How to convince someone that there are no anti-Christian views in LOTR?

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Postby Gungnir » Mon Jun 04, 2001 2:56 am

I need some help here.<BR><BR>I visited my mother yesterday and the conversation got on to the subject of The Lord Of The Rings. My Mother is an ex-Cathlolic, bible-believing, Born-again Christian. She said that she doesn't approve of LotR because, "it goes against our teachings". When I asked exactly which teachings it contradicts, she wasn't able to say, having virtually no knowledge of Tolkien's writings whatsoever.<BR><BR>I mentioned that Tolkien was a devout Christian (albeit a Catholic) and was a good friend of C.S.Lewis (whom she has heard of and knows to be a Christian author). It didn't have any effect. She maintained that it was not a Christian book(!) I explained that it was a deeply Christian book and that many of the fans (especially on this messageboard) are also bible-believing Christians.<BR><BR>My Mother has, as I said, no real knowledge of Tolkien. I imagine her only exposure to it has been seeing videos of American preachers decrying it as Satanic because it involves magic, etc.<BR><BR>At this point I should explain that, although I was brought up a Catholic, I am somewhere between an Agnostic and an Atheist so, any arguments I can bring to this discussion would probably carry little weight with her.<BR><BR>So, my question is... there are, I know, a large number of Christians here - at least what my mother would consider Christians, people who believe in creationism, the literal truth of the bible, salvation only through faith in Christ, the unimportance of good works, etc. If you fall into this bracket and are also a fan of Tolkien, what would you say to her to convince her that Tolkien's works are not fundamentally anti-Christian?<BR><BR>I am planning on printing this thread out for her to read, to see if it will convince her that she is completely and utterly wrong on this matter.
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Postby The_Grey_Pilgrim » Mon Jun 04, 2001 4:52 am

I find that most Christians who are against LOTR are so out of never having read it and basing their beliefs on hearsay.<BR><BR>Back in 1999, right before the end of the year, there were some Christian magazines that listed the 100 Best Books of the last Century. World Magazine and Christianity Today both had LOTR in their top 100.<BR><BR>While LOTR does not specifically mention Christ it has, whether TOLKIEN himself disagrees or not, a ton of Christian allegory in it.<BR><BR>Hope this helps.
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Postby Beelzibub » Mon Jun 04, 2001 5:36 am

i am not a christian (hence the name!) but i still don't believe that tolkien books are anti-christian (unfortunately). but what does it matter if your mum thinks that they are non-christian?
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Postby Gungnir » Mon Jun 04, 2001 5:38 am

I just like to win arguments, Beez, old chap. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>
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Postby meneltarma » Mon Jun 04, 2001 7:19 am

LotR is a deeply christian book,and it's stupid to say that a book related to christianity has to mention christ..or contain any other blatant references to christianity<BR>
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Postby redeye » Mon Jun 04, 2001 7:24 am

Well Gungnir, I'm not sure you'll win this argument easily. I'm a Christian, but I don't see Tolkien's work as DIRECTLY allegorical by any means. But perhaps that's not what you're looking for. Thematically speaking, it certainly bears a strong mark of Christian principles - love and mercy over fear and power, etc. And there is the suggestion within the trilogy that all are flawed in some way - bent toward evil if given opportunity (Bombadil an exception, here.)<BR><BR>Other than this though, when YOU try and give examples of this from the text, you'll start with, "well, there's this wizard, and these elves, and the wizard fights a balrog, which is this demon like creature..." And at that point you'll lose her, I'm afraid. Fantasy is bad. It leads to devil worship. That sort of thing. <BR><BR>peace.
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Postby Gungnir » Mon Jun 04, 2001 7:38 am

Melly, that was exactly the response I got - "Does it mention Jesus or the Trinity? Has anyone been led to God because of it?" Hard to argue against this sort of attitude. I tried the "Does the Old Testament mention the name of Jesus, the trinity but it was like butting my head against a brick wall. I must confess to being rather annoyed about the matter which is why I'm here... My wife thinks I'm as stubborn as my Mum. She might have a point. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR><BR>Redeye - yes, she didn't say it but I sensed the "leads to devil worship" argument was being held in reserve. (Despite the fact that I have been a Tolkien fan since 1977, I have yet to sacrifice a virgin, dance naked in a forest etc.) (Well the virgin bit, anyway).<BR><BR><BR>What I was specifically looking for was personal recommendations from people who are comitted Christians and Tolkien fans, about why they don't consider the two to be mutually incompatible and why LotR has enriched their lives. Akin to a personal testimony, if you will.<BR><BR>Anyway, thanks for all the replies, folks.
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Postby GoodSam » Mon Jun 04, 2001 8:42 am

Gungir,<BR><BR>I have seen this response from Christians in regard to all sorts of things. You wouldn't believe the number of churches that have split over the kind of music that is played in worship. Some people say that music with a rock beat, regardless of the content of the lyrics, is from the devil. The same sort of thing happens in regard to literature.<BR><BR>I think you mother is trying to live up to certain scriptures like:<BR><BR><b>Romans 12:2</b> <i>Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.</i> or<BR><b>James 4:4</b> <i>You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.</i> or<BR><b>1 John 2:15</b> <i>Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.</i><BR><BR>But to be more specific have here look at what things are "of the world." Galatians 5:19-21 describes the things of the world:<BR><i>The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions <BR>and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. </i> and these are contrasted with the Fruit of the Spirit in the next 2 verses: <i>But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.</i><BR><BR>Witchcraft or sorcery is certainly one of the things that are "of the world". It should be noted that reading about these things is different than practicing them.<BR><BR>Another important thing to bring up with your mother is how to establish common ground with people she intends to reach out to with the Gospel. I have found that overemphasizing the "do not be comformed by the things of the world" scriptures at the expense of other scripture leads to a cloistered lifestyle where Christians only mix with Christians because it is "safe". This is not what Jesus intends! Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:<BR><i>Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.</i><BR><BR>Others have made the point that LOTR is filled with good Christian principles like selflessness, sacrifice, faithfulness, and self-control. We as Christians are directed to meditate on these things:<BR><b>Pilippians 4:8</b> <i>Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.</i><BR><BR>I hope these arguments can start you convincing your mother that the Lord of the Rings is not specifically a tool of the devil. Rather, it is the the heart of the reader that can twist it to corrupt purposes. If someone is under the control of the Holy Spirit, LOTR can be a very encouraging read. To those not under control of the Spirit, it can get them thinking about Godly virtues and possibly open a door to spiritual discussions.<BR><BR>
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Postby Minas_Tirith » Mon Jun 04, 2001 9:09 am

Being a Catholic myself, I could understand the fear your mother has in terms of Tolkien's writings. But most of it I guess is fear what she relly doesn't know.I guess you can start by telling her that Tolkien is a fiction novelist and all of the charcters he has created does not in anyway promote the notion that these are real. It is a figment of his ( Tolkien ) imagination that he had decided to put into writing so that others may get a glimpse of the wonderful thoughts. I'm really hooked onto his writing but I certainly know how to draw the line between fact or fiction. I'm not about to believe that Eru Illuvatar created the Earth and sent forth Ainurs to watch over it. Although his works does reflect his stong Catholic influence ( if you read the Silmarilion, it also starts by saying, At first there was only Eru Illuvatar much like the first few lines of Genesis ) it is in no way at all written to create a new religion and draw us from the fact that there are no such things as hobbits and orcs.
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Postby Kelannar » Mon Jun 04, 2001 2:33 pm

Gungnir, despite Grey Pilgrim's good attempt at counseling your mother on this matter, I think the root cause of her obstinate resistance lies with her relationship with you. She has ZERO knowledge of LOTR, and yet she asserts that it goes against her teachings. This isn't exactly a reasoned, well thought out argument. It is an emotional response. <BR><BR>I think that sort of response eminates directly from the relationship you have with her. Since you're an athiest or agnostic, she probably conceives of LOTR as being this way because YOU like it and it hasn't turned you to God at all, so it can't possibly be a "good book." The problem is that the book doesn't serve her purpose, which I suspect is to try to convert you into a religious believer (as your mother, she's probably trying to steer you right). Since the book is useless, at least for her purpose of conversion, then it really has nothing of value for her. <BR><BR>Furthermore, even printing out this thread for her will serve little purpose. She probably resents the fact that the book causes you pleasure, and resents the implication that even if it DOES have Christian teachings it hasn't converted you yet (if at all). So the book is actually WORSE because it is a FAILURE. Better that it probably didn't even bother with an attempt - unless your mother thinks that all non-religious stories that have good messages are to be condemned (does she condemn the "Little Engine that Could"?) <BR><BR>The root cause of the problem then, is that your mother wants you to be something that you're not. I suppose I'm not wrong in guessing that she rejects a lot of what you find pleasurable, because it "goes against her teachings." But does it REALLY? Or is it just because you two have entirely different opinions on things?<BR>
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Postby Angbasdil » Mon Jun 04, 2001 4:04 pm

Gungnir,<BR>Christian Tolkien fan here! <BR>I seriously doubt that you'll ever get anywhere arguing with your mother about anything, for two reasons: 1) Her mind's probably already made up, and 2) It's hard to take advice from someone whose diaper you used to change <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0> But I'll give you what ammo I can.<BR>LOTR gives us a great view of the nature of sin. The way in which the ring tempts and corrupts good people by first appealing to that which makes them good is very much how most people fall into sin. For example, a preacher or televangelist who wants to spread God's word ever further and seeks more temporal power (i.e. money, fame, air time, etc.)in order to do so. Many good people who started as sincere servants of the Word end up being seduced into seeking this power for its own sake. Compare that to Boromir's fall or to the hypothetical scenario Galadriel presents when offered the ring. And noone, however good or strong they may be, is immune to temptation, and the truly wise avoid it and trust not their own strength.<BR>Gollum is a great illustration of the ultimate wretchedness of sinfulness. But he is also a great example of how all things, even our own failings, ultimately work the will of the Creator. The ring would never have been destroyed without him. Frodo's ultimate failure at the Cracks of Doom reminds us that we are reliant on God's grace, for our own strength will not win the day. None of us are strong enough or good enough to defeat evil by our own efforts. <BR>Is LOTR a "Christian" book? No, but it is a book written by a Christian. And as such, is consistent with the beliefs of the author. Will it lead anyone to Christ? I doubt it. But it has helped this particular Christian come to a better understanding of a few things.<BR>These are just a few talking points off the top of my head, but I hope they help. Once again, I doubt you'll get anywhere in this endeavor, but it might open up a dialog through which the two of you can learn to understand each other a little better. It would probably help if you don't go into it with the mindset of "winning an argument" but rather to have a discussion, and try to listen at least as much as you talk. Good luck!
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Postby Dean stole our precious! » Mon Jun 04, 2001 4:27 pm

I am a Christian and I have found that LotR has helped me in my faith in Christ, the story is about good vs. evil and there are so many comparisons to the Gospels in LotR.<BR><BR>Try to get your Mother to read some of Tolkiens letters, his faith in Christ really shines through.<BR>Many so called Christians condemn LotR as evil, but it is almost certain that they have not read it, because if they had read it, it would be impossible to come to that conclusion.<BR><BR>
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Postby Cerin » Mon Jun 04, 2001 7:03 pm

Gungnir<BR><BR>Some Christians are just of an extremely conservative bent, especially new converts (my brother and sister-in-law would not permit their children to watch Sesame Street after they saw there was a magician character). LoTR is not an explicitly Christian book because of course it is meant to take place in a different age of the world, Tolkien has posited a different mythology of creation and it is not specifically allegorical as Lewis' Narnia is. I think if you could persuade your Mother to read the first few pages of the Silmarillion she would recognize that the construct is the same -- a benevolent, all knowing, all powerful creator, the world he lovingly brings into being and the dreadful consequences of pride. The difference is in the relationship of the peoples of Middle-earth to their creator, but remember that Tolkien left open the fate of Men after death so the book does not put forward any ideas in direct contradiction to the Christian doctrine of redemption. Though the book is not explicitly allegorical the world Tolkien created is thoroughly imbued with the teachings of Jesus -- humility, forgiveness, mercy, servanthood. Only a Christian could have written this book. <BR><BR>However, some Christians prefer to restrict themselves to that which explicitly involves Jesus. Maybe in a few years your Mother will be more open again. <BR>
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Postby Whistler » Mon Jun 04, 2001 9:28 pm

I suspect that the problem is that much of LOTR's content has been recycled a thousand times into pagan products which ARE incompatible with Christian teaching. <BR><BR>The main problem is bound to be Gandalf and the subject of wizardry. The objection to the word is understandable, but those of us who know Tolkien's mythology understand that Gandalf is essentially an angel send to aid in the struggle against the servants of Morgoth, who is the Devil of Judeo-Christian theology.<BR><BR>Tell her it's the story of an angel who assists a group of virtuous characters on a quest to be rid of the burden of evil. They succeed in the end, but only because an act of mercy (Frodo's forgiveness of Gollum) allows divinity to intervene.<BR><BR>If that doesn't work, forget it. Unfortunately, some Christians simply can't accept the fantasy genre at all.<BR>
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Postby Gandalf'sMother » Mon Jun 04, 2001 9:38 pm

<i>the unimportance of good works</i><BR><BR>That is one of her criteria? Wow. As a Christian myself, I find such a belief to be deeply offensive to Jesus Christ himself, who advocated such good works. Anyway.....<BR><BR>To answer your question, I would say; Tolkien was a devout Christian. As Kelennar stated quite well, nothing will convince her because of her perception of you. Therefore she will remain voluntarily ignorant, in order to provide a clear and safe explanation for your own beliefs, which she finds objectionable. So on second thought, you should tell her that upon re-reading LOTR you have decided to re-establish your faith in Jesus Christ. That might work. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>-Mother Maiar
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Postby pippintooke » Mon Jun 04, 2001 10:05 pm

Greetings Friend, If your mother is a fair lady she should search for the truth herself instead of relying on others observations. Give her the books and let her read them herself. After reading them then she has a right to judge. After all, to come to a just conclusion one must have all the data in order to form a intelligent answer.
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Postby Gungnir » Tue Jun 05, 2001 3:49 am

Thanks everyone - I'll let you know what effect (if any) this all has - got to fly!
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