Dateline: Washington, DC. It's October and with the elections less than a month away, the opponents of Senator X accuse him of marital infidelity. Within 24 hours ads attesting to the good Senator's family values are on every channel. For the next three weeks we can't watch 30 minutes of television without seeing staged touch football games featuring the Senator, his wedge-cut wife, and their preternaturally white-toothed children. On the first Wednesday in November, Mrs. X serves the Senator with divorce papers.
Dateline: California. A pregnant housewife is missing. Frantic, her husband rushes from his cabin cruiser to the TV studio to plea for his spouse's safe return. He even offers a $10,000 reward. A week later the police arrest the grieving husband for murder.
What a surprise.
Even the most casual student of human nature knows that only the guilty respond to accusations by making public spectacles of themselves.
Enter The Da Vinci Code. Seemingly every other church that I pass is hawking an upcoming sermon or program dedicated to "Breaking The Da Vinci Code." Official Church websites respond point-by-point to the heresies and historical inaccuracies of this best-selling-novel-and-now-a-major-motion-picture. Why Christians are making so much noise over a story that twenty years from now will likely be as timely as The Paper Chase is beyond me. We've survived Arius, the Ottomans, and Stalin. Why should we lose any sleep over a novelist whose only crime is trying to make some money?
"Breaking," debunking," "shattering," or otherwise dispatching with The Da Vinci Code does more than waste bandwidth. This story has struck a chord in the post-modern hearts of cynical and jaded Boomers and X-ers. With the exception of the collapse of European Communism and the victory of Gulf War I, most every other "achievement" of America's elected leaders during the past 40 years has been underwhelming. The faces of corrupt business persons occupy a place in the newspaper once reserved for John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Bonnie and Clyde. Clergy sex scandals have become so common place that they are no longer scandalous.
Many of us have come to expect the worst out of our institutions, so a book accusing Christianity of 2000 years of conspiracy and manipulation is not a big stretch of the imagination. The Hippies wanted to bring down The Man. Today, the misdeeds of The Man have made him irrelevant.
And here we come, Christians of all flavors and varieties, with our Maginot Line of proof-text sermons, exegetical articles, and articulate spokespersons, bound and determined to keep the world safe from creative writing. We protest so loudly that an un-churched reader can't help but think Dan Brown is right. We look guilty. We make the Church look like The Man, not the Bride of Christ.
To those persons who are intrigued with the The Da Vinci Code, apocryphal Gospels and Gnostic writings, because they resonate with your fundamental contempt for monolithic institutions, pat answers, and empiricism, I invite you to take a long look at Orthodox Christianity.
We are anything but monolithic. Our 15 or so independent Churches throughout the world are as unique and diverse as the geographical regions in which they are found. We boast a long history of the underdog standing up for what is right. (Google Maximos the Confessor and Mark of Ephesus.) Our hierarchical structure notwithstanding, the writer who called Orthodoxy "organic not organized" could not have described us more succinctly.
Orthodox mysticism and theology reject the "God in a box" approach to faith that defines much of contemporary Christianity. We acknowledge that God has a plan, but we admit that most of the time only He knows what it is. We embrace paradoxical thinking. We give hard answers to hard questions. For Orthodox Christians, the information in life that really matters isn't obtained with a micrometer, stethoscope, or radio telescope. The knowledge we seek is of God. We encounter Him when we open our hearts to Him. Let the statisticians and pollsters waste their time spinning their data. It's far better to spend whatever days we have on this earth standing before God with our mind in our heart.
So, if you read The Da Vinci Code and thought it was all true, please seek help. If it motivated you to dust off your Concordance and Church History textbooks, that's not a bad thing. But if you're one of the readers who had your devout agnosticism, inveterate cynicism, and entrenched mistrust of institutions confirmed by a novel, please consider this. There's a whole bunch of us out there who don't claim to know it all, question everything, and recognize that salvation doesn't come with a Sunday School perfect attendance certificate. We're Orthodox Christians, and we'd like to get to know you better.
Rev. Aris P. Metrakos is the pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is frequent retreat leader and speaker for both teens and adults. Prior to attending seminary, Fr. Aris was an aviator for the US Navy. He travels annually to Romania to help the Romanian Orthodox Church establish ministries for Romanian youth. You can contact Fr. Aris at FrMetrakos@orthodoxytoday.org.