Thanks to Erik for pointing this out.
Emergent church guru Brian McLaren had this to say about Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code:
So you think The DaVinci Code taps into dissatisfaction with Jesus as we know him?
McLaren: For all the flaws of Brown's book, I think what he's doing is suggesting that the dominant religious institutions have created their own caricature of Jesus. And I think people have a sense that that's true. It's my honest feeling that anyone trying to share their faith in America today has to realize that the Religious Right has polluted the air. The name "Jesus" and the word "Christianity" are associated with something judgmental, hostile, hypocritical, angry, negative, defensive, anti-homosexual, etc. Many of our churches, even though they feel they represent the truth, actually are upholding something that's distorted and false.
I also think that the whole issue of male domination is huge and that Brown's suggestion that the real Jesus was not as misogynist or anti-woman as the Christian religion often has been is very attractive. Brown's book is about exposing hypocrisy and cover-up in organized religion, and it is exposing organized religion's grasping for power. Again, there's something in that that people resonate with in the age of pedophilia scandals, televangelists, and religious political alliances. As a follower of Jesus I resonate with their concerns as well.
You can read the entire interview here:
I think the problem (or a problem) is that many people read (and will soon see) The DaVinci Code and assume that Brown has somehow uncovered a scandalous part of church history. In fact, his scholarship ranges between shoddy and non-existent, and is full of distortions and outright lies.
And that matters. McLaren doesn't really address those issues in his interview. Brown purports to tell history in fictional form. But the "history" bears little resemblance to objective truth. And he hides behind the guise of fiction, as if that excuses him. What if somebody wrote a fictionalized account of WWII that was full of Nazi propaganda, and that proposed that the Holocaust never happened? And what if the people who read that book were too ignorant of history to realize that the premises of the book weren't true? That's the equivalent of what has happened with The DaVinci Code.
That said, McLaren is of course entirely correct in stating that many people are fed up with organized, institutional Christianity. So am I many days, particularly when I watch my faith co-opted to support a political philosophy that I believe is totally antithetical to what Christianity has taught and believed for 2,000 years. It sucks, and I don't blame people for being turned off by the unholy alliance of Big Church, Big Business, and Big Government.
But there's got to be a better way to promote the discussion that McLaren desires (me too) than to base it on The DaVinci Code. It's starting from entirely wrong premises. How can it possibly go anywhere productive?