Re: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
- I have a feeling that as - presumably - a Christian, mayhap a Catholic, you see evidence of Catholicism everywhere in LotR. A pagan will see evidence of Paganism. I see great evidence of Humanism. This is a natural tendency, but care must be taken not to fall into the trap of thinking 'all that is Christian/Pagan/belief of choice is good, therefore all that is good is Christian/Pagan/belief of choice and nothing else'.
Because it is possible to read something in one way, this does not mean that it cannot as justifiably be read another. The sacrificial nature of virtue, for example, to borrow your phrase, is also fundamental to some Pagan/non-Christian frameworks of belief (is now the time to break down the Christian definition of Paganism into separate belief systems? No, probably not!). And indeed athestic ones. Indeed, elements of the story of Christ's sacrifice are borrowed, as is well known, from similar stories in other myths. And if as you say there are many events in LotR that are not consistent with Pagan belief but are consistent with Christianity, then the reverse is also true, such as bodily reincarnation, to pick one of many.
Perhaps it is safest then to say merely that LotR is a fundamentally spiritual work, written by a Catholic.
(And I will endeavour not to rise to your moral relativism is madness bait!)
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 4:33 PM
Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
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
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.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "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.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: jef.murray
> To: email@example.com
> Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 3:01 PM
> Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
> 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
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- Luthien: Alas! My beloved has perished! I must go to the Halls of Mandos to beg --
Beren: I'm not dead yet.
Luthien: Shh! To beg Mandos to bring him back --
Beren: I don't want to go on the cart.
Luthien: Shut up! I'm having a dramatic moment here.
Beren: I feel happy...
Luthien: (Nods to nearest elf with big club)
Big Club: Thud.
Luthien: Okay, I'm off to the Halls of Mandos. See ya. (Falls down)
>From: John Davis <john@...>________________________________________
>Sent: Jun 15, 2009 3:48 AM
>Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
>Perhaps he was just mostly dead.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: scribbler@...
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 4:40 PM
> Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
> > I've always wondered -- was Beren really dead? Or was he merely so close
> > to death that no one around could tell the difference? Was he really
> > resurrected, or simply revived?
> > If the Gift of Men is beyond even the Valar's understanding, it doesn't
> > make sense that Mandos would have the power to give Beren back his life,
> > no matter how persuasively Luthien sang.
> > emerdavid
> Well, it would seem incongruous that Mandos himself would not be able to
> distinguish between a "nearly dead" mortal soul and a "dead" one. Mandos
> is made anxious about the situation because Beren WILL NOT GO ON the way
> he is supposed to.
> It seems to me, that Beren's soul held onto the world to an unexpected
> degree, instead of passing out of the world. If he had passed out of the
> world, then I agree, Luthien's singing would have been tragic in that it
> would be to no point -- Beren would not be *there* to be returned. But
> that's not what Tolkien sets as the situation. He has Beren "hanging
> around" unexpectedly.
> I say - Beren was dead, but not "departed". A unique situation that the
> Valar could actually address.
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