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20564Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings

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  • jef.murray
    Jun 10, 2009
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      John,

      If you will reread my post, I think you'll see that I
      never suggested that Tolkien's characters were Christian
      or Catholic in the sense that we use those terms today, and that
      trying to fit them into what we would today classify as
      Christian or Catholic (or Pagan, or Hindu, etc.) is a bit
      like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.

      What I was arguing was that Tolkien's "good" characters have
      behaved as if they had a deep and innate reverence for
      Natural Law. Natural Law existed before Christ, and any
      Catholic trying to depict a pre-Christian world that is
      consonant with his beliefs would certainly have "good folk"
      follow Natural Law. That was my point. And that is one
      argument (not _the_ argument) that suggests that the Lord
      of the Rings was, indeed, a "fundamentally religious and
      Catholic work".

      It does not follow, as you suggest, that anyone who follows
      Natural Law could be called a Wiccan, or a Pagan, or a Christian,
      or anything else. Therein lies madness (aka moral relativism).
      There's more in LOTR than just folks following Natural Law,
      and more evidence that the work is fundamentally consistent
      with Catholic teachings.

      There are many events in LOTR that are _not_ consistent with
      pagan belief but _are_ consistent with Christian teachings, such
      as the exaltation of the meek (e.g., Hobbits), and the sacrificial
      nature of virtue (that one must die to self in order to live...as
      Frodo does). There are many other instances, and for a very lively
      treatment of same, I could recommend "The Philosophy of Tolkien"
      by Peter Kreeft, as a great primer.

      Jef


      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:
      >
      > Hi Jeff,
      >
      > I see. Then granted, Tolkien is certainly Catholic!
      >
      > But beyond that, regarding your saying that those who act in harmony with Natural Law are acting in harmony with Christian beliefs, that may be. Yet that does not make them Christian, let alone Catholic. In fact, since many neo-Pagan and Wiccan belief structures share much in common with Natural Law (at least, to my limited understanding of it), you may as well state that Christians are Pagans, as Pagans Wiccans.
      >
      > Catholicism, and most sects of Christianity, have strict criteria as to what makes a Christian or Catholic, fundamental to which tend to be a belief in Christ, and a Christian God. Since Christ was not yet born in the Third Age of Middle-earth, and Eru was not widely worshipped, the characters in LotR cannot be Catholic, or even Christian. They may share aspects in common with Christians, and Catholics, and Pagans, and indeed arrogant god-haters such as myself, but that does not make them Christian, or Catholic.
      >
      > So I would agree with you that most of the (Free People) of Middle-earth act in harmony with Christian teachings. But I would argue strongly that this does not make them Christians.
      >
      > John
      >
      >
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: jef.murray
      > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      > Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 3:01 PM
      > Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > John,
      >
      > I was refering to our natural inclination to look at a person
      > we admire in real life and "see" them through the lens of our
      > own beliefs. The more we admire them, the more we want them
      > to conform to our own beliefs, even if to do that requires that
      > we be in denial about obvious facts. The extreme cases of this
      > might be found by unsupported claims by homosexual writers
      > that Shakespeare was homosexual, or the claims by feminist
      > writers that Flannery O'Connor was a feminist. The "facts"
      > that support such suppositions are largely fabricated by the
      > folks doing the claiming.
      >
      > And, regarding Tolkien's characters, claiming they are pagan
      > in the sense that we know paganism is rather like trying to
      > figure out what sort of plant a zebra is. The Rohirrim were
      > certainly based in part on the Vikings, and some of their beliefs reflect aspects of Viking culture. Nevertheless, there is
      > nothing specifically pagan about believing in an afterlife.
      >
      > And the "good" folk in Tolkien's legendarium, whether Elves,
      > or Dwarves, or Hobbits or men, are all shown to behave in a
      > manner that is consistent with Natural Law. Catholic teaching
      > suggests that Natural Law is something that we are all born
      > knowing. We can choose to follow it or go against it, but "good
      > folk" of any religion or no religion who act in a manner
      > consistent with Natural Law essentially are acting in harmony
      > with Christian teachings, even if they've never heard of Christ.
      > This is the state of most of the "good" folk in Tolkien's
      > Legendarium.
      >
      > Jef
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