"One ring to rule them, One ring to find them, One ring to bring them all in... And in the darkness bind them"
When the dust settles and the final box office tallies are in, the biggest film released in 2001 is going to be the first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.May I suggest that Professor Tolkien has provided a powerful message for understanding what is wrong in Washington, DC and how to repair the damage.
Tolkien's trilogy centers on a Ring of Power. The first movie is the story of a brave group of four Hobbits, two Men, an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Wizard who set out to destroy this Ring of Power. They become known as the "Fellowship of the Ring." This may seem a strange plot to modern ears, as most things Christian do, but it is one that delivers some profound truths about the politics of power.
The Founders and the Ring of Power
The Founders of the United States gave us a Constitutional Republic. They understood the problems inherent in putting power into the hands of sinful men. They applied many Biblical principles like — checks and balances and enumerated powers for the federal government — to help constrain the power of the central government. At the same time the agnostics — or shall we call them the "evil power lords"? — of France were attempting to solve their problems by throwing off all of God's constraints, allowing men to "be all that they could be," which meant many lost their heads. Despite this utter failure, our own modern evil power lords have continued their seductive work, much like the black-cloaked Ringwraiths in the movie. Their goal for centuries has been the destruction of our Constitutional Republic.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, these evil power lords were handed a major victory by the United State Supreme Court in Swift and Company v. United States, 196 U.S. 375 (1905). With this decision came the "stream of commerce," a new legal doctrine, which gave the federal government vast new powers under an expansion of the commerce clause and laid the groundwork for federal police power. It is hard for us even to imagine the impact of this decision: In 1905 there were NO federal agencies for education, welfare, social security, or many other federal controls over our lives and property. These duties were properly left to churches and state or local governments.
The Ruling of Power
With this new "Ruling of Power," the evil power lords in Washington were able to vastly expand the power and reach of the federal government. Today it seems that no matter whom we elect and send to Washington, the government just keeps getting bigger and more intrusive. Just as our heroes of Middle Earth had to deal with the Ring of Power, those who would tame the problems wrought by Washington, DC must deal with the Ruling of Power, and here lies the most important message from Lord of the Rings.
Some in Middle Earth thought they could use the Ring of Power for good. In Washington, DC, most think they can use the Ruling of Power for good as well. Boromir looked longingly at the Ring of Power and said, "True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of wizard-lords, only strength to defend our selves, strength in a just cause. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him." Alas, how many times do we hear these battle cries in Washington? In order to have education reform, a vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans just supported a bill that ran 1,184 pages. It will wield power and sway over every school district in America by the Power of the Ruling. Seems like only yesterday candidate Reagan called for the abolition of the Department of Education.
We need representatives who understand that the Ruling of Power is the problem and not part of the solution. Even if they desire to use it for good, they must stand against the power of seduction and domination that comes with the Ruling of Power. The powerful Gandalf, when offered the Ring of Power said, "No! With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly. Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength."
Finally, elven Lord Elrond gave this grave warning about the Ring of Power: "If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron's throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it."
In the movie the task of delivering the Ring of Power to its destruction in the fires of Mordor falls to a Hobbit by the name of Frodo. He accepts the task with no delusions of using its power for good or overconfidence in his own strength of character. He is not a likely leader, not a strong individual, and certainly not someone who
would one day be a king. He is simply a creature of character willing to do what needed to be done.
There are not many in Washington, DC like Frodo, but there are some. That new education reform bill passed the Senate on a vote of 87 to 10 and the House by a margin of 381 to 41. Most of the brave souls who voted "no" did not do so because they are against giving kids an education: they did so because it is not the job of the federal government! If enough likeminded citizens can be elected, the Ruling of Power could someday be destroyed in the fires of principle flowing from a new Supreme Court that would be willing to restore the foundations of our Constitutional Republic.
As Christians choose their battles this election year, I hope they will learn an important lesson from what has become one of my favorite films: We need to elect more Hobbits to Congress!