by Joey Clarke
Straight off: I haven’t read the book or seen the movie – yet. I have, however, seen most of the going documentaries, and have processed a good deal of analysis, especially from the internet. I’m also conversant with the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, whose authors recently attempted to sue DaVinci Code author Dan Brown for plagiarism. So the material is familiar enough. Anyway, the book itself is not what I want to discuss.
The premise, albeit well known, bears reiteration. The Roman Catholic Church is covering up crucial facts about Jesus: He was married with children; His descendants sat on the mighty thrones of Europe; the spiritual system he intended included female ministers and worship of the feminine. These are the issues that command most of the discussion as I have encountered it.
But this is not to be my discussion either, although they are worthy topics. Many people have been made to think seriously about what they really believe, which is surely good for us, individually and collectively.
Whether the items I have listed as the premise of the DaVinci Code are historical facts, is not a question I propose to tackle; suffice it to say there appear to be gaps in our traditional notions about the life of Jesus. Already scholars generally agree that a certain amount of garbling – malicious or not – took place between the actual life and what we know about it. But I can’t see where any of Dan Brown’s propositions need alter one’s faith in Jesus (unless there is some specific problem with God-as-Man having sex and being a father). I also wonder whether we are too easily fascinated by exotic Gospel-stories without really knowing what is in the conventional ones. But maybe there is a repository of secret knowledge; and, world-controlling secret societies aside, the Roman Catholic Church is perhaps the largest and oldest organisation around. The Vatican sounds as likely a place for earth-shaking secrets as any – and more likely than most. Who else has a hand so deep in history’s mysteries? The multi-million-dollar question is: what exactly would their secrets be?
One of the ancient stories repeated in some of the Code-related material I have encountered is that the Magdalene arrived on the shores of southern France, with an “Egyptian” girl, who is revealed to be Jesus’ daughter. It is striking that the child, unlike the other people in the paintings I saw, is of a nice coffee-colour, and is said to be “Egyptian”. And this is Jesus’ daughter. Hmmm. So… Jesus really was a non-white?
Now there might be a secret. Forget feminism; all mainstream Christian Churches are trying to move with the socio-political times, acknowledging the equality of women as far as their dogmas allow. But on the question of Jesus’ race, there is often the retreat into universalist haze: “It doesn’t matter what race He was; what’s important is who He was.” There’s some merit in this, but it’s limited. Maybe our attitude would be different if we had a more definite idea of what He was actually like. We have a definite idea of what Ghandi was like, and Francis of Assisi, and Muhammad, and the Buddha, and we associate each man’s particular brand of holiness with his upbringing, the place he lived in, and everything else – race included. And yet, every one had a universal message, and still has universal appeal.
Does it help or hinder our appreciation of Jesus that most of us have a hard-wired idea of the gentle, handsome, bearded euro-Jesus, looking more like an Italian painter than a middle eastern peasant? We resist it, we acknowledge what we know to be the truth. We speak sagely of our higher understanding. Then, we meet a fair-skinned man with flowing hair and a beard, and are ready to cast him in the Passion.
So: working with much the same information as Dan Brown, and utilising our imagination to with similar liberty, why don’t we try out our own church-shaking expose/whim: sure Jesus was married, and sure His children ruled Europe. But more importantly, according to this conspiracy theory, He was a man of colour, and wed to someone of another race, perhaps a European Roman (which might explain her connections in the French Riviera?), and probably rich (remember, expositionists are fond of noting that the women who followed Jesus appear to have bankrolled His Ministry, and that the Magdalene is always listed first). Was race-mixing normal in Roman Palestine? The impression one gets (especially in the Old Testament) is that Jews were against it. Class-mixing was certainly uncommon. Maybe this was another one of the rules Jesus broke. Maybe that was another reason the religious leaders and the Roman governor wanted Him dead. After all, wasn’t His ancestor David the great-grandson of a Moabite?
Maybe Leonardo DaVinci was indeed the prank-playing, code-planting head of the Priory of Sion. Even so, he would probably not care to plant any codes about Jesus being a black man; after all, he was white himself, and a not-disinterested part of the European power-structure. Maybe that was the line beyond which he was not prepared to go. Or not allowed to go.
After all, could the powerful economies that still run things have become what they are without the toil of the conquered? Could the power of their own populations have been harnessed in the Middle Ages if there had not been Jews and Gypsies (Egyptians) to hate? And could any of that been possible if we knew the truth? Hmmm…
My novel, Code of Many Colours, begins when an Ethiopian archaeologist is found murdered near to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, with a white hood tied over his head. The matter is investigated by Shabazz Washington, a troubled, complex race-historian from Howard University. Along the way, he falls in with the beautiful and mysterious Svetlana Soyuz, who is investigating for the Orthodox Church. They are pursued by the insidious Beavis Manson, who joined the neo-Nazis in prison, and was instrumental in giving the Papacy to the furthest thing from Jesus since 1054 (when the Roman and Orthodox Churches split) instead of to a well-loved African Cardinal, or even the one from Chile. Our heroes uncover the connection between the white hood of the KKK and sacrificial traditions from Southern Spain, reveal for the first time in human history (again) a blood-connection between Haile Sellassie and Jesus (from their common ancestor David), and prove conclusively that the House of Shoa has a better claim to the throne of England than the House of Windsor.
Actually, if anybody can write this one faster than me, please do; there might be entertainment value and we could provoke some serious thought and discussion. Maybe we can get beyond Jesus’ sex life and deeper into who He really was, what He really did and said, and, given that, what He means to us now.
Over to you.