Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The One True Christian

I spent much of the day trying to figure out which part of Douthat's dumb column was worth commenting on. I guess this is the one I decided on:

But the success of this message — which also shows up in the work of Brown’s many thriller-writing imitators — can’t be separated from its dishonesty. The “secret” history of Christendom that unspools in “The Da Vinci Code” is false from start to finish. The lost gospels are real enough, but they neither confirm the portrait of Christ that Brown is peddling — they’re far, far weirder than that — nor provide a persuasive alternative to the New Testament account. The Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — jealous, demanding, apocalyptic — may not be congenial to contemporary sensibilities, but he’s the only historically-plausible Jesus there is.

For millions of readers, Brown’s novels have helped smooth over the tension between ancient Christianity and modern American faith. But the tension endures. You can have Jesus or Dan Brown. But you can’t have both.

Theological debates are meaningless to me because I'm agnostic and have no interest in any particular faith tradition, and tedious because participants are too often convinced that they've got a handle on The One True Religion while often failing to perceive a rather important implication of that: it's a pretty lonely religion.