This past year I finally read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is an incredible book, beautifully written with ornate descriptions of even the smallest details. J. R. R. Tolkien was truly a creative man with an imagination rivaled by only a few.
I had heard numerous times that religious undertones were prevalent throughout the story and indeed there was many. The struggle of good versus evil, the necessity for perseverance, the value of loyal friends, and much much more.
However, just recently a much deeper aspect of the story dawned on me. Just as a disclaimer, I do not think this was necessarily an intended interpretation by the author, yet the beauty of a well written story is found in the countless elucidations and metaphors that can be pulled from the text.
The revelation I had concerns the Dark Lord Sauron and a view of God that I believe is held by many people throughout the world and recently held by me. I believe Lord of the Rings can be read, in some ways, as a critique of commonly held beliefs about the God of Christianity by comparing Him (or Her or It?) to Sauron.
Let me explain.
- In the book Sauron is a “force” that has manifest himself physically in the past and is working towards doing so again in the future. (Christ lived. Christ died. Christ will come again.)
- The dark force of Sauron seems to permeate certain spaces of Middle Earth more so than others. (Many would argue that God has a distinctly stronger presence in some places such as a holy land or a church.)
- Sauron is depicted as an ever watching eye that can observe your actions and perceive certain emotions. (God is watching you.)
- Certain sacred objects hold extraordinary “power” in the story. For example, the rings given to the humans, dwarves, and elves as well as the one ring to rule them all that Froto places around his neck. (What do many believers place around their neck? A crucifix. A sacred object that is held by many to hold not only meaning but power as well.)
- Sauron is working towards reconciling all things to himself, even if that means destroying or damning certain groups or people or creatures. (Similar to God reconciling all things to himself but in the process damning “unbelievers” to hell.)
- You must declare an allegiance to Sauron in order to be accepted by him. (Sinners prayer.)
Could it be that Tolkien was actually using Sauron as an allegory for the idolatrous ways that modern Christianity has viewed God? People may compare Sauron to Hitler, but perhaps it’s even bigger than that. Perhaps he saw the danger of sacrificing diversity and freedom of thought for the allegiances and required beliefs that come along with certain views of God?
If you notice, the “good guys” in Lord of the Rings do not have just one singular leader. Sure there is Aragorn who leads them to battle in the end and is crowned as King of Gondor but you still see leaders of Rohan and leaders of the elves in Rivendell. There is diversity, understanding, and compromise but not dominance by one distinct force or being.
The view of God, that I believe many hold today, is a little too similar to the description of Sauron. It is a view of God that requires specific beliefs to escape damnation, it looks to bring all people to a singular view of the world while love and grace are trampled by power and wrath.
Is this a view of God that should be maintained?
Is this understanding of the divine represented by Christ?
Is this assessment of Ultimate Being confirmed by our own experience?
Thanks for reading. If you have questions or comments, feel free and encouraged to respond!