Monday, December 1, 2014

The Hobbit Party

The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got and the West Forgot

by Jonathan Witt and Jay Richards - published by Ignatius Press, 2014

A Book Review by Father John McCloskey

I must admit to having read the Lord of the Ring trilogy at least four times since I first encountered it in the mid-60s, and I am sure I am not alone in that regard. In addition, the spectacular movies made of the trilogy have attracted a host of new fans. The trilogy was voted as the best book in English of the last century by a landslide.

Of course, it is a fantasy, but one that was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic Englishman, a professor at Oxford and Cambridge and of ancient languages. The trilogy, as such, is not explicitly religious, but when there is such a titanic battle between good and evil, well, you know that God is behind the curtain for sure.

What makes Witt and Richards' book unique is the authors' argument that the trilogy can help make the case for small government as the best government (i.e., less is more) from a Christian perspective.

And they are meticulous in using the text of the trilogy itself to make their case. Their book also examines the papal teaching of Pope Leo XIII, the distributist economics of G.K. Chesterton and his mentor Hilaire Belloc and other approaches to economic freedom from a Christian perspective.

To give an impression of how the authors approach Tolkien's trilogy, consider this excerpt from the book:

"Finally, Tolkien ties freedom and creativity because real creativity requires freedom. Nevertheless, to Tolkien, a free society is not merely that it is nice if you can get it; it's worth working, laboring, fighting and dying for. The reason the free peoples fight Mordor is to preserve their freedom, which requires they resist slavery and subjugation he offered them at the point of sword. It is true that we are free by nature, but Tolkien and his heroic characters understand the breadth and depth of our freedom varies depending on where we live. Some places are friendly ,and others are not. The phrase ‘free society' is easy to toss around. ... There is no place to Tolkien's Middle Earth … but what he gives us are societies that contain these dimensions of freedom, the Shire being the most articulated."

As a citizen of the United States, ask yourself this question: "Am I living in a country that is ruled by Sauron or rather one that the hobbits of the Shire would be at home in?" Read this book, and share it with many friends.

First appeared on National Catholic Register, November 2014.

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