I just got back from the third and final Lord of the Rings installment. I brought my two oldest kids. It was good. I grew up with the books, and I read the whole series aloud to the kids starting when the first movie came out two years ago, and it took almost until the second one came out last Christmas to finish it. So, the text has primacy for me. Still, the movie is very good and far truer to the spirit of the book than anyone could have dreamed possible.
Tolkien wrote a fantasy, but his message that evil must be fought was based on sound reality. First, his Catholicism taught him that we live in a world scarred by original sin, and that Satan is real and active. Evil is not a metaphor which can be dispensed with by some rhetorical gimmick. Nor is evil a psychiatric or social condition which can be resolved by the march of progress. Evil is a permanent element in human affairs. Tolkien’s book is saturated with Catholic symbolism and philosophy. Tolkien’s academic discipline was in the ancient languages, whose extant works consist of songs and ballads about deeds of violence and deeds of bravery. He knew well the best and worst that men are capable of. And Tolkien served in the British Army in World War I, that bitter, bloody, thankless struggle, where he lost friends who were dearer to him than brothers. He knew that every good thing in this world, and in the next, was bought with blood and sacrifice. This is a hard but hopeful message, at least from his Catholic perspective, one which I share with him.
And the news which has gotten my attention lately, and caused me the most worry, is the increasing likelihood of a renewed, massive Al Qaeda attack on the United States in the upcoming days or even hours. I am thinking more and more and more that the struggle with radical Islam is not going to be like the Cold War, lasting decades but mostly occurring abroad. I think it is going to last generations, and much of it is going to occur here. Al Qaeda’s people have announced that the massacre of five million Americans is their target, including specifically one million children. That is what we are up against. If they obtain nuclear weapons, they may well get close to those figures. But one way or the other, they are going to kill a lot more of us before they are eliminated as a threat. Some of the people reading this blog, and possibly some of those posting on it, are going to die violently at their hands, and not in decades but in days or months or a few years.
They can kill some of us, but they cannot destroy us. I was at my law firm’s Christmas party the other night, and I felt inspired by several drinks, as I looked around the room at the lawyers and clients chatting and networking and weaving their political webs, one of my colleagues said something about the terrorists. I said, look at this room, look at these people, each one is a node of decision, a node of action. These are smart and enterprising people. These people would reconfigure themselves and spontaneously reorganize themselves and recover from anything short of literal universal death. A society like ours is not an atomized mass, but a community of free, responsible, active individuals. This is our greatest strength. It is something our enemies cannot understand. It is the reality which is eventually going to sweep them from the face of the earth.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Like the late Professor Tolkien, my hope does not lie entirely in this world, but in the Incarnate God who loves us, who came to be one of us and to share our suffering — and in the intercession of His Blessed Mother. The strength which we will need to survive and prevail in the harsh struggle which is just beginning in these years will not be derived from our merely human powers, but our prayerful reliance on God and trust in His providence.
I see this post has morphed into a Christmas message. That is what I get for typing with no set plan at midnight. My fellow ChicagoBoyz do not share my particular views and faith, and I fear I embarrass them a little when I put up something like this from time to time. But, hey, I hide nothing from our readers, so there it is. And I happily pray for them and for our readers.
As Churchill said, these are not evil times, they are great and terrible times.
Merry Christmas to all of you.