Watching The Lord of the Rings With God
Have you ever wondered why The Lord of the Rings” so
resonates with your soul? It’s not a coincidence that a tale of good and
evil, heroism and sacrifice, friendship and love touches you as
intensely as it does. J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t set out to write an
allegory, but his faith is woven into his characters and the situations
they encounter. Director Peter Jackson set out with no agenda other than
to transcribe some of these wonders to the big screen. Little did he
know what truths translated from the page to the screen.
Maybe some of the symbolism you’re already familiar with. Gandalf as a Christ figure, for example. But what else can you learn from these tales?
“Watching ‘The Lord of the Rings’ With God” will open your eyes to the symbolism, allegorical aspects, and subtle wonders of Middle-earth in a way you never expected… as you watch the franchise with God at your side.
I know what you are thinking.
Tolkien did not write allegories. He hated allegories. What is the matter with you, trying to shove all this religion into his story?
Hold off. I don't claim Tolkien intended any of this. That's not the point I'm making. This is a simple tale of God horning his way onto my couch, taking up more than his fair share of space, and interrupting me every five seconds as he points out things he wants me to learn.
God can be obnoxious. God can be persistent. I have a feeling when Tolkien was writing his little tale, and when Peter Jackson (hereafter called "P.J.") was editing it all together, God was sitting over their shoulders, nudging them, pointing, and saying, "Oh, wait, put me in this part... this is good."
He is annoying like that.
So wipe that judgmental scowl off your face and kick back with the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings films. Familiarity with them is necessary, not optional, unless you like being totally lost. Each chapter in this book corresponds with a chapter in the extended films. If you have not seen them yet, go buy them. I will wait.
God is about to irritate and inspire you, and give you a kick in the seat of the pants wherever you need it. If he doesn't make you mad by the end, he's not doing his job (and he always does his job).
After this, you'll never look at Middle-earth the same way again.
When you watch a movie, you want silence: no talking, no cell phones buzzing, ringing, or vibrating, no annoying child kicking your seat, and especially no one whispering in the row behind you through the entire movie. When that happens, you turn around and glare at them.
If they’re anything like God, they won’t shut up.
He goes to the movies with me. He even sits beside me on the couch and watches them with me at home. Nor can I get away from him at a friend’s house! I am starting to think he is stalking me.
Or maybe we’re just in a relationship?
Either way, I have two options:
1) tune him out (which isn’t easy)
2) listen (which also isn’t easy)
This time we’re watching The Lord of the Rings extended trilogy. The movie begins. I’m caught up in all the excitement, the gleaming armor, the orcs being slaughtered left and right, Lord Elrond calmly standing by while a dozen arrows fly by his shiny, perfect hair, and then—
You know that there’s a lot of symbolism in this, right?
I tear my eyes reluctantly from the screen.
How Sauron’s back history is a lot like Satan’s, and how the Creator threw him out of Valinor? He got peeved, went to Middle-earth, got jealous of the Firstborn, and decided to control them, so—
“—he tricks them into forging the Rings of Power like the Serpent did Eve into eating the Forbidden Fruit. Their desire for knowledge made them susceptible to his evil influence. I’m trying to watch, do you mind?”
I turn my back on him, hoping he’ll take the
hint. The camera pans across a vista of armor-plated armies colliding in
brute force and sheer epic violence—
Hmm, he says.
That’s it. Just hmm. I won’t rise to the bait. I refuse.
We sit in silence, or rather, the sound of wanton battle.
I can’t stand it anymore. “What?”
Sauron is about to appear. The dude’s almost as epic as my hot fudge sundae brownies.
The armor tells you about their standing with the Creator.
I look. The Elves wear gold, since they’re the most badass thing in Middle-earth, not that I’m prejudiced or anything. Men, as all-around losers often under the influence of the Ring, wear silver. Orcs, as befits the drudges of non-humanity and irredeemable scum wads, wear black metal.
“Oh, that’s cool. Did P.J. actually know about—?”
Nope. That was all me.
God is like that. He’s smug. I suppose that if I created the entire universe, I’d be smug too.
Isildur whacks the Ring from Sauron’s hand. Instead of throwing it into the fire, he keeps it. He has no thought for the misery he creates, nor does he realize this single selfish action will cause Frodo to look pathetic over the course of three movies. Let’s not even talk about how it forces the Elves to leave Middle-earth.
I glance sideways at God, but for once, he doesn’t bring up the Garden of Eden. Why not? It’s obvious! More than just Isildur suffers for his stupidity; everyone else suffers with him. All humankind inherits a weakness for the Ring. It’s a prime opportunity to mention it.
After several minutes of me staring at him, he asks what?
“Nothing. I just expected you to say something about Inherited Sin and its consequence of death, that’s all. Our tendency toward it ever since Eve nibbled that apple, how mankind can’t free itself from the influence of sin or escape death until Jesus intervenes, draw parallels to how Gondor is in trouble until the one ‘perfect’ king, Aragorn, resists the Ring…”
It’s too obvious. I’ve done the whole burning bush, pillar of fire thing before. Let me be subtle once in awhile!
Isildur floats downriver. Galadriel’s voice-over tells us how the Ring is lost and everyone forgets about it (except her because she’s perfect… minus the momentary dark queen thing, but we all have bad days).
Bilbo stumbles across the Ring. I scowl. That’s not how it happens on-screen in The Hobbit. Why isn’t there better consistency in the films? Don’t the filmmakers know dorks like me exist purely to watch for tiny changes and complain about them?
“Okay, so how about giving me an example of subtle?”
God puts his feet on my coffee table. I like what Galadriel says about how some things that should not be forgot are lost and Middle-earth suffers as a result. If they’d remembered the threat of the Ring, it couldn’t have survived for so long. Because they choose to forget important things, everyone feels the pain of the consequences. Many people suffer and die because rather than accept truths they don’t want to hear, they let them slip into the past. The same thing is happening now, in your culture. The things I have told you for centuries aren’t what society wants to hear. You can choose to be like one of the masses, or you can be like Galadriel, and remember what others have lost.
I chew on my straw. “But you’re always in control, right? Sure, there are times in history when the Israelites were enslaved and their future looked bleak, just like the future of Middle-earth looks bleak to Galadriel right now with the loss of the Ring, but you still had a plan… just like the Creator in Middle-earth has a hobbit plan!”
This makes him smile.