The Da Vinci Code, The Mecklenburg Declaration

by DG Martin

What do May 19 and May 20 have to do with each other?

Both have to do with history and painful challenges to our core beliefs.

May 19 is the day set for the first screenings of The Da Vinci Code, the movie based on the best-selling novel.

The novel is fiction. But the fiction is based on assumed ‘“historical facts’” that contradict key Christian beliefs. For instance, in the novel we ‘“learn’” that Jesus was not divine and that he and Mary Magdalene had a child.

Church leaders have mounted a counter attack against the ‘“Da Vinci Code facts’” ‘— pointing out the absence of any real historical basis for the book’s assumptions. Secular Biblical scholars, like UNC-Chapel Hill’s Bart Ehrman, also challenge those assumed facts.

Both Christian religious leaders and secular Bible critics tell us not to accept The Da Vinci Code as gospel truth. So we should not be worried about the book’s challenge to our faith, should we?

With 40 million copies of the book in circulation and millions more people seeing the movie in the next few days, there is no escaping the challenge. The popularity of the book and the conversations about its plot lines has put the accepted Biblical accounts of Jesus’ life in play.

Even the contributions of the secular Biblical scholars, while undercutting The Da Vinci Code, create their own set of challenges to Bible accounts by showing how certain verses were added and subtracted over the years.

So, even though its ‘“facts’” have been discredited, The Da Vinci Code and its critics have put some of the fundamentals of Christian faith in play and, no doubt, leading many people to question and reexamine assumptions that have been basic to their belief systems.

What does May 20 have to do with the May 19 film release of The Da Vinci Code?

Maybe you remember. May 20, 1775 is the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence ‘— or if you are a skeptic, the ‘“purported’” Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

After word of the battles at Lexington and Concord reached North Carolina, the leaders of Mecklenburg County gathered to deal with the questions raised by the growing rebellion against British authority.

According to reports, they adopted a declaration that contained the following language:

‘“1. Resolved . . . That whosoever directly or indirectly abets, or in any way, form, or manner countenances the invasion of our rights, as attempted by the Parliament of Great Britain, is an enemy to his country, to America, and the rights of man.

‘“2. Resolved . . . That we the citizens of Mecklenburg County, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us with the mother country, and absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown, abjuring all political connection with a nation that has wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties and inhumanly shed innocent blood of Americans in Lexington.

‘“3. Resolved . . . That we do hereby Declare ourselves free and independent people; that we are, and of a right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing people’….’”

Because the original copy of the declaration was lost and its text reconstructed from memory much later, there have always been skeptics. But in the 1830-31 session of the North Carolina General Assembly, the Mecklenburg Declaration was determined to be of such ‘“genuineness’” as to ‘“silence incredulity.’”

For many years the incredulity was silenced. The May 20 date made its way to the North Carolina flag and seal. Over the years several US presidents joined thousands in the streets of Charlotte to celebrate on May 20.

However, in the last century North Carolina historians lined up to challenge the old accounts. Their criticism eventually undercut the commonly held core historical belief and the local pride that went with it. The large celebrations are themselves a thing of the past.

Both May 19 and May 20 tell us we have to be ready to meet challenges to our basic beliefs. When it happens, we must be unafraid to reexamine our core beliefs, ready to adjust if need be, and prepared to defend what we conclude to be important and true.