LOL! Pope vs. Dan Brown

TERRY MATTINGLY

Want to laugh until your head explodes?

OK, that's a slight exaggeration. Still, with that new Dan Brown book on the loose, people here in Washington, D.C., are jumpy. We could all use a laugh.

So, for your reading pleasure, I offer what may be the most ridiculous thing that I have read in a major newspaper in a long, long time (and folks, that's saying something). We are, of course, talking about a story linked to the public-relations gambit that Brown has taken to the bank millions and millions of times. The New York Daily News serves up a pretty standard pop-culture earthquake fluff piece about the secrecy surrounding the book until we hit this:

The little that is known includes that The Symbol again features Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon, this time unraveling a mystery that has everything to do with the Freemasons. The action takes place over 12 hours in Washington, D.C. (washington.org/lostsymbol steers visitors to the presumed sites in the book).

While the publisher has been tweeting clues, they all refer to author's life. Brown himself is a man of mystery. Since The Da Vinci Code became an international phenomenon in 2003, Brown has hidden himself away from the world.

It was partly Catholic church's reaction to The Da Vinci Code that drove him underground. The novel put forth that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and begot a line of lesser royalty in the south of France. That thinking wasn't original, but it was still incendiary and didn't sit well with many Catholics up to and including the Vatican.

Certainly Pope Benedict XVI is no fan. His first book as pontiff was Jesus of Nazareth and was seen as a corrective to Brown's heretical depiction of the savior.

Don't you just love it when mainstream journalists write in passive voice?

This is, of course, the amazingly flexible grammatical device that allows a reporter to claim that Pope Benedict XVI -- after decades of work as a theologian and after writing shelves full of books, both scholarly and devotional -- actually sat at his desk one day and exclaimed, "Behold! This Dan Brown guy is a threat to the faith of the apostles and the martyrs! I had better write a book real quick to do something about this dangerous man."

How would a reporter source such a wild claim, other than by making use of a small puff of grammatical fog? Who is being quoted here? Can anyone find a single voice of authority in the Vatican or perhaps a major scholar who has studied the work of Pope Benedict XVI who would make such a claim?

It's hard to Google such a concept, because the search terms are so, so, popular. Go ahead. Do a search for "Jesus, Dan Brown, Benedict XVI" and have fun doing some surfing for relevant material. If you find anything that backs up this factual statement in the Daily News, something that is not written in passive voice, please let me know.

Hat tip? Diogenes, of course.

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Terry Mattingly, "LOL! Pope vs. Dan Brown."Get Religion.org (September 15, 2009).

Reprinted by permission of GetReligion.org and Terry Mattingly. The original posting of this article is here.

THE AUTHOR

Terry Mattingly writes the nationally syndicated "On Religion" column for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C. He is the director and writes for Get Religion. He is also the director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He is the author of the book "Pop Goes Religion: Faith in Popular Culture." In addition to his classroom duties, Mattingly lectures at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., the Torreys Honors Program at Biola University, the School of Journalism at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and in other settings across the nation. Terry Mattingly and his wife Debra have two children, Sarah Jeanne, and Frye Lewis. The Mattinglys are members of Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Md.

Copyright © 2009 Get Religion




Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter

 

 

Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.