Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Many Paces from the Shire is Mordor?

The argument usually goes, the New Testament was written by and to people who came from a Jewish or Near-eastern background. They understood things like "priesthood" and "burnt offering." We don't. We understand "paparazzi" and "Twitter feed." People in the West today need to have the gospel contextualized in their own culture so that they can understand. Sounds reasonable.

Then I started to think about the LARP phenomenon. Let's use Lord of the Rings as an example. How many LOTR junkies do you know that actually come from Middle Earth? And yet if you ask them questions like, "Who were Beren and LĂșthien?," or "Who was the final Steward of Gondor?", they will reply with such disdain for amateur questions, you would swear they had a hint of elven blood coursing through their virgin veins. They intimately know the history, even as far removed from the world of origin, because they buy the story. More than that, they actually prefer the story to their own. They have chosen to exchange their own  anecdotal lives for Tolkien's epic, meeting their buddies on the weekends for some live action role-playing, and spending the rest of the week obsessively osmosing their trilogic tome of devotion (not to mention The Silmarillion and other apochryphal texts!). You would not dare suggest to them that we update the imagery for something a bit more culturally relevant. They would call upon the Uruk-Hai to feast upon your flesh, because if it's worth living for; it's worth learning about.

Obviously this isn't the end of the discussion concerning contextualization. It doesn't really address how to explain the allure of The One Ring to an unregenerate who just doesn't see what all the fuss is about, or why it's reasonable at all to practice such "escapism." I'll save that for another time. Suffice to say, the argument that we need to reconcile foreign imagery to our own culture's vocabulary in order to experience it fully is a load of orcwash.


Boudreaux said...

brilliantly relevant to the modernization of Biblical language and text.

D said...

I agree wholeheartedly. However, I resent the implication that all LARPers are (or are 'doomed' to remain) virgins.