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Then we have the sugar-coating approach. In Canada The CBC produces Little Mosque on the Prairie. The imam is a handsome, progressive young man with a liberated, pretty wife. His fellow Muslims are fun-loving, tolerant, unlike the local Christian preacher, who is a bigoted ignoramus, or the conservative radio talk-show host, who screams all the time. The achingly bland show has been sold across the world, but oddly enough no episode about honour killings or female genital mutilation has so far been made. Can you imagine a CBC programme showing the nice, gentle side of pro-lifers or evangelicals or serious Catholics? And the same applies to the US, Britain, and everywhere there is an Islamic community.
FP: Tell us some of the truths about Christians and their authentic beliefs.
Coren: Let’s take just one chapter of the book, the Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown claims claims that Jesus was regarded even by His followers as merely a great moral teacher or at best a prophet. They never thought of Him as a Messianic figure, he continues, and the earliest written documents substantiate this. It was only at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD that Jesus was said to be divine.
Not quite. Jesus is called “God” seven times in the New Testament and is referred to as divine on dozens of occasions. He was crucified not for being a prophet or an ethicist, or for that matter a champion of social justice, but for claiming to be the Son of God. The early martyrs died because of this belief alone.
There are numerous letters from pagan and thus objective writers from the first and second century, long before Nicaea, describing how Christians believe Jesus to be divine; including one written to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in AD180. All the Council of Nicaea did was to affirm that Jesus was the Son of God as a self-evident truth.
Brown then says that The Dead Sea Scrolls are the earliest Christian writings in existence and that The Gnostic Gospels frequently mention Mary Magdalene and her marriage to Jesus.
This really is a howler. The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish writings and have no direct connection with Christianity at all. As for those much-discussed Gnostic Gospels, they at no time mention Jesus being married to Mary. But then Dan Brown probably doesn’t expect his readers to actually read the Gnostic Gospels.
If they did they would be extremely disappointed. They are often misogynistic, frequently contradictory and tend to be self-serving and achingly dull. They were rejected by the Church because they were written relatively late and are wholly unreliable. It was not a case of Christianity trying to hide some greater truth but of Christianity only adopting books that were, well, Christian.
If Brown doesn’t think much of the Church, he doesn’t like Constantine very much at all. Except when he thinks him a virtual god. “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine.” Who knew? Certainly not Constantine. Because the Old Testament existed even before the birth of Jesus, and the New Testament began to take shape at the end of the first century. The compilation was not finalized until the end of the fourth century.
Constantine, however, died in 337AD. In other words, there is no way that he could have compiled The Bible. What he certainly did do was to commission Eusebius, the genius Bishop of Carthage, to make fifty copies of the Bible that already existed so that more people could read it. No serious historian has ever claimed otherwise or written anything to support Brown’s thesis. Proving that Dan Brown is no historian.
Fine, argue his advocates, he doesn’t claim to be. True, but he does claim that distinction for others. “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians”. The historians he lists are Margaret Starbird, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, Clive Prince, Lynn Picknett and Michael Baigent. Problem. Just like Dan Brown these aren’t historians either. Baigent has a basic degree in psychology and is working on an MA in mysticism and Picknett and Prince are best known for their work on the occult and UFOs. Phone home ET, and tell us about Jesus and his family who all live in France.
Brown is often at his most fatuous when he tries to be at his most clever. He writes that YHWH, the Jewish sacred name for God, is based on the word Jehovah. And Jehovah, he says, is a combination of the masculine Jah and the feminine Havah, signifying Eve. Thus God gave us feminism, Jesus was a pioneer of progressive gender politics and the Church has hidden all of this to preserve male power and exclude women, particularly Mary Magdalene, from their rightful place in society and culture.
Dan, you’ve got your politics and your semantics rather confused. YHWH doesn’t come from Jehovah but Jehovah from YHWH. The word was used thousands of years before Jehovah came into existence, as late as the sixteenth-century.
He goes on to say that The Priory of Sion was founded in early medieval Europe. Untrue. It was registered with the French government in a dusty office in 1956. His central bad guy is an Opus Dei monk. Hardly. Opus Dei is an overwhelmingly lay organization and they have no monks. He states that five million women were killed by the Church as witches. Actually between 30,000 and 100,000 people, men and women, were executed for various crimes, including witchcraft. He refers to the Pope in the Vatican long before the Pope lived in the Vatican. And so on and so on and so on.
FP: How should Christians respond to these attacks on them?
Coren: No compromise on love but no compromise on truth. Christians have to be informed, which is why I wrote this book. It’s too late to merely walk away, because we are giving more and more ground to those who do want compromise, but total victory over all that the faith stands for. We see this with radicals within the gay community. They were not always well treated, but won all of their battles some years ago. It’s no longer about tolerance but affirmation; unless we support and encourage, we are to be condemned. Radical gays and atheists will not stop until Christians are considered unacceptable. Please do not simply discount what I am saying as rhetoric. The next 20 years will see a radical reshaping of the lines of civilized behavior in North American and western Europe.
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