Christianity and Middle-Earth

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Faithless Lover

I don’t like to deal in threats of fire and brimstone, a la Jerry Falwell and the Twin Towers, preferring to take my view of bad things happening to others or myself from what Jesus Christ actually said:

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

And Jesus answering said unto them, ‘Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

‘Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’

Time and chance happen to all men. Tsunamis come, and earthquakes and hurricanes and terrorism and epidemics and wars, all ills rooted in indifferent natural forces or the practical consequence of human folly. These sorrows are the ever-enduring lot of Man and as such stand apart from visitations of divine wrath. In other words, there’s opportunity for suffering aplenty on this earth and no need for God to throw lightning bolts about even if that were his modus operandi for the Christian era. If he took that approach, how many of us would be left standing?

Our relationship with our Captain cannot be footed in gain, whether prosperity or safety or any other earthly desire; if it is, we are little more than trained animals, eager to please in order to avoid the whip or to be fed a treat. While a yearning for temporal security in body or mind may be what turns us to seek Christ in our beginning, to come into mature communion with him requires that we in due season leave the Shire-nursery of our spiritual childhood, forsaking the security of regular-meals-and-often, so to speak, daring to follow him onto the perilous Road of his Fellowship wherever it may lead, be it to Rivendell’s comforts or the long dark of Moria. What begins as an I-worship-You-You-bless-me Pavlovian bargain must become a true bonding of heart and soul and mind, a fealty and love that can be no longer crippled by the caltrops of mortal pleasures or griefs.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in a nutshell: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”

And C.S. Lewis expressed it thusly:

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.”


Having said all that, I will seemingly contradict myself with a couple of Christ’s other warnings, here:
Then said he unto the disciples, ‘It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.’
And here:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was ahungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.’

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when saw we thee ahungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?’

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was ahungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.’

Then shall they also answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when saw we thee ahungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?’

Then shall he answer them, saying, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.’

Life isn’t as short as it used to be, Michael Schiavo, but it’s still brief. There will be no comfort for you or your Becky Sharp of an accessory to the murder of your helpless wife.

Not in the darkness that is coming.


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