Christianity and Middle-Earth

Friday, January 21, 2005

A Second Darkness

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

It was a rough go for the Christian church in the first centuries after Christ, but eventually things swung round in their favor, most notably with the conversion of Constantine, and eventually Christianity in one form or the other became the framework round which the West was built.

For all the time of Men, the radiance of holy Light had lain secret beyond the deep shade cast by the tree of knowledge (a primeval gloom breached only by scattered splinters of mercy and truth and a single clear shaft that shone primarily upon the Hebrew people). With the sudden blaze of a single star over Bethlehem, Night found itself retreating before the dawning of Christianity, and mostly, despite sudden sorties and skirmishes in this direction or that, retreating to lick its wounds in confusion. God was in communion with Man.

Slowly, implacably, in the wake of the usual military conquests (whether ethically justifiable or no) of one tribe or nation over another, the knowledge of the Cross spread and flourished: it was the time of Christendom, of the ubiquity of priests and prelates and pilgrims. This earthly dominion knew many flaws, to be sure; Christendom per se is not the same thing as the kingdom of God (as yet that heavenly authority has sent only foreign office personnel) and sin has a long reach, but temporal power was wedded to the church and so Western history rode upon the mules of bishops as much as on the horses of kings.

With Martin Luther and Henry VIII and all that, the new reaches of empire took on a Protestant tone. Jamestown colonists and Pilgrims survived their journeys across the Atlantic in cockleshells, and the Declaration of Independence borrowed its legitimacy from Rights endowed by a Creator. A newborn people stood apart from the rule of popes and archbishops, and yet bowed their heads before that Creator in humility; in all their comings and goings aware of the bounds of a Judeo-Christian morality.

But the Shadow is not so easily discouraged: if frontal assault is thwarted, infiltrate from within. Better yet, try both strategies. Keep coming back, blow after blow after blow, in patient assault until at last Men fail and the blood of Númenor is spent and Valinor is a fool’s tale, smoke and mirrors signifying nothing.

The two hundred and twenty-nine years since have seen those bounds breached time and time again in an ever-increasing onslaught of secularism (of which the French Revolution is a charming example) until now, in our brave new 21st century world, they have nearly passed out of public knowledge. The walls are tumbled, the stones cracked with frost, the hand-cleared fields overgrown until the long labors of our ancestors are vanished, abandoned curiosities to be stumbled upon in the wild wood of moral relativism.


Now for the nitty-gritty:

Group charged with hate crimes in Philadelphia. Don’t neglect to watch the video of the evil Christians causing a riot. Great is Diana of the Ephesians!

The Australian Inquistion is begun, here and here.

If the prophets and apostles had offended people the way this guy did, they’d have died martyrs. Oh, wait

The British Inquisition: so when does writing about “cruel Haradrim” become a hate crime?

Even convicts aren’t safe from the revisionist-history/anti-free-speech busybodies.


In Peter Jackson’s Return of the King, we follow Gandalf and Pippin as they ascend the spiraling streets of Minas Tirith, the White City, to come out at the top onto a sprawling courtyard fronting the Hall of Kings. A tree is there, august, ancient, gnarled with age and the winds that must be frequent in so lofty a situation; the White Tree of Gondor, an artifact of fabled kings and former glories, now leafless, broken and long dead, bereft of even the hope of quickening.

“Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three,
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree.”

That was the salvage of Númenor, the land of gift that lay now drowned forever beneath the Sea. Only the Faithful – those who had spurned Sauron’s lies, aghast that their kin should in envy and vainglory dare send a fleet to demand immortality of the Valar, immortality in this life such as the Elves possessed – only these of the Men of Númenor came living out of the breaking of the world to be cast up at last upon the shores of Middle-Earth.

This was only one sin of many, however, the final folly of a people who had turned in prideful insolence against their Creator and his ministering servants.

I’ll end with a telling snippet from The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s gathered lifework that provides this back-story to The Lord of the Rings:

In those days the Shadow grew deeper upon Númenor; and the lives of the Kings of the House of Elros waned because of their rebellion, but they hardened their hearts the more against the Valar. And the nineteenth king took the sceptre of his fathers, and he ascended the throne in the name of Adúnakhor, Lord of the West, forsaking the Elven-tongues and forbidding their use in his hearing. Yet in the scroll of Kings, the name Herunúmen was inscribed in the High-elven speech, because of ancient custom, which the kings feared to break utterly, lest evil befall. Now this title seemed to the Faithful over-proud, being the title of the Valar; and their hearts were sorely tried between their loyalty to the House of Elros and their reverence of the appointed Powers. But worse was yet to come. For Ar-Gimilzor the twenty-second king was the greatest enemy of the Faithful. In his day the White Tree was untended and began to decline; and he forbade utterly the use of the Elven-tongues…


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