Shades of Mordor

It is a well known fact, at least in some circles, that the author J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout Christian. It was he who turned the popular theologian (and author himself), C. S. Lewis to the faith. Was Tolkien actually thinking theologically when he wrote some of the source material for the Lord of the Rings trilogy? When he wrote the piece entitled, “Ainulindalë,” the creation myth of Arda (where Middle Earth is located), was he in fact making an allegory that one could, if they wanted, apply to this world, the real world? One doubts that Tolkien meant it to be so, quite like that. But I read the part where Melkor, the greatest of the Valar, abandoned the purpose of Ilúvatar, who was God, and made discordant notes in the music of the creation. I first read this and thought how clever a device it was, that it would solve so many things in the nature of Middle Earth, and in fact, looking at the world around me—which was the inspiration for Arda, in any case—it would make sense of a lot of things here, too. And then I dismissed that idea off hand.

I remember between having read the “Ainulindalë” and when I went through the brunt of the War in Heaven, a piece written by a clergyman about when Japan had experienced their disastrous earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Some religious folk took to the pulpit to pronounce that this was the judgment of God, a payback (decades later onto people who had nothing to do with it) for Pearl Harbor. But the article I read had something different to say. It was talking about how God was not in the tremors, nor in the mighty waves, not in the cataclysms themselves, but in fact was present in the aftermath, in the people picking up the pieces of what had just happened, who were giving a hand to other people even when all they themselves had had been destroyed. God was in these pockets of mercy, the small warmth of a hand helping another hand. And in this, I sensed something of a truth had been told.

Now there was this other thing I read, maybe a year or two before the end of the War, and it was sort of funny, how an all-powerful being had so much trouble with a finite entity in a jerkwater part of the cosmos. They were like, Really? And I could see the author’s argument: why didn’t God just zap Lucifer when he got out of line? But then again, at what point would you do that? When he had the first thought of turning evil? When he had first committed an evil deed? Maybe before that rebel was even born? What do you think? One might believe that with an infinite wisdom, the Lord would pick the best possible time, correct? And there we go: this, then, would be called the Last Judgment. It might seem He has a little more patience with that sort of jazz. And for another thing, just because an entity was finite did not mean that they would be no trouble at all, even for an infinite being: Lucifer was the greatest entity in the cosmos, second only to God. What you might think of, the power God would have: that probably was more in scope to the power Lucifer had. Consider that.

If we say, for one, how powerful indeed God’s greatest angel would have been, and then, at the tippy top of Heaven from where he fell, what resources he must have had: one might wonder, what if Tolkien was onto something? What if God were not the one that gave birth to Pain, at all? What if the concept of disaster were not, per se, written in the Plan? At least, not by the Most High? The question suddenly becomes, does it answer too much? Is it too neat a package, that wraps everything up too simply? It might be the final act of the play that is dualism. Satan, from the minor functionary in the Book of Job, becomes by the time of Christ the prince of demons. And now, we would be saying that he alone is the ultimate source of all the wrong and pain and disaster that ever has existed. He threw that mighty a wrench in the works that was the cosmos. It is a staggering thought.

And so would be why there is so much ugliness mixed in with the beauty. They are both intrinsic in the mix. Why bad things happen to good people. Why it is easier to do wrong instead of to do right. How could God let it happen? That’s life, and thank God for it. Because now that things are the way they are, the hardwon things are that much sweeter. No, it is not the Devil that has made it this way, but what God did with the pain and the wrong! God is love. And you cannot defeat that. Love in our reckoning is a soft thing, an “old fashioned notion” according to Tina Turner. But I tell you that when with faith we say to the mountain, “Move!”, it is love that does the moving. And there is more to the story, I think… but all is to be told when the time rings the proper hour. Selah.