Special Assignment: Deconstructing The Da Vinci Code

It's a film that can blur the lines between fact, fiction, and faith, and it's stirring a national debate even before it hits the theatres this Friday.

In a News 12 Special Assignment, we look at what local clergy and academic leaders have to say about The Da Vinci Code.

"The symbols are a language that can help us understand our past," says , Tom Hanks' character in the Columbia Pictures film The Da Vinci Code.

And our past is a big part of the plot.

The best-selling book and now the film suggest Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, setting up a dynasty the church has been covering up for centuries.

"Could the son of God have had a sex life? Is that possible? Is that conceivable? Some will say that's even blasphemous to think about," says Dr. Greg Deloach of Augusta's First Baptist Church.

Dr. Deloach is part of a panel that will be kicking around some of the controversies in the Code.

Was there an ancient cover up?

"Well, there's no question in any circle--academics of the faith community--there are no supporting documents that would ever suggest that, number one, Jesus was married...much less married to Mary Magdalene, or [that there was] any type of secret kept by the church," Dr. Deloach says.

Are there clues in the famous painting, Da Vinci's The Last Supper?

Dr. Michael Schwartz, professor of art history at Augusta State University, tells News 12: "His first claim is that the figure to the right of Christ is not John, but Mary Magdalene. The second claim is that Peter has a knife and wants to stab Mary...and there are other claims as well and these are false."

Dr. Schwartz says the figure of John has an effeminate look--but in the Renaissance this was a sign of beauty or of one who is angelic.

"And the reason Peter holds a knife is that the painting is not a photograph. It doesn't allude to one moment in time, it alludes to later in the gospel unfolding, in which Peter will cut off the ear of someone during the struggle," Dr. Schwartz says.

Dr. James Garvy, professor of literature and journalism at ASU, is ready to answer questions like: "Isn't it irresponsible to put something like this out in public knowing it's going to be a bomb that goes off in people's lives?"

Dr. Garvy says if nothing else, Dan Brown is a skillful writer.

"He really knows how to tell a story and communicate information in the context of a plot that will not let you go...and that takes real skill."

The plot can blur the line between fact and fiction, and may cause some to question their own faith.

"And I believe the church should be one of those bedrock places where we can come together, even in our disagreements, and bring together conversation, deeper understanding and communication with one another," Dr. Deloach says.

And that's exactly what the church will do.

Next Tuesday, May 23 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Augusta, the panelists you met in this story will be joined by Father Daniel Munn, a Catholic priest, for a discussion of The Da Vinci Code.

And for the next two Sundays, folks at Harlem United Methodist Church will be having an event called "Unlocking The Da Vinci Code". It's a satellite broadcast featuring three experts who can help answer questions about faith and the history of the church. Each showing starts at 8:30 p.m. at Harlem UMC on Milledgeville Road.

All three people interviewed for this story say they read the book and plan to see the film.

And even though all agree it's a work of fiction, the art historian, Dr. Schwartz, says he's especially looking forward to the scenes shot in the Louvre.

It's the first time a feature film has ever been shot in the world famous museum in Paris.

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