Faramir’s Rangers and the 21st Century Church | Thomas M. Doran | CWR
Today, we don’t know whether the Western democracies will keep drifting away from faith and virtue, or if a turning will occur
I’m not much for writing sequels to my own novels (though I’ve read some good ones by other authors), but feedback from my recent Catholic World Report article, “Denethor’s Ghost”, prompts me to offer a “Denethor’s Ghost” Part 2 that shines a brighter light on the character of Faramir in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of The Rings”.
Though they aren’t called rangers in Tolkien’s story—that designation is reserved for Aragorn’s kin in the north—Faramir’s band functions as rangers, ranging far and wide in a former garden land turned wilderness east of the river Anduin, keeping the Ithilien border lands as free and as clean as possible with the few men and resources available to him, all this while Sauron’s forces are on the move and rapidly multiplying. Thus, Faramir skirmishes when he can, retreats when he needs to retreat, and hides when he needs to hide.
What does this have to do with 21st century Christians? In “Denethor’s Ghost”: “storytelling is altogether different (than rational argument, religious tracts, etc.) in the way it affects our thoughts, emotions, and imaginations. While a story may not say anything new, truths are depicted in a new way, a way that allows us to see them in a different light”, even when the story is drastically different from the here and now, as is Tolkien’s story.
Faramir has a demanding life, with few consolations. He’s realistic about the dire threats he faces but he doesn't let them break his spirit, a mark of humility. His father Denethor’s pride stokes the despair that comes from gazing into a Palantir, while Faramir’s humility ameliorates the darkness that comes from his impossible mission, and even from the Ringwraith’s attack on him on the Pelennor fields.
Likewise for us, when we are confronted with assaults on faith and culture, pride pulls us toward despondency, while humility—not rose colored glasses—keeps us attentive to what we can do and can influence.