Seven Lessons from the Lord of the Rings
gain another quarantine reflection on Covid-19? No! Nor is this another news channel statistical extrapolation on the duration of this pandemics with unsurprising views of empty streets in the background (however tempting this might be for me as a scientist).
But if you like Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings“, you might enjoy, how this epic novel can help us to illuminate some deeper principles behind the Corona crisis.
The Lord of the rings is a story about how a good global purpose is playing out in face of the darkest menace by means of the fragile, daring venture of apparently most insignificant characters who in the end make all the difference to their world. Does that sound intriguing and relevant? I think it is, so let us have a look through the ring’s eye:
1. The Shire
At the outset, we encounter a harmonious hobbit village in a paradisiac countryside, the Shire. It seems to be disconnected from the rest of the world and self-sufficient. But as it soon turns out, it is not. It is part of a much bigger world, a world that threatens this peace and therefore can’t be ignored, but has to be dealt with. That reminds me of our flourishing European economies which used to be disappointed at only 1% economic growth, though could provide a great material standard of living to the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants. And then the virus from the far East reaches our democracies. And we realise that in a globalised world it matters, if a sack of rice tilts over in China. The entire human race is connected in responsibility, all Adam’s sons and Eve’s daughters have been sitting in the same boat.
2. The invisible enemy
The main problem for the hobbits is: the enemy is invisible and its consequences hardly seem to be predictable. Only through the wise Gandalf can the hobbits understand that they need to be cautious and really need to do something, can’t live on as before. And soon a few people are recklessly struck down by the Nazgul. Similarly, the Corona virus at the beginning seemed rather innocuous, causing less harm than a normal flu. Some countries even claimed, we can’t see it, so why the mess around it? But the main threat of this virus is its tremedously large contagion rate (with immediate serious consequences only for some, especially the weak and vulnerable). Many scientists say, we can’t prevent that most people will catch it, we can only try to extend the time span and thereby relieve the capacity of our hospitals. Does that remind of a deeper issue? There is another deadly disease which is so contagious that every human being is affected, even though it might look like a very harmless thing: the SIN-virus. After all, what is so bad about being envious or about striving for the best seats? Everyone does it and it even has benefits for society. So hardly anyone takes notice how this virus deforms the image of God into an egoistic golem, as becomes clear in the next point…
3. My “precious“
The ring seems to be the tool to have: the wearer becomes invisible to others and can see the invisible world themselves. What an easy way to power and to rulership of everything! But the ring draws the wearer inevitably under its spell, deforming hobbit Smeagol into pitiful Gollum. Isn’t it interesting how Corona seems to bring people under its spell, too? They don’t desire a ring, but they hoard pasta and, much more precious, toilet paper – without caring about the absurd supply shortage that is produced by that. Isn’t corona bringing out the effects of that other virus, SIN, even much clearer? What a need to be different and resist that virus!
4. The fellowship of the ring
And yes, there is another reaction to the threat! Nine creatures from very diverse tribes that normally eschew each other, like the dwarfs and the elves, get together in a fellowship of the ring in order to fight the evil. This takes humility, courage, perseverance, and creativity. Similarly in corona times, many nations, companies, and citizens call for armistice and cooperate in order to stop the pandemics. Students help with harvesting and go shopping for their retired neighbours. Jesus calls a fellowship of his name out of all nations in order to proclaim his victory over sin through words and lives of love.
5. Physical distancing
However, in the course of the mission, it becomes evident that it is too dangerous for the fellowship to stay together and transport Sauron’s ring towards its final destiny, as most fellows are too vulnerable to the ring‘s temptation. So the fellowship must split, they must distance themselves physically. They still fight together for the same cause in unity, but exactly because of that Frodo and Sam must proceed towards Mordor on their own. And likewise, we must keep physical distance, because no one of us knows whether we carry the virus inside and might be a walking homicide corona shooter without even knowing, exactly because we pursue the same purpose and want to protect other people in brotherly love. Also Jesus went the way to the cross on his own, left his disciples behind -who, because of their sin, could not bear the burden of the cross, in order to redeem our hearts from this worst and deadliest virus called sin. We can’t be thankful enough for this during these Easter days!
6. Waiting, fighting, and hoping
And while Frodo and Sam have to pave their insecure way through many dangers to Mount Doom, the rest of the fellowship must hope that the two hobbits will make it. But do they remain passively waiting? No, waiting and hoping for them seems to mean preparing for fighting, even as they know that they will lose, if Frodo will fail. Similarly, our medical system must hope to find an antidote and a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 in order to stop its dispersal. And as long as there is no antidote, we can‘t do anything, but make all efforts to minimise physical contact and treat those who suffer from serious symptoms. Similarly with the SIN-virus. Without turning back to Jesus, there are certainly ways to reduce the impact of sin by educational means to shape our attitudes and behaviour, or by establishing political systems to bring about social justice etc. However, all of this will only affect our surface, but not change our heart where the real problem is located. It takes Jesus‘ lonely sacrifice at the cross which unleashed the power of the holy spirit to enter our hearts and give us the gift of spiritual rebirth being united with the Father through the Son in the Spirit.
7. The undying lands in the West
And finally, many struggles and victims later, the ring is destroyed, evil Sauron defeated, and the Shire is saved from the power of evil. Wounded Frodo joins the elves and leaves for the „Undying lands“. So yes, there is hope also in the corona crisis. Even as it seems to last longer and cause more victims than anyone would have guessed at the dawn of the year 2020, there is hope that there will be a time after corona, and social life can turn normal again. Though „normal“ for our world will certainly mean that the old struggles will soon resume. How glorious it is that as Christians we can be sure that there is a new „normal“ waiting for us, the home that Jesus has been preparing for all those who follow him faithfully. And all the wounds, hurts, and sacrifices will then be considered as more than worth the effort. What a hope lies ahead of us, what a reason to celebrate Easter 2020 amidst these trials in isolated quarantine, but never alone and always united in the purpose of Christ for the blessing of all human beings.
How do you want to look back from your undying lands one day on how you lived in the days of corona in that year 2020?
Pray for wisdom and be strong in the mission of the resurrected Lord who bears the true crown of thorns and redemption!