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Dear Sloane,

Yes, I'll put something together in response to Mr Barger's ideas.

For now, I will say that Barger (and a thousand other protestant fundamentalists) commonly -- and without carefully thinking -- throws together good things like artistic imagination with the bad stuff of passion-inducing fantasia (not to be confused with the "fantasy" of literature).

The puritanical (and often prurient) mind throws such good and bad into the same bucket, and then uses biblical proof texts -- often wildly and heretically misinterpreted -- to throw the entire contents into the sewer.

I am not sure if Barger (and many, many others) are ready to handle the consistent application of his conclusions. Shall we expunge every single instance of "magic" from all art, because we've boorishly lumped all such magic together, and associated it leadenly with the black arts that are rightly condemned in Holy Writ?

And shall we get rid of imagination and art all together? for that is indeed the logical extension of Barger's argument.

If so, then Barger will have to tell Jesus to stop telling parables and using metaphors and rhetorical devices (like the hyperbole of cutting off hands and popping out eyeballs) ... and St. Paul to stop using metaphors like the courtroom, the Olympics, the Roman armor and the farmer growing crops in the field.

For now, I will gloss over Barger's rather dull complaints about pipe-smoking and beer-drinking in LOTR. I'm afraid that I'd be thrown in the same desultory bucket if I mentioned, too loudly, that it was just those practices that make me warm to hobbitry in general.

I will not gloss over, however, this remaining fact: Barger -- and fundamentalists in general -- have no idea what black magic (or evil) really is. They have not felt the cold of a dark curse. They have not met with the fear of corrosion, degeneration and chaos. They have not suffered the darkness ("weary to the point of death," St Paul once said) to the point where the Gospel light in sub-creation still gleams.

Barger and his cohort have stayed safely contained in their little fundamental living rooms, with a black and white TV set to a few safe channels. Their sins are smoking, drinking, and voting for candidates who back abortion and homosexuals. Their demons wear red flannel and star on exciting movies. They read a Bible that has been cut off from its original apostolic context and discourse.

They would choose Welch's and Wonderbread over bread and wine, and certainly would eschew the Body and Blood at the Liturgical Table.

Probably because it looks, and feels, too much like "magic."

Fr. Jonathan: (please forgive me, as my comment/request has nothing to do what you have just posted)

I was browsing through your older posts about fantasy films and books and I enjoyed your insights about about Harry Potter, the Golden Compass, Narnia etc...

So I have a request: I am a great lover of Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' and judging by your references to the trilogy you are too.

Like you I am an Orthodox Christian; I was baptized when I was 10 years old. I have suffered (in my own way) because of it; but the Church is my only Haven and Home - the Last Homily House if you will.

So also is Tolkien's Middle-Earth. I flee there often when I think I'm about to go insane living in this world; when the six days in between Divine Liturgies threatens to engulf me with all their mocking disgusting drivel.
Psalms and elevn-poetry keep me afloat (so does your blog). I thank you for it.

Tonight I was browsing Google for LOTR-related things and I came across this christian minister's review where he ruthlessly rips apart Middle-Earth as well as Tolkien and even C.S. Lewis themselves (he accuses them of being Occultists). Here it is: http://www.ericbarger.com/lotr.c.c.2.htm

I do not know how to reply in kind to this (for all I know it could be true), much less with an Orthodox Christian response. But I know you can; you have a wonderful way with words and can even write good poetry! ;)
So I am asking you - when you have time of course - if you could write a blog post with an Orthodox defense/response for Tolkien and his world(s).

I am tired of these attacks on Beauty; there is so precious little of it left. These people are so narrow-minded. Middle-Earth will be back in the spotlight again with ''The Hobbit'' movie coming out soon.
I would be forever grateful.

- in Christ, Sloane

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