It could have been a setup for a pretty good punchline. Instead it was yet another example of Conservatronogenesis. They seem to pay attention to the first year of classes in college and then think they’ve got everything figured out before they take on the upper division messiness. (Probably about the time they finish The Fountainhead or something.)
Part and parcel of Judaism’s resistance to explorations in the realm of faerie, he goes on, is a discomfort with the semi-dualism that’s necessary to classic fantasy — the idea of a Devil figure, in other words, who seems capable of actually conquering the mortal world (be it Narnia or Middle-Earth, Fionavaror Osten Ard) and binding it permanently in darkness. As Weingrad notes, correctly I think: “Christianity offers a far more developed tradition of evil as a supernatural, external, autonomous force than does Judaism, whose Satan (or Samael or Lilith or Ashmedai) are limited in their power and usually rather obedient to God’s wishes.” Tolkien’s Sauron makes sense in a Christian universe; he makes less sense in a Jewish one.
Point by point:
- Maybe there are forms of Christianity that embrace this kind of dualism, but it certainly isn’t built into the machine. The Christian God is more powerful than Satan. Satan seems to have more power over humans in Christian myth.
- Judaism’s lack of a powerful Satan is clear. This is because Judaism is a monotheistic religion without an asterisk. God is God, he’s the only one, he doesn’t have parts at any level, or rivals. It is also why the Jewish afterlife is ill-defined and the religion is mostly agnostic about it.
But, the one that really gets me:
- Tolkein’s Sauron is limited in power, subservient to God, and not even the arch devil! I guess Douthat only saw the movie. In Tolkein, Sauron is one of Tolkein’s lesser gods, like a non-olympian nymph or something, that survives the war between the major bad guy and the major gods, all of whom are subordinate to the transcendent one god.
So, Sauron is actually a bit like the Satan of second temple Judaism, specifically the book of Job, or the demons of medieval Jewish superstition. Of course Douthat actually links to example of Jewish fantasy authors and points out that a prominent one may be lacking because, well, the Christian and Germanic pagan past may not appear so romantic to Jews. (duh.) That should pretty much have settled it, but he had to go on and make an ass explaining the universe. Asshat.
This guy gets opinion column space in the New York Times and he just does not know what the fuck he’s talking about. Meh. It’s your liberal media.