Christianity and Middle-Earth

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Reality of Evil

I think columnist Ralph Peters (via Junkyard Blog) hits the nail smack-dab on the noggin with this one:

The various terrorist groups affiliated with or aping al-Qaeda aren't really Islamic at their core. They're pre-Islamic. They're blood cults that practice human sacrifice. Mohammed would be horrified. This is just the sort of primitive desert religion against which he rebelled, spiritually and practically. The videotaped beheadings, complete with high priests, liturgy and sermons, hark back to the earliest Middle-Eastern civilizations, to the days of winged devils thirsty for blood….

JRR Tolkien would have no trouble recognizing the mindset or where it came from:

“…for they had worshipped Sauron in the dark years.” RotK, Book V

For Tolkien, evil was a very real thing and the personified existence of occult powers an objective fact. It wasn’t something he liked getting too close to; consequently, the Enemy’s evil in Middle Earth creeps in mostly from the edges, a devil’s bindweed of dark threat seeking to weave itself across the green earth until it blocks all light of sun or moon, and all memory of the West. (The trick for the Fellowship is to keep moving.)

From Sanctifying Myth , Brad Birzer’s excellent book on the Christian themes Tolkien brought to his masterwork:

Tolkien’s failure to explore or explain evil in much depth has led many critics to chide him for being too simplistic and childlike…[y]et Tolkien would most likely not be too bothered by the criticism…[e]vil, for Tolkien, was not about being scared by monsters. Rather, evil is very real and perilous, whether in fairy tales, in the trenches of World War I, or in the Soviet gulags. The monsters of fiction and nightmares are merely manifestations of the true, original evil...

Of course, we’re quite capable of getting up to plenty of mischief on our own account, we humans, but there’s a point in the indulgence of hatred and self-righteousness where an intelligent and ancient will-to-power so grips individuals or groups that their very humanity begins to disintegrate. Mankind saw this with Communism and the Nazis; and we’re seeing it again with the jihadis.

They would like very much to blot out all memory of the West.


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