Doctor Science Knows

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lewis, Tolkien, and religion; Common law and originalism

DougJ at Balloon Juice posted about Right Bloglandia getting into a swivet about a Muslim Miss USA. Tangentially, I commented:

So would it be safe to say that the LOTR books are heavily influenced by JRRT’s bizarre personal blend of Catholicism and traditionalism, but are not meant to be overly polemical, while CSL’s works are merely apologetics dressed up as fiction?

Only half right.

CSL's works *are* pretty much apologetics dressed up as fiction -- but the dressing is IM[not actually humble]O done quite well, better than usual for the genre of apologetic fiction. The Narnia books are far less dogmatic than e.g. Pilgrim's Progress, or than the kind of children's books that he+ described as "They try to be funny and fail; they try to preach and succeed."

JRRT did *not* have a "bizarre personal blend of Catholicism and traditionalism", he had a pretty standard one -- for a well-educated Catholic of his era. He felt that LOTR (and the then-unpublished Simarillion from which it derived) was *pre-Christian*: it depicted an essentially Christian universe, but before Christ had appeared. LOTR resonates with Christianity, and specifically with Catholicism: the veneration of Elbereth, for instance, has no counterpart in CSL but is very familiar to any Catholic who's prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It's surprising to me that conservative Catholics wanted to claim the movies for their own, because IMnahO Peter Jackson took out many of the most Christian parts of the books. Random example: in the movie (Return of the King) when Gandalf and Denethor have their confrontation, Gandalf calls Denethor "Steward!" with scorn in his voice. In the books, Gandalf reminds Denethor to be a good Steward, and says that he is one, too. Stewardship is a central Christian metaphor, and Jackson completely misses the point.

+ or maybe it was Tolkien? it's in the Essays Presented to Charles Williams, in any event.

Meanwhile at Obsidian Wings, Sebastian posted on The Supreme Court Says. My comment:

The Constitution should mean what it says, not what we wish it to say.

I've been wondering recently how this kind of originalism squares -- or doesn't -- with the common law tradition of precedent. IANAL and many of those here are, so correct me, please: isn't one of the features of common law supposed to be that it evolves and that it relies on judges (aka "activist judges") for interpretation and extension? Whereas civil law, which the US supposedly does *not* follow, relies on the letter of legislation and other documents, such as written constitutions?

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