Ridicule is not the answer

Ridicule is not the answer

John Zmirak writes amusingly of a lunch he had with a fellow who happened to be an old friend of Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, of course. The friend relates some amusing anecdotes that apparently reveal Brown’s character as a writer, making him look more like the producer of undistinguished potboilers who happened upon a controversial bestseller rather than a raving anti-Christian with an axe to grind and a theory to push.

“I knew him for years. He started out as a joke-book author.” Ted said, dunking a clam-strip in tartar sauce. “Some of the jokes were funny. But he wanted to be a novelist. He kept pestering me about it, so finally I gave him this paperback, Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman. It’s a paint-by-numbers guide on how to write a page-turner. One important part of the formula was: Find a villain your readers can safely hate. A few months later, Dan brought me this manuscript to read—and it followed the formula precisely … as if he’d poured Jello into a mold. ...”

But the bit that I really wanted to comment on was the conclusions Zmirak came to based on this information.

It convinced me that admirable efforts such as Amy Welborn’s to refute the assertions woven throughout the turgidly typed pages of The DaVinci Code might just be beside the point. It’s probably not worth protesting this silly, mercenary book—or the boring movie made of it by hack director Richie Cunningham… I mean, Ron Howard. If you know someone gullible enough to take a pulp airport novel as “evidence” that Jesus Christ was not divine—but rather a horn-dog rabbi eager to “hook-up” with a former hooker, in order to father a race of bumbling French kings…do you really think the answer is to argue with him? Using, you know, reason? You might just as well pick up the book, smack him on the nose and say “No! Bad! No! Very bad!” That’s likely to be more effective, and a heck of a lot more fun.

While it may be fun to ridicule those who believe the DVC baloney, it doesn’t do the object of ridicule any favors and leaves them in a position potentially to endanger their salvation. That’s not very funny.

A kind of gnosticism

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  • Being right in the middle of reading “Bad Catholic’s” I laughed all the way through this article.

    Perhaps all his articles should appear with a warning label to put “tongue in cheek” for any such outrageous comments? I’m fairly sure that’s the point of the article, but, then again, I’m the perfect target for his book.

  • “In fact, Zmirak’s approach is itself a kind of gnosticism. “You’re so naive,” it says. “If you only knew what I know you wouldn’t be so silly and misled. If I ridicule you enough, you’ll eventually come around and drop your silly beliefs. And if I feel like it I might let you in on the truth.””

    I think gnosticism is starting to be thrown around way too much.  The facts at issue are not “secret” knowledge, but patent to all men of good will.  It wasn’t a gnostic who said “you will know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” 

    Still, you’re right that if somebody has sinned himself into error, Zmirak’s approach of beating him into truth can be counterproductive.  Though St. Nicholas punched Arius, not many of us are of St. Nicholas’ caliber, and I don’t believe Arius repented either.

  • I think you’re missing a few important points:

    – Zmirak has no intent of whapping people on the nose with a copy of the DVC. Even with a trade paperback, that would be battery. Besides, he’d have to pay for a copy of that piece o’ crap.

    – Zmirak is writing to an audience that doesn’t need to be convinced that this stuff is balderdash. He’s venting, and he’s doing so to folks who should commiserate. We do the same to our spouses and friends. Then we soldier up and say what we should to the offending parties.

    – Zmirak’s commentary arises out of the same stream of frustration that produced the writings of Swift, Waugh, Chesterton, and other polemicists. His commentary isn’t nearly as scathing as some of what these other authors wrote, and it comes from a rather different perspective. He realizes that some people do NOT want to hear reason or fact. They wish to maintain their ignorance. For this limited audience, none of the work of Wellborn, Miesel, Olson, et al, would have any effect.

    I see enough polemics and invective on Catholic blogs to know that the best of us have done far worse than what Zmirak has done. Had he posted the same comments on a blog for DVC enthusiasts, my opinion would be different. And I suspect if he were talking to some of those same people, he would employ very different rhetoric.

  • “Yes, I think Zmirak was going for the joke here, but he’s also in danger of undermining the good work being done by people like Amy Welborn, Carl Olson, Sandra Miesel, Mark Shea, Ted Sri, and other authors of DVC-debunking books.”

    All due respect meant to the good authors…I think they flunked. In the mission, I mean. I think the plethora of “De Browning” books, posters, etc. served to do not much more than promote the movie.

    That said, two points:


    Professional Catholics? Well yes, in a sense I agree with the label. (Not that there’s anything much wrong with that.) But making a buck? I doubt it.

    And personally I think the best observations on Dan Brown’s (and Richie Cunningham’s) “work” are the John Zmirak’s (linked above) post and Dale Price’s satire on Mrs. Brown being the “real” (albeit-it’s-only-fiction) star of “Deep Throat.” (Sorry, but it’s tough to link it.)