Christianity is Necessary

I saw the original Lord of the Rings trilogy when it came out – years before reading the book, I must confess. Since then I have been through them 5 or 6 times. They are a masterpiece of Christian mythology. Yes, Christian Mythology.

They are unlike a classical pagan mythology: this is how the large mountain was formed by a bear. Instead, they explain the life and world of the Christian using another world. In this they are like Narnia. But Narnia never rises above the level of allegory. Lion=Jesus. White witch=Satan, etc. Visiting Narnia would be fun, a great adventure. But then we would return home.

Middle Earth, by comparison, is around us. We inhabit it, even though we have not and can not ever visit. We live in the age of men. We can live like men, free and willing to defend our homes, or we can become slaves, eventually corrupted until we are little more than barbarous orcs, trolls, goblins. There are a few happy Christians who spend their lives in Hobbiton. They enjoy good food, good friends, a good pipe, and the occasional fireworks. They are simple folk, but don’t be fooled. There is more in them than meets the eye. They have no interest in the wider goings on, but do not think that their actions will have no impact on great events. And even the most powerful would be wise to think twice before trying to subjugate them.

The elves (unlike Peter Jackson’s stern and frightening vision) are joyful, playful, solemn, eternal. They are the saints which surround the Christian. They inspire us, they are examples to us of what we can be and of where we will one day go. And, in times of dire need, we find that our path leads through their kingdom. We are fed with otherworldly food – food that gives more sustenance than we see on the surface. Lembas is baked only in the imagination of a man who believed the body and blood of the Lord are present when the church gathers.

The Ring Trilogy is a work of deep contemplation on the Christian mysteries. True, many fans are non-Christian. The myth of this Christian land is of such a depth that it draws in even those who reject the Christianity that forms its foundation. They can enjoy the legend and the mysteries even while rejecting the premise, just as a non-Christian can enjoy the grandeur of the cathedral in Chartres or Rheims while rejecting the hope that went into building it. But the non-Christian can not build – and would not spend the time trying to build – Chartres or Rheims. They barely have the cognizance to rebuild the Cathedral in Paris after a fire without adding monstrously modern elements. And let’s be honest, if not for the lure of tourist dollars, the rebuilding would have taken a decidedly uglier turn.

Someone who is not a Christian inventing tales of Middle Earth without the background of Christ and His Holy Bride the Church would be like someone writing a Gospel where Judas is the hero. It’s been tried. It is not good. The Gospel of Thomas is another non-Christian Christian writing. It is a mix of pithy sayings, plagiarized scripture, and utter nonsense. It never attempts to convey historical information. And it does not hold together as either literary work or ethical instruction. It is randomly chosen thoughts designed to fit the authors preconceptions, not an exposition of the Word of God. Early reviews of the new Amazon Ring Cycle indicate that it fits the same pattern.

How could this possibly be a surprise?

Middle Earth is special not because of the magical system, or the diverse races of man-like creatures, or the funny names and exotic locales. Middle Earth is special because it tells the story of the Christian on a mythic scale. It is Pilgrims Progress told by someone with a much greater imagination, and with a much greater scope. It is not the journey of one man through life and death. It is the journey of a an entire world into corruption and redemption. It is the ongoing struggle against evil. And this will neither be understood nor competently expounded by those who do not believe in the corruption which sin brings, nor in the redemption offered by the Son of God through the scandal of the cross.

The new series is not worth watching. I say this not by way of review, but by way of philosophical belief. The odds that a group of secular materialist hedonists managed to make up a story that captures even a spark of the original is the same as the odds of Adam and Eve sneaking past the angel and back into the garden. It would be as if the ancient myths of the Greeks told the tale of how Zeus and the gang suddenly decided that humanity was not a plaything with which to amuse themselves. Rather, the gods would show compassion, they would honor their own marriage vows as an example to humanity, they would help the helpless, stand up against injustice, and no longer commit wicked and petty acts. Which is to say, they would no longer be the thing they are – a product of fallen humanity’s imagination. They would become Christian.

In the same way, making Middle Earth suddenly a non-Christian affair will bear no resemblance to what it is. It will not accidentally remain the mythic place of the Christian imagination. So no, I will not watch it just to see if it is good. I need not examine it to make a judgment, any more than I need to walk across a horse pasture to know I should watch my step. It is a failure of concept. I no more care what the non-Christian thinks of Middle Earth, than the residents of Hobbiton care about the fishing prospects in the Ice Bay of Forochel. I live contentedly undisturbed by the terrible imaginings of the corruptions of our age, and desirous of nothing more than one day visiting and dwelling with the elves of Rivendell.

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