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Something’s Burning

I confess to not having read The Da Vinci Code.  Quite frankly, I have been too busy trying to keep up with the prolific body of fiction emanating from the White House these past few years to have time for outside reading.  From the epic story about weapons of mass destruction to the little morality tale featuring Jessica Lynch, this President cranks out fiction like I, a good Catholic mother, once cranked out babies.

Which brings me to The Da Vinci Code.

It seems that some of my co-religionists have issued a fatwa of sorts against reading and viewing a work of fiction that they believe has the potential to lead vulnerable souls astray.  If it’s not a bespectacled wizard diabolically inserting himself into the Scholastic Book Club, it’s a summer beach book with a religious theme that’s going to lead us all straight to hell. Yes, during these past days the alarms have sounded and we have moved into the Christian version of high-alert code red.

Now, lest I seem flippant, let me assure you that I take both my spiritual condition and my literature very seriously.  Whether or not I take issue theologically with the book’s premise is not the point here.  As one whose tastes run more toward political texts and slow-moving travel documentaries, it is unlikely that I will ever pick up The Da Vinci Code.

Does this mean that I am out of the weeds, spiritually speaking?  Free from the devil’s snare?  Part of the angel band willing to exchange their library cards for a set of golden wings?  Am I now among the ranks of the righteous who can smugly say of our fallen brethren, “We warned them. They lost their souls at the multiplex. Let them burn”?

No.

Something is burning alright, but it’s not the souls of book-loving Christians who know how to distinguish their faith from fiction.  Many of my religious brothers and sisters are so busy looking for the devil in books and films, that they fail to smell the smoke that’s filling our world and choking the human family. Yes, something is burning . . . Iraq.  And we set the fire.  We’re losing our souls alright, but not at the local movie house.

We may be using depleted uranium and white phosphorus in Iraq and killing tens of thousands of people, but we’re keeping Harry Potter out of the hands of our kiddies.  Preemptive war? Torture?  Racism? Surely Jesus will understand these little oversights in light of the effort required to keep potential backsliders out of the bookstores.  We may be up to our elbows in blood, but our hands are unblemished when it comes to holding a questionable book.

While many of my fellow travelers may prefer to live in the world of fiction populated by the President and his followers, those of us who live in that place that he disparagingly calls the “reality-based” world see where things are heading and it sure ain’t the Promised Land.

Led by false prophets who have wrapped the cross in a flag and leaders who will kill for a buck, this nation is losing its soul – without even picking up a controversial book.  We have embraced an ethos of violence, xenophobia, hypocrisy and greed – even before the film was released.

Tonight people will die in Iraq. Afghanistan. Gaza. Detroit.  But that’s not our concern.  We’re so busy leafing through books in search of the devil that we missed seeing Jesus in the eyes of those we kill and neglect.

Common Dreams, May 22, 2006