Film / Book Reviews

Study guide looks at Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings

May 2005    

NASHVILLE — A new six-week study guide from United Methodist Communications (UMCom) explores the biblical themes running through J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson’s award winning films of the books.

The study guide was developed by UMC.org, the United Methodist Church’s official web site, a ministry of UMCom. The six-week series explores each of the three movies — “The Fellowship of the Rings”, “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”.

From Frodo’s lush beloved Shire to the terrifying land of Mordor, The Lord of the Rings takes the viewer on a spiritual adventure of good versus evil. The study guide examines the themes and characters of the complex trilogy and elates them to the Christian tradition.

The Rev Larry Hollon, top executive with UMCom, said: “One of the challenges Christians face is how to talk about faith in language that makes it understandable to persons who don’t know the words of faith today.

“When it is possible to use popular culture to point to values that complement the teachings of faith, we should do so.

When popular culture conveys values contrary to the values of faith, we should, likewise, point out our different perspective.”

The Lord of the Rings: Exploring a Holy Trilogy study includes a printable leader’s guide, student guide and participant handouts. There is also a CD version.

Ms Lynne DeMichele, writer of the guide and a former communicator with the denomination’s Indiana Area, said:
“The Lord of the Rings trilogy is so much more than just another blockbuster movie. I think it is a masterpiece, and it has so much to teach us.”

The new resource uses the films to get people thinking about what is important, she said. “It is such a powerful way to reach people who haven’t heard or listened to the message of Christ. It is a wonderful, beautifully made populist tool to use to introduce to someone who might be resistant or didn’t think they were interested in Christianity or things some would label as ‘churchy’.”

Ms DeMichele noted that Tolkien was a “very public Christian” who made no secret that he purposely infused his stories with spiritual content.

She said that there were many books written on the Gospel that relate to popular culture, such as The Gospel According to the Peanuts. “While that may seem silly on the one hand, the Gospel message is so powerful it does resonate throughout all sorts of literature and creative expressions. The Lord of the Rings is no exception.”

The Bible is a collection of stories and Jesus Christ was a “master raconteur,” she said. “I think Jesus would have been delighted and fascinated by these stories.

“In every character, in every being, if there is a spark of humanity, there is always a possibility for redemption, and we see that time and again in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

“I hope that people will use the study guide to provide a new way of getting at timeless Christian truths expressed through a myth in the same way they are expressed through the great stories of the Bible.”

The guide is being distributed through EcuFilm, (888)346-3862. It can be ordered online at www.umc.org — United Methodist News Service.

Kathy L. Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tennessee.

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