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22047Re: [mythsoc] Joseph Pearce on Tolkien

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  • David Bratman
    Apr 9, 2011
      "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@...> wrote:

      >> His clinching proof is that the quest ends on March 25, a traditional
      >> calendar
      >> date for the Crucifixion and also the Feast of the Annunciation, which
      >> Pearce
      >> says is a more important date in the Church calendar than Christmas.
      >> (Berni
      >> assures me this is _not_ the case,
      > Well, that depends on what one means by "important".

      It's not a Holy Day of Obligation.

      >> Historically, the date of the Annunciation was also regarded as the date
      >> of: the
      >> Crucifixion; the creation of Adam; the Fall of Lucifer; the passing of
      >> Israel through
      >> the Red Sea; and the (near) immolation of Isaac, and so the date _itself_
      >> is indeed
      >> in this aspect more important than that of Dec. 25.

      And it'd be perfectly possible for Pearce to make any points he wants about
      the importance of March 25th as a date without throwing in this stuff about
      the Annunciation being more important than Christmas. In an allegory of
      Frodo's trek as the Via Dolorosa, the only relevance of the Annunciation is
      its tie to the traditional belief that it was _also_ the date of the
      Crucifixion. (Which has to be approached in this roundabout way since,
      while the date to celebrate the Annunciation is fixed, the Crucifixion is of
      course commemorated as a movable feast and not on a specific date.)

      The problem with trying to build an allegory out of this, however, is one
      that has been pointed out before - since Pearce is far from the first person
      to notice this. It is that the Fellowship sets out from Rivendell on Dec.
      25. Obviously both dates were important to Tolkien, and he probably didn't
      pick them randomly, so there's _symbolic_ importance, but it's apparently
      difficult to find a Christian _allegory_ in a three-month quest from
      Christmas to the Crucifixion (let alone to the Annunciation). A nine-month
      quest the other way around might make more sense this way.

      >> and it's clear to me what's going on: as Christmas is the birth of Christ
      >> and the
      >> Annunciation is the angel informing Mary that she's pregnant, Pearce is
      >> giving
      >> a dog-whistle to anti-abortionists who claim conception, not birth, is
      >> the start of
      >> life, even if he has to rewrite Catholic theology to do it.)
      > The Church has _never_ held that birth is the start of life, and it does
      > now define
      > conception as the start of human life (it is true that there was
      > previously some
      > debate as to when ensoulment occurs, e.g. Aquinas, but that debate was
      > never
      > used to justify abortion, always and everywhere regarded as gravely sinful
      > by
      > the Church). So I'm puzzled as to how this constitutes "rewriting Catholic
      > theology".

      The Church has managed to oppose abortion for a very long time without
      trying to justify it by claiming that the Annunciation is a more significant
      holy day than Christmas. There is indeed no need to do so, given as you
      point out that the date of ensoulment has been a matter of question. It is
      Pearce's pushing of the Annunciation that is his rewriting of theology, and
      the fact that he uses this weak theological argument for that purpose, plus
      the fact that it is, as I mentioned above, completely irrelevant to
      justifying the importance of March 25th to his allegorical reading of
      Tolkien, plus the additional fact that his allegorical reading is foreign to
      Tolkien's symbolism, that leaves him grasping at straws when there's no need
      for him to grasp at straws.
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