One hundred rings for Senators under the sky,
Four hundred thirty-five for Reps in their lower house dome,
Nine for the Justices bound to lie,
One for the President in his pallid home,
In the District of Columbia where the freedoms die.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to blind them,
One Ring to cow them all and in the darkness bind them,
In the District of Columbia where the freedoms die.
I was thinking yesterday as America celebrated her Independence Day about how we are losing those freedoms for which our forefathers fought. After a while, Lord of the Rings came to mind and I wondered if, after winning the election in November, the Republicans would re-enact that scene where Frodo, finally at the end of the battle, standing over the magma boiling in Mt. Doom, succumbs to the allurements of the Ring and refuses to destroy the only lasting threat to the freedom of all Middle Earth. Will the Republicans destroy the big government engine of conscience-crushing totalitarianism or, once in power, will they wield it for their own ends and betray us all?
Considering it more, I realized there are MANY parallels between the story of the War of the Ring and the story we’re now living in our own fight for freedom of conscience. Recognizing that the analogy isn’t perfect and not all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together, I give you the fruits of my thought experiment.
Disclaimer: For the sake of warding off what are bound to be arguments over my interpretations, let me be sure to clarify a couple things:
- I realize that Lord of the Rings is way more complicated than what I’m discussing here.
- I also realize that Tolkien very deliberately avoided the use of allegory. Nevertheless, his characters are so profoundly real that one cannot help but find that certain aspects of their personalities can be seen in modern, real-life individuals. The same is true of events in the fiction. I consider this a sign of a brilliant mind with a vibrant imagination, not a feeble one that only seeks to caricature the real world.
- This post was written, for the sake of a broader audience, as a reflection on the movies, with one noted addition from the books. True fans of the book who are fluent in Elvish – such as the good friend who proofread this for me – may now proceed to stomp off in indignation with my apologies.
Without further ado…
In the Lord of the Rings, the one Ring is the ring of an evil, primordial power. Appealing to pride and moral weakness, it finds its way into the hands of its owners and corrupts them into murderous villains. Its would-be masters are instead enslaved by the power it wields over their lives. The Ring must be destroyed for the sake of the free peoples of Middle Earth.
The Ring may be thought to symbolize that combination of vice and strength that corrupts absolutely. Throughout the history of the real world, we need only glance to see that vice and strength always and without exception accompany totalitarianism. Just as the One Ring must be destroyed, so vice must be destroyed to return America to true freedom, freedom from sin and darkness.
The Ring is at the center of the fight for over Middle Earth. While Sauron’s seeks the ring in order to claim absolute dominion, the Fellowship of the Ring seeks to destroy it, so that no one can have that kind of power.
Our politicians are fighting for the soul of a people and the dividing line is decreasingly about what to do with power and increasingly about how much power the government should have in the first place. Among American citizens, one side wants the government to run the whole show, while the other tends toward wanting to dismantle and decentralize, so that no one can have that totalitarian kind of power.
Gandalf the Wizard uses his deep knowledge of the ways of Middle Earth and experience with the darkness of Mordor to guide and defend freedom.
Could Gandalf be a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who will not only fight to defend His people, but will intervene miraculously from time to time?
In a heartbreaking moment in the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf approaches his superior, Saruman, to discuss the Ring, only to find that Saruman has turned toward Sauron and been corrupted.
Many people once trusted in the Democratic Party and the Supreme Court, but in recent years (or days, in the latter case) have been betrayed. Add the Democratic penchant for approving of the unnatural – abortion, in vitro fertilization, homosexual activity, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, transgender surgery, to name a few – and you have a greater likeness to the twisted follower of Sauron who destroyed the forests and created the Uruk-Hai, speculated to be a cross-breed of Orcs and men.
Shirefolk are lowly farmers disconnected from the world, living in a peaceful and just society unlike what their non-hobbit fellows experience. They are unaware of the darkness spreading over Middle Earth until it is too late and considerably surprised by events.
Many have observed that while the war on faith advanced from Washington, D.C., the USCCB continued to appear primarily concerned with welfare programs and farm bills.
Frodo’s function in the Lord of the Rings is to be the Ring-Bearer. It is his job to carry the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom.
Like Frodo, Americans of faith – in Cardinal Dolan’s now famous words – did not ask for the task, but will not run from it. It is our job to carry this dreaded ring, not taking it ourselves, but suffering under its weight like a cross, until we can break it to pieces and end its curse. Like Frodo, our Average American has some conflicting feelings and finds journey difficult. Like Frodo, the Average American will need the help of a trusted friend. As the last possible vehicle of our carrying this ring to its demise, Average Americans are swinging toward the GOP more than in the recent past, which makes Frodo a symbol of the Republican Party as well. Many of us are uncertain as to the GOP’s stick-to-it-iveness. We can only pray they will not have a Frodo in Mt. Doom moment and, having finally reached the end, holding the ring of power themselves, decide not to destroy the vice and corruption it brings, but to wield it to their own ends.
Fortunately, Mr. Frodo does indeed have the trusted friend he needs. Sam not only shares in Frodo’s burden, he heroically challenges Frodo’s bad decisions and sticks with him even when Frodo sends him away. At the end, it is Sam’s perseverance, not Frodo’s, that wins the day.
Orthodox Catholics, dropping eves and overhearing the whole political discourse for some time now, are well aware of what’s at stake if the Ring is not destroyed. In fact, they’ve spent many years speaking out against the vice the Ring symbolizes. When Average American is struggling under the weight of the Ring, it will be Orthodox Catholic standing by to encourage him, rescue him, and even carry him the last leg of the journey.
Loveable as Bilbo is, Frodo wouldn’t have gotten into this whole mess if he had minded his business and stayed home in the first place.
Sometimes theology requires speculation, a bit of wandering from the firmer grounds of defined doctrine into those things still reconcilable with orthodoxy, but less certain. Unfortunately, some theologians go outside the range of acceptable opinions. I’ve got to imagine that if we didn’t have so many theologians wondering so far from home back in the 60’s, we wouldn’t be in this mess with the contraception mandate.
Aragorn, the mysterious “Strider” who heroically came to the help of the Fellowship and was arguably its true leader, develops greatly throughout Lord of the Rings, eventually being crowned the first High King of the Reunited Kingdom.
It’s more than fitting that Cardinal Dolan, a president of the USCCB who has managed to unite different factions of bishops into a unanimous voice against the HHS Contraception Mandate, should be symbolized by Aragorn. He deserves the designation. Cardinal Dolan has fought with outspoken courage against the increasingly oppressive regime of the Obama Administration.
Tom Bombadil (a book character) is unaffected by the allurements of the Ring.
Even Orthodox Catholics sometimes long for the unlimited power the Ring would give to set things right (though it could never truly be used for that end). The saints who will come out of this persecution are different, rarely corrupted by vice and power. In all paths to holiness, detachment will lead the way.
Deathly, murderous, thieving, and duplicitous, yet endowed with an inherent personal dignity that must be respected, and so trapped by the corruption of vice that he must be pitied, Gollum stalks Frodo from the shadows, longing for the perfect moment to snatch the Ring for himself.
Planned Parenthood, likewise, longs to have total control all to itself, but realizes that it never will because decent people are too appalled by its visage to allow its approach.
Of course, no Lord of the Rings comparison would be right without Gimli. Remember the Gimli of the Lord of the Rings movie, constantly complaining yet correct and virtuous?
The eternally grumpy dwarf deserves an equally pessimistic counterpart, so I’d like to suggest the generic “Grumpy Catholic Bloggers” who’ve been rightly complaining about the Obama Administration all along (Creative Minority Report, I’m looking at you!).
In the Lord of the Rings, Legolas impresses with his keen tracking abilities, especially his excellent vision and perception of oncoming hordes.
CatholicVote and similar Catholic political outlets saw this fight coming and have been preparing for some time.
Boromir fell to the power of the Ring, but made a comeback and died defending Merry and Pippin.
Former abortion doctors, nurses, and volunteers also die to themselves as their lives come unraveled in their pursuit of doing what’s right, but praise God for conversion!
Ents are the tree-like “shepherds of the forest” in Middle-Earth. In a striking scene toward the end of the Two Towers, Merry and Pippin, two hobbits, try ineffectively to convince the ents to attack Saruman’s stronghold at Isengard. When the ents refuse, the hobbits misdirect them to a huge swath of the forest destroyed by Saruman’s massive deforesting program, one that had been going on for a long time. With total shock and dismay, they are astounded.
How many shepherds of parishes refused for years to say a word from the pulpit or in the Confessional about the moral issues we now find at the crux of this persecution, and yet are now surprised that the popular culture could have gone this far astray?
Here are some others I’ve been thinking about, but haven’t fleshed out…
Arwen – Mary, Mother of Clergy
If Cardinal Dolan is Aragorn, then Arwen is in her typical Aragorn-supporting role as Mary, Mother of the Clergy.
Galadriel – Mary, Help of Christians
I don’t really know precisely what the Our Lady is doing behind the scenes right now, but I know it involves helping to light the way, and let’s all remember the Light of Eärendil.
Gríma Wormtongue – The Mass Media
Do I really need to explain?
Nazgûl or Ring-Wraiths – The IRS under Obamacare?
What do you think, am I missing any parallels? Should I be tarred and feathered?