From the Editor

Historical fiction versus fictional history

Dan Brown’s novel raises troubling concerns for those who want to learn from history.

The movie version of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The DaVinci Code, is now in theatres. It’s expected to be as popular as the book was — and still is.

As a lover of historical fiction, I’ve decided to boycott this movie. That’s saying a lot, because I rarely miss a film starring Tom Hanks. But I’m doing it on principle. I don’t want to help line Dan Brown’s pockets. (For the same reason, I didn’t buy the book, although a friend loaned me a copy to read, so I could “draw my own conclusions.”

Brown purports to have written “historical fiction.” He hasn’t. Instead, he’s created fictionalized history. This means that, in the midst of his own imaginary tale, he’s pretended that the “history” he includes actually happened. It didn’t.

So what? Never ask a history major a question like that. It just makes us angry. I know for a fact that many Americans — too many — know too little about history. One way to learn about it, and be entertained at the same time, is to read historical fiction. But when the “history” is really bogus, as in Brown’s book, those who know little about real history end up worse off than ever (they are invited to believe lies).

Dr. Paul Maier, a Lutheran writer of religious historical fiction par excellence, considers Dan Brown’s methods (representing the current list of Bible books, for example, to have been decided by a Roman emperor instead of 300 years of Christian discernment) to be reprehensible. He said it was on a par with writing “historical fiction” about the Second World War in which Hitler won and put Roosevelt and Churchill on trial. Should we care if anybody wrote that way?

The best we can say about Brown’s method is that he’s written a fast-paced story (most of the tale takes place within 24 hours) that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The worst we can say is that he’s done sloppy work and careless research, created bogus history and has slandered historic Christianity, its origins and development.

Christians should care about that.