Monday, March 21, 2005

#154 - Of Codes and Wizards

I worry about people sometimes. I really do.

Two books (well, one book and one franchise, if you will) sit firmly atop my list of Books Most Overreacted To. It's quite an honor, to be sure, but the winners will not be notified anytime soon. I'm certain the authors are a little busy these days defending themselves against the scurrilous charges that put them on my list in the first place. Or, more probably, they're laughing themselves silly wondering what all the fuss is about.

Harry Potter (five published, one coming soon, and one to go) qualifies as the franchise. The primary reason I began reading the books, of course, was all the hullabaloo being raised by certain Christian groups claiming that Harry Potter was nothing less than a tool of the devil, encouraged devil worship, and would somehow convert millions of innocent children to the celebration of Wiccan. Or something. I tuned it out so long ago that the details have become a bit hazy in my memory.

What Harry Potter really is depends on one's point of view. Mine says it's a wonderful introduction into a world of fantasy that places it on par with my old childhood favorite Oz series by L. Frank Baum. Others may (and do) disagree to varying degrees, but to insist that these books are dangerous is silly. A knee-jerk reaction to a perfectly harmless story line.

Naturally, there will always be those who carry devotion to such stories to dangerous extremes. I feel confident that we may dismiss most of these as people who would be just as likely to believe everything they read in the National Enquirer.

The second book on my list is "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. As usual, I waited for awhile to read it. When I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

WARNING TO THOSE WHO HAPPEN TO BE MRS. WOODY: Mild spoiler follows! (She hasn't read it, yet)

I will grant you that, from a doctrinal perspective, some of the points raised are troublesome. Those who believe that the Savior was never married, especially to Magdalene, are most passionate in their faith. I have no argument with those beliefs since I, myself, was raised with them. What I can't understand, however, is why a book that is clearly labelled a novel would be considered so dangerous to people of faith.

Of course, as a Latter-day Saint I've had to endure my share of literature that is - shall we say? - less than complimentary to my religion. I generally find such writing to be reprehensible and, in some cases, downright libelous. A lifetime of dealing with such writings has taught me to simply ignore them. The good ol' First Amendment says that I really can't prevent such nonsense, so I just won't rise to the bait.

Taken at a different level, how different is this book from just about 99% of all movies and TV shows written today that will either take the Lord's name in vain, mock those who believe in him, or teach us how much better it must be to worship sex and money?

The primary difference, in my mind, is the entertainment value.

As stories go, "The Da Vinci Code" really doesn't go out of its way to mock, blaspheme, or even resort to profanity. No more than any other novel I could think of these days, anyway. It's a good yarn with plenty of red herrings and plot twists to keep one guessing right up until the end. I can see where some sensitive souls might take umbrage with Brown's depictions of Catholic beliefs and practices. Still, were I as sensitive as some seem to be, I would never have gotten past Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel "A Study in Scarlet," where Mormons are grossly misrepresented both as to beliefs as well as hierarchy within the Priesthood. Scandalous! And yet, I love the stories. All of them. "A Study in Scarlet" merely makes me chuckle during the more sensational parts.

Even if, by some chance, the allegations made in "The Da Vinci Code" happen to be true, that wouldn't necessarily mean that the documents alluded to had any real historical value anyway. Forgery is, perhaps, the third oldest profession, and such hoaxes have been around from the time of Adam.

Fear not, believers. The end is nigh.

The end of this post, that is.

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