Monday, May 01, 2006

England's Churches Respond to Da Vinci Code

Clicking on the title of this post will take you to an article published in the Sunday Herald, Scotland's independent newspaper of record. The article presents its own biases and there are plenty of places where the reader can see how the reporter's own views are inserted into supposedly "news" passages. Nevertheless, there were some interesting items emerging in the story, especially the one I print below.

...When the governors of Westminster Abbey refused to let the film production team in to shoot scenes around the grave of Sir Isaac Newton, on the grounds that it would be “inappropriate” (Dan Brown contends that Newton was a member of a secret intellectual society known as the Priory Of Sion, dedicated to the preservation of arcane mysteries), both Winchester
[shown above right] and Lincoln cathedrals agreed to serve as stand-ins. Again, the reasons seem to have been pragmatic, even worldly – Sony Pictures were offering to pay ?20,000 for access.

“The fact is,” says Archdeacon John Guille of Winchester, “our annual budget is only ?2.1 million and we get no government support. So we thought, if we take this money, we can use it to balance our books, and put it towards educational purposes.” While groups such as the Lord’s Day Observance Society have taken this as “further proof that the Church of England is in disarray [and will] do anything for extra money”, the chapter who run Winchester Cathedral have spent their small windfall on an exhibition and lecture series titled Beyond The Da Vinci Code, which is now reorienting visitors toward orthodox interpretations of scriptural history.

“It’s all about meeting people where they’re at,” says Archdeacon Guille. “Many people have taken this book very seriously. They believe it to be a new gospel truth, as it were, even though what Dan Brown says is actually a travesty of the truth. So before the film comes out, we say come and reflect on the symbols he has misused – the star of David, the image of John the Evangelist – which have been in this church for 900 years, and in the Christian tradition for 2000...”