Christianity and Middle-Earth

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Of Funeral Pyres and Men

It’s been a rough week, one of the sort that leaves my knees shaking from the effort of taking a shower, but we at Entropy House are not daunted by such trifles, and so I have returned, full of narcotics and therapeutic ice cream, to bestow the very first Neanderbunny Award. The lucky recipients of this (possibly) monthly honor are these loonybiscuits. (I shall endeavor to produce a suitable graphic at some future date, but for now you’ll have to use your imagination.)

“Neanderbunny?” comes the bewildered query out of the flat-screen interface with Pixel Universe. “What on earth is a Neanderbunny?”

Orange, fuzzy, feline and on his own nitwitted little planet, that’s what. By way of expounding upon this, I offer the occasion of his sitting upon a bright-red stove burner: my young’un screeched and tried to push him off, but that only inspired him to sit harder. When she finally did get him to move, he descended from the countertop with his bottom smoking. Literally. I saw it with my own eyes, I did.

(No, he wasn’t hurt. Too much insulation. Perhaps the U.S. Fire Administration ought to look into orange cat-fur as a way to protect firefighters who have to go into infernos.)

Now that’s all clear, I present a sampling of the intellectual heights reached by the Award winners: nothing particularly new in intellectual circles, but a fine example of what passes for scholarship these days. (Via Chris Johnson )
Should the Bible call God the "Father" or "Lord"? Should Jesus be termed the "Son" of God or "Son" of "Man"? Should masculine words such as "king" and "kingdom" be allowed? Should Holy Writ have so many male pronouns?

Not if militant feminists have their way, as they do in an awkward rewrite of the complete Bible issued in four volumes: The Inclusive Hebrew Scriptures (three volumes subtitled The Torah, The Prophets, and The Writings) and The Inclusive New Testament (all from AltaMira).

These "degendered" Scriptures were produced for the liberal Roman Catholic Priests for Equality. The revisers say that "most scriptures read in worship services are still grossly sexist," and "the continued self-destructiveness of an all-male clergy" only worsens matters.
It’s very indelicate of me, I admit, and not the standard usage for a Victorian website, but I think the best thing to call that is a load of old cobblers.

~~~

In an excerpt from Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity, the author states:

For Tolkien himself, of course, and for English readers, the native cultural idiom happens to be an English one. Part of Tolkien’s ambition was ‘to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own’ — something that he felt was lacking in their national literature.

(…)

Tolkien blamed this on the brutality of the Norman occupation beginning in 1066, and not without reason. It was a savage assault on a relatively peaceful land, which eventually left one person in ten there dead from war or starvation. It also imposed a new phenomenon on the British Isles: a foreign and highly centralized ruling class, including secular, ecclesiastical and educational élites. The new Norman archbishop, bishops and abbots regarded their Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical predecessors as rudes et idiotas (uncouth and illiterate), dropped the worship of many pre-conquest saints and even destroyed some of their shrines. Education now demanded Latin, and ‘culture,’ as well as power, French; for as long as two hundred years later, the nobility still did not speak the native tongue. And Tolkien’s modern critics today are the heirs of precisely the same caste, almost as divorced now from the common reader as their forebears were from the common people, and no less lofty in attitude…
While the English language did eventually more or less conquer the Norman tongue (absorbing a great many French words in the process), the bulk of Anglo-Saxon literature and high art was lost forever in the unhappy aftermath of the Battle of Hastings. (A thousand years gone by and the French are still full of themselves. Not for nothing is the motto of Quebec 'Je me souviens'—'I remember.')

Of course, before the Normans (who were mostly just refurbished Vikings, anyway), it was the Anglo-Saxons who were the villains and the native British who were the victims. In De Excidio Britanniae, the wee history written by the Christian monk Gildas in the long twilight after Britain‘s abandonment by her earlier conquerors from Rome, Gildas’ considerable displeasure at the new invasion of his homeland comes through loud and clear.
Then all the counselors together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheepfold) the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful to both God and men… [Trans. J.A. Giles]
Perhaps the eventual conversion of the enemy to Christianity would have comforted him, perhaps not; in any case, by the time his Anglo-Saxon successor Bede came along to write his Ecclesiastical History, Britain was Angle-land - England.

So there we have it: post-Roman Britain is overrun by the Saxons and the Normans squash the Saxons. (And where did the British themselves come from and whom did they displace?) This, of course, is just par for the course for human history: the array of peoples who have endured having their cultural identity obliterated by marauders is vast and varied and certainly not restricted to the British Isles.

History marches on and what was is left behind. The symbiotic ebb and flow of life carves out new cultures from the silted-up estuaries of the old, even as the very dust - the elemental atoms of which we are made - stirs again from the mould to navigate the food chain until new Men live and all the world is changed.

Even so, the eclipse of a people is not usually brought about by self-immolation.

~~~

My point in trotting out all of this is to illustrate what the Radical Left has been and is still up to (as evidenced further by the unlovely Lynne Stewart and her soulmate Ward Churchill) which is to rid the world of the “evils” of Western civilization. This necessitates ridding the world of the West itself, of course, the two being one and the same by default.

Something strange and terrible has come upon the American political scene: we have become cultural suicides. The shortcomings of our forefathers have been shaped into a public stocks in which the Judeo-Christian worldview is imprisoned, an object of scorn, fit only to be pelted with whatever garbage is at hand. To a malevolent, holier-than-thou intelligentsia all too pleased to savage the hand that feeds them, the Samwise Gamgee Everyman is a laughingstock.

They may delude themselves that they’re doing this because they are the noble defenders of indigenous peoples against the evil capitalist colonialists: what they are really after is the destruction of Christianity and - especially - the responsibility of her old age, the state of Israel. This requires the spoiling and dismemberment of the civilization that nurtures both.

The assault has numerous fronts, of course, one of which is to poison the public perception of the literature, beliefs and history we have inherited. It’s a bit like mission-creep, only in this case it is the Judeo-Christian legacy which is painted ever blacker and bleaker until its adherents become persons bereft of any redeeming qualities, rendered in oppressive hues, fit only for the bonfires of deconstructionist purification. Nelson Ascher hits it smack on the head:
Those whom the fall of the Berlin Wall had left orphans of a cause, spent the next decade plotting the containment of the US. It was a complex operation that involved the (in many cases state-sponsored) mushrooming of NGOs, Kyoto, the creation of the ICC, the salami tactics applied against America’s main strategic ally in the Middle-East, Israel, through the Trojan Horse of the Oslo agreements, the subversion of the sanctions against Iraq etc. I’m not as conspiratorially-minded as to think that all these efforts were in any way centralized or that they had some kind of master-plan behind them. It was above all the case of the spirit of the times converging, through many independent manifestations, towards a single goal.

(…)

Now, whatever they wanted to defend or protect doesn’t exist anymore. They have only things to destroy, and all those things are personified in the US, in its very existence.

(…)

This newly ever-growing Western left, not only in Europe, but in Latin America and even in the US itself, has a clear goal: the destruction of the country and society that vanquished its dreams fifteen years ago. But it does not have, as in the old days of the Soviet Union, the hard power to accomplish this by itself. Thanks to this, all our leftist friends’ bets are now on radical Islam. What can they do to help it? Answer: tie down America’s superior strength with a million Liliputian ropes: legal ones, political ones, with propaganda and disinformation etc. Anything and everything will do.
~~~

The long wisdom of the Elendili, a wisdom footed upon a right reverence and fear of Illuvatar and his emissaries, was literally the saving grace of those who escaped (just barely) the ending of Númenor to establish a new kingdom in Middle-Earth. But the foresight of Men diminished and the line of kings was broken, and by Denethor’s time, the throne had been empty for nearly a thousand years.

The Stewards of Gondor were, as Gandalf tells Pippin before they go in to Denethor’s presence, not kings, but caretakers. Their task was to preserve the throne in trust until a scion of the royal line should come to reclaim it.

And perhaps, if some overlooked, miraculous survivor of the Royal House had come sailing magnificent and splendorous out of the West, heralded by the sun and the moon and all the stars in a great son et lumière spectacle of celestial musics and glories, and accompanied by a golden fleet-escort from the Valar—perhaps then, Denethor could have found it in him to welcome with proper humility the long-awaited heir to the throne of Kings.

A weather-beaten, threadbare Ranger out of the North was another thing entirely.

“I am Steward of the House of Anárion,” Denethor snarled to Gandalf in Rath Dínen amongst the tombs. “I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were his claim proved to me, still he comes but of the line of Isildur. I will not bow to such a one, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.”

Denethor’s wisdom had turned in on itself, twisted into a sort of existential Möbius strip from which there was no escape, nothing but endless pacing and brooding on what had been and would be no more. The borrowed power he possessed had become, in his heart, something more akin to his own divine right:

“The rule of Gondor is mine!”

And so, even as Gandalf did his best to push Denethor off the stove burner, Denethor only sat the harder, until finally he succeeded where Neanderbunny failed and triumphantly roasted himself into eternity.

~~~

It’s an entirely natural and normal thing to desire, as a parent, to pass your family traditions and stories on to your children; this is a basis for attempts to preserve indigenous cultures and languages, be it Welsh or Breton or some vanishing tongue native to the American Northwest.

Before frontiersmen and national defense became Politically Incorrect, American children were nightly exposed to the essential narratives of their country’s history. From Daniel Boone to Death Valley Days to Combat, the struggles of their fathers to settle a wild land and defend it abroad were a staple of television: everyone with a functioning set could absorb the basics effortlessly. It wasn’t always accurate and was certainly heavily romanticized, but it did create in the public imagination a gut understanding and admiration of the American story.

But there is always a potential of gnawing, gobbling greediness in our human makeup that is a horrible caricature of the natural instinct to transmit our worldview to our children: the hunger for power to recreate the entire world in one’s image. Nourished by the Enemy to the advancement of his own ends, that hunger breaks out again and again upon the earth, red of tooth and claw, as they say, devouring the hearts of men and leaving in the resulting emptiness an ugly brutality devoid of human kindness, scoured clean of pity and humility. Of such come the Stewarts and Churchills of the world, worshippers of nihilism and their own precious persons, hell-blown craft on a wild sea a-foam with madness.

America has her failings, certainly, much magnified by the vipers in her bosom; but those flaws are but the priming to the backdraft of their fury. What they despise most of all is her essential goodness, a goodness birthed from and reared on the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and the apostles of Christ.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
And having gained power and privilege in academia, politics and the press, they don’t want to surrender one iota of it. Just as do we lesser mortals - the Sam Gamgees it holds in such contempt – so does the Radical Left also resist the invaders of its own shores.

Who’d a thunk it – they’re just like us.

~~~

From down the far, dim reaches of the passage-grave of Time, the words of the Wise, of the seers and prophets and the holy men and women of an ancient land come whispering to us upon the pages of the Old and New Testaments. Generation upon generation has come and gone upon this earth, and still, thousands of years after it all began, we have granted always to us new and faithful lore-keepers in the service of He-who-was-made-flesh to guard that which has been given into their trust, to carry it safely through the lines of the Enemy to relinquish at last the high-text of Christianity to those yet to come.

In like manner are we also - in a culture and age deliberately impoverished of the once familiar beauties of Christendom – given a faithful servant of God, a man who received his talents gladly and set to work to restore remembrance to Men, to entice and allure us back to the old ways and the old paths, the roads that lead to Light and Truth.
“Throughout the Third Age the guardianship of the Three Rings was known only to those who possessed them. But at the end, it became known that they had been held at first by the three greatest of the Eldar: Gil-galad, Galadriel and Círdan.

The Ring of Gil-galad was given by him to Elrond; but Círdan surrendered his to Mithrandir [Gandalf]. For Círdan saw further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth, and he welcomed Mithrandir at the Grey Havens, knowing whence he came and whither he would return.

‘Take this Ring, Master,’ he said, ‘for your labors will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill...’”
Like Gandalf in his own tale, J.R.R. Tolkien is an instrument of grace, a kindler of hearts in a dreary Mordor-scape. The nihilists can embargo and purge and censor as much as lies in their power, but in the end their sour animosity will come to naught.

I came across this telling snippet at Touchstone yesterday:
We are all materialists now. Sure, there are remnants of pagan mysticism, and there are some die-hard believers in theistic deities, but the vast majority of Americans and Europeans believe more in the idea of world peace than in fairies, angels, and aliens; and the world is worse for it. How can you have real theistic faith without a belief in angels or their opposites? How can you profess to true meaning in life without the idea that you can somehow intervene in these otherworldly affairs? How can you make it through an existence in which the kings are despots and fashion designers without some vague notion that they are poor imitations of your own princely soul—a soul that at the will of “Aslan” or “Gandalf” just might rise to help save the worlds of men?
Put a copy of The Lord of the Rings into a child’s hands - and the nihilists are already defeated. All that was best of Christendom, all that was most beautiful and noble and courageous and transcendent - all that was finest of the West - comes resplendent in victory upon the battle-steeds of Rohan and Gondor and upon the bare dusty feet of the humble Shire.

 

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