Christianity and Middle-Earth

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Fellowship of the Ring

Victor Davis Hanson , via LGF:

We are living in historic times, as all the landmarks of the past half-century are in the midst of passing away. The old left-wing critique is in shambles — as the United States is proving to be the most radical engine for world democratic change and liberalization of the age. A reactionary Old Europe, in concert with the ossified American leftist elite, unleashed everything within its ample cultural arsenal: novels, plays, and op-ed columns calling for the assassination of President Bush; propaganda documentaries reminiscent of the oeuvre of Pravda or Leni Riefenstahl; and transparent bias passed off as front-page news and lead-ins on the evening network news.

Germany and France threw away their historic special relationships with America, while billions in Eastern Europe, India, Russia, China, and Japan either approved of our efforts or at least kept silent. Who would have believed 60 years ago that the great critics of democracy in the Middle East would now be American novelists and European utopians, while Indians, Poles, and Japanese were supporting those who just wanted the chance to vote? Who would have thought that a young Marine from the suburbs of Topeka battling the Dark Ages in Fallujah — the real humanist — was doing more to aid the planet than all the billions of the U.N.?


Quite literally, we are living in the strangest, most perilous, and unbelievable decade in modern memory.

And what else comes into that decade but Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.

It’s not a coincidence.

The Passion of the Christ doesn’t mince images: rather, it body-slams viewers right into the sudden realization that Christianity isn’t sentimentality and syrup. As has been said before, Christianity began in blood; the blood of the Innocents murdered by Herod after Christ’s birth, the blood of the Lamb of God at his death on the Cross, the blood of the early Christian martyrs.

The word ‘lamb’ conjures up images of cuddly, sweet things, and no doubt Jesus was such a one as an infant; all babies are. The primary function of lambs in the Hebrew writings, however, is that of sacrificial victim, the part in the drama that requires submission to a well-sharpened knife and the attendant bloodletting.

The point of sacrificial lambs in the Old Testament was to direct attention to a future Lamb; the point of the sacrificial Lamb of the New Testament is to spare us humans having to end up just as dead as his predecessors.

When did you understand?
Which breath drew knowing harshly in
And gave it flesh and bone and skin,
And sped your heart to beat in sudden dread on ebon wings?

When did you first perceive?
Was it a thought, a waking sight?
Or telling dream come in the night
With ancient words that spoke to you of dark and fearful things?

When did you see?

When did you bow your head?
And cup the truth in gentle hands
To drink like salt and desert sands,
And trade for cold, black winter
All your summers and your springs.

The Lord of the Rings
translates that sacrifice into a journey. The Lamb bids us step onto the Road behind him, a Fellowship of lambs in his name, willing to take part in his suffering because in that suffering we are spared eternal Night. We give up the good opinion of society in order to follow him, witless halflings all, plodding together beneath a Mordor-storm of hate and mockery, laboring in his footsteps as he bears the Ring of death and shame to its declared destruction. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.”

Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Christ in The Passion understands the interface :

"Initially, I was supposed to be (meeting) for a surfing movie, with Steve McEveety as producer. Then Mel showed up, and the conversation did a complete 180 to `The Passion of the Christ.' I suddenly realized what was up and said, `You want me to play Jesus, don't you?' He said yes."I felt both terrified and good about it, because I was saying yes to someone who would make the story of the gospels real, who'd stay right with Christian doctrine. If I wanted to do an allegory, which can be great, I'd do `Lord of the Rings,' which is basically the same story…”

The world is changing – and the old guard doesn’t like it at all. Yet paradoxically, all the ills are to be blamed on what is left of the Christendom that they’ve made every effort to destroy.

Dennis Prager, in his recent editorial entitled A Jew Defends the Cross says:

“I fear the removal of the Judeo-Christian foundation of our society. This is the real battle of our time, indeed the civil war of our time. (my emphasis) The Left wants America to become secular like Western Europe, not remain the Judeo-Christian country it has always been. But unlike the Left, I do not admire France and Belgium and Sweden. And that is what the battle over the seal of America's most populous county is ultimately about. It is not about separation of church and state. It is about separation of a county from its history. And it is about separation of America from its moral foundations.”

Whether Christendom will survive, I don’t know. But I do know that God has not left us without warning and comfort and promise.

Witless halflings we may be, we Christians, but through the foolishness of storytelling, God has made foolish the wisdom of this world.


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