archives

 BNW News Archive

BNW: Biafra Nigeria World


BNW Forums and Message Board


Biafra Net

 Igbo Net: The Igbo Network

BNW Africa and AfricaWorld 

BNW: Icon

BNW: Icon


Flag of Biafra Nigeria

BNW News Archives

BNW News Archive 2002-January 2005

BNW News Archive 2005

BNW News Archive 2005 and Later

« Obasanjo is Not that Desperate Afterall | Main | Nigeria: Let us Look to the Past and Weep.... »

May 27, 2006

How not to Tackle the Da Vinci Code

by Okumephuna Chukwunwike (Rome, Italy) ---- After much expectation and of course anxiety over the effect it will have on the faith, belief and thinking of its viewers, the controversial film The Da Vinci Code finally debuted at the commencement of the 59th Edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

The Da Vinci Code which is actually the film version of a novel of the same name by Dan Brown is quite interesting from two angles in the sense that even though it is a very controversial film bordering on the faith of over 2 billion world Christians and about 1 billion Roman Catholics, it is at the same time a lesson on how to handle a very sensitive issue that borders on the faith of the people. This becomes very important against the background of the recent controversy surrounding the publication and republications of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, which some Muslims claimed was offensive to them, their faith and the person of the prophet.

In fact The Da Vinci Code due to what has been described as its sacrilegious and scandalous tone is also attracting same criticism from different quarters of the Christian world with the loudest noise coming from the Vatican and the Opus Dei, the two main characters or hinges upon which the door of the film revolves. But the fact is that unlike what happened with the Prophet Mohammed carton controversy, the Vatican and the Opus Dei are being diplomatic in their protests and criticisms. And I must add that it is exactly what is expected from whoever feels that his faith has been insulted or offended. I believe that two wrongs can never make a right. We cannot right a wrong by committing another wrong. What happened in Nigeria during the cartoon controversy is a good example on why violence cannot and should not be used to send a message on how aggrieved we are over certain issues. In fact the killing of Christians and burning of both their houses and churches met with reprisal attack in the South especially in the Southeast of the country. A friend from the Southeast justifying the reprisal attack noted that nobody or religion has the monopoly of killing others. Is that not senseless and stupid of us all?

Even though I began by eulogising the Vatican and the Opus Dei on the diplomatic way they have been handling matters arising from the film, I honestly still have my reservations on certain moves I see as barbaric in that diplomacy which reminds one of the almighty Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages when men and women were wantonly burnt at stakes over flimsy excuses and cheer ignorance. The brutal murder of Galileo and lots of others who suffered the same fate in the hands of the church is still fresh in the mind of the people. While the hullabaloo surrounding the film is still going on some high ranking clergy of the Roman Catholic church threw caution to the wind by insinuating violence covertly by either asking the Roman Catholics to boycott the film or take a legal action. In fact one of the highest-ranking cardinals asked Dan Brown the author of the novel to do such a film on the Prophet Mohammed and see how the Muslims would welcome it. This is a statement I considered as carrying the issue too far. I am just trying to figure out what this high-ranking cardinal had in mind in making that reference. But whatever, the Cardinal should be openly denounced for taking that issue to that far. With due respect to all, am just wondering when we began to compare Christianity with other religions.

As a Christian we are not taught to fight for God for he said very clearly in the bible that vengeance is His and we should not suddenly learn how to be violent simply because Dan Brown wrote a novel which was eventually put into film and is already nearly making history as the most sold film in the history of Hollywood. All that glitters may not be gold!

The novel whose film version which featured some famous artists including Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Sir Ian Mckellen, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina and Jean Reno, has sold more than 36 million copies in 44 languages. The story line had it that Jesus Christ did not actually die on the cross but married Mary Magdalene and lived happily ever after in the present day France where his descendents eventually became king and spawned a royal line. Also the Opus Dei, a famous religious organization in the Roman Catholic Church was depicted in both the film and the novel as a very influential controversial murderous organisation taking lives wantonly in order to conceal the ‘fact’. The Opus Dei has a special status of a personal prelature in the Catholic Church meaning that even though they could be present in a diocese, they do not necessarily owe allegiance to the local bishop but to their own bishop who reports directly to the Vatican. This has caused a very complicated situation in the church because most often the Opus Dei do not consult the local bishops before taking actions the local bishops should ordinarily be aware of simply because the Opus Dei and its members have been structured by the Vatican not to owe allegiance to them. This no doubt could be embarrassing and insulting to these local bishops.

The Opus Dei itself is also not helping the matter. It is no secret that in this age of globalisation and information technology the Opus Dei still prefers to keep most of its activities secret thereby opening up room for suspicion. To give a picture of what Opus Dei looks like to some Roman Catholics I would like to quote extensively from a letter that appeared on page 19 of an English Roman Catholic weekly, the Tablet of October 15, 2005. The letter was written by a Jesuit priest, Father James Martin SJ as a reaction to an article earlier published in that weekly. The letter is titled; ‘Opus Dei Secrecy’ and I quote,

May I offer a brief but substantive correction to Christopher Howse’s review of John Allen’s book on Opus Dei (Books, 1 October)? In his review, Mr Howse recounts the story of my research for a 1995 article on Opus Dei for America. Mr Howse notes that although I reported that Opus Dei’s statutes were secret, in reality they are-and were at the time-readily available. But as John Allen accurately recounts in his new book, the truth is more complex and more revelatory of Opus Dei. When I first asked the group for a copy of their statutes, they said that they were not permitted to distribute them to non-members. After I spoke with a canon lawyer who disputed this claim, Opus Dei then replied that the statutes had not been translated into English and besides were in “church Latin”, whatever that meant. Eventually I obtained them from outside Opus Dei. (As for Mr Howse’s comment that Opus Dei’s statues were easily retrieved from the internet in 1995, I note for the record that Google, for example, started operations in 1998). The main point is how odd it was for a catholic organization, time and again, to withhold something as simple as their statutes from a Catholic writer interested in learning more about the group. It is this kind of secrecy, which Opus Dei now says it is trying to change, which has long frustrated and even angered so many Catholics.

It is quite interesting and coincidental that this film is coming out at this time of history. As I have pointed out earlier, couple of months back there was a little air of panic round the globe as a result of controversy generated by the publication of the cartoon of Prophet Mohammed by the media. The dust generated by that panic is yet to settle down before this controversial film made its debut last week.

As a Christian am also affected by this film because the main gist of the story touches my faith as a Christian. It has to do with the God I believe in as a Christian. We have held this faith for over 2000 years but then The Da Vinci Code should not be a reason for Christians to react as people who have no solid faith in Christ. Though the film has all to do with my faith and my God, I do not consider myself fit to pick up arm and fight for Him because He said that vengeance is His. It makes little sense fighting for God when you are still a sinner and the only one worthy to fight for Him is one without sin and who is that. And by the way I wonder the type of God that would sanction killing, punishment or vengeance in his name. Catholics who are asked to take legal action against the film should rather think of helping the poor and those in need with that money. Christ would obviously not be happy seeing them wasting that money on useless and senseless venture in His name. The Vatican and the Opus Dei, the two main characters in the film have been fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Christians especially Roman Catholics do not patronise the film. This is a reaction, which I think may end up causing more harm than doing any good to the Church. I think we should rather face Dan Brown and those behind the film with prayer as our only weapon. Our collective prayers may touch their hearts and eventually make them to turn around and say we are sorry. That will make more sense to God than asking us to boycott the film or take legal action against them.

I feel at home with the condemnation of both the novel and film as the right thing to do but going a step further to ask us to boycott the film and take a legal action would tantamount to reminding us the era of the Holy Roman Empire when the Vatican has the almighty power to dictate which books to be read and which not to be read by either issuing imprimatur or nihil obstat in case of books to be read or listing in Index of Forbidden Books the ones not to be read. As a catholic I would not want my church to take such a stand because it seems very primitive. Dan Brown has the right to write whatever he wants to write so far he does not insult the person of Christ and I have the right to read the ones I want to read. Dan Brown by writing The Da Vinci Code is exercising his fundamental human right and myself refusing to read the book is also exercising my own right just like the Vatican has also the right to criticise the film. But going a step further to cow the Catholics into boycotting the film and taking of legal action could be interpreted as crossing the boundary. It could be as well interpreted as a deliberate violation of my fundamental human right to conscience and to make a choice. The world of today is too globalised to the extent that so many things cannot just work as a punitive measure. What have we done to pornographic features flying here and there in different media of communication?

I do not believe that Dan Brown has insulted the person of Christ. If Christ really married Mary Magdalene what’s about it. Marriage is not a sin likewise sex. The church teaching is that premarital sex is a sin and if Christ really had children with Mary Magdalene it was within marriage according to the gospel of Dan Brown. I strongly believe that the role of the Vatican here should be to inform the Catholics of dangers inherent in watching the film or reading the novel but by going a step further to ask for boycott and legal action against the film probably under the pain of moral obligation would not only be a violation of the fundamental human right of Dan Brown to his business and the conscious of Catholics but also could be interpreted as a sign of a church that is not in tune with the thinking of his faithful. I do not want to believe that my beloved Roman Catholic Church is not in tune with my thinking.

The reaction of both the Vatican and the Opus Dei of recent has not really helped the issue. They only succeeded in making themselves marketing media for the novel and the film. In fact I was forced to buy the novel with three other of Dan Brown’s work after reading so much about the reactions of both the Vatican and the Opus Dei and am quite sure that many others got to know about this film and the book through this way. In fact what gave impetus to my desire to buy the novels was when the Vatican directed the removal of a banner advertising the film in one of the churches in Rome.

This may not be a good time for us Christians but am definitely sure it is a better chance for us to express what we believe in. Just like every other Christian I believe that Jesus Christ born of the Blessed Virgin Mary is my God. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. I believe that He came down from heaven in the form of man to save mankind from sin. I believe that he was crucified, died and buried and rose again on the third day. These I believe with faith as truth and they are evident in my bible but I never saw where it was written that he married Mary Magdalene and had some kids with her and therefore I do not believe in that story, the film and even the novel. I do not expect Dan Brown to believe what I believe in but I owe him a duty to preach about the risen Christ to him. Buying and reading the book should not be interpreted as believing in Dan Brown. That is his own personal opinion as far as am concerned and he has every right in the world to express it and I as a Christian has also the right to buy either the film or the book without believing the content.

Our response as Christians matters a lot at this time. Do we kill him? Do we excommunicate him? Do we burn him at the stake? Do we murder him? All these are obviously going to the extreme and clearly contrary to the teaching of the Christ who is the source of our faith and hope. Am not in doubt that some Christians have thought of doing that but the simple truth is that there is no room for these thoughts in Christianity. What I remembered the Bible said is that we should forgive, love and pray for our enemies and for one to infer that it is because of this passage of the bible that many people have had the audacity to insult Christ and Christianity and go free would be interpreted as knowing more than Christ.

Our response therefore as Christians should be to take up not swords but love and prayer for time will surely come when all shall beat their swords into ploughshares and nations shall learn war no more.

Okumephuna Chukwunwike
Roma, Italia

Posted by Administrator at May 27, 2006 09:09 PM


BNW Writers A-M

BNW Writers N-Z



BiafraNigeria Banner

BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer

BiafraNigeria Spacer


BNW Forums


The Voice of a New Generation