Published March 13, 2008
Don’t ask Anne Rice about “The Da Vinci Code” unless you want an earful.
Rice, who returned to the Catholic Church in 1998 and abandoned vampires, her former stock in trade, soon after, calls it a “load of nonsense.”
Her latest novel, “Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana,” is in many ways an orthodox response to the popular thriller that imagined Jesus and Mary Magdalene married.
Firing a direct salvo at “Da Vinci,” Rice states in her author’s note: “It is more than ever important to affirm our belief in Christ as sinless and unmarried because that is the way the gospels present Him.”
“The Road to Cana,” scheduled to be published this month, follows Rice’s bestselling 2005 religious fiction debut, “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.” While the first installment in the series limned Jesus’ childhood, the second focuses on the beginning of his ministry, taking readers from the baptism in the Jordan River through the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
“I can draw a valid portrait of him according to Scripture as a sinless, celibate man,” Rice said in an interview. “Not some feminized pious image floating off the ground, but a real, virile man subject to noticing the beauty of the girls of Nazareth.”
Jesus may notice beauty and even be tempted by the idea of marriage with a local young woman, but in keeping with Rice’s beliefs and her gospel source material, there are no lustful thoughts as in “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and definitely no wedding vows.
Thousands of readers wrote to Rice after reading the first “Christ the Lord” book, many confessing that the blend of gospel, history, and imagination had personally affected them.
“What people say ... is that they didn’t think about the humanity of Jesus before,” she said. “There’s also a relief that it’s scripturally correct. Often people start a letter by saying, ‘I didn’t want to read your book because I thought it would be a wild and crazy version of Jesus. But it wasn’t.’”
Far from pushing boundaries, or the church’s buttons, Rice’s portrayal of Jesus as the son of God and the savior of humankind is theologically sound. At the same time, he’s also very human, with needs and cares readers can relate to.
Writing the books “has made me conscious of what [Jesus] suffered in the way of derision and dismissal,” she said. “Just like today – people go around making jokes about him. But he goes right on winning souls no matter what anybody does. We’ve come 2,000 years, and you can still sit at his feet and hear him speak and feel his hand, maybe, touch your shoulder. He survives it all.”
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