“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien is a beautiful work showing the important role even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant people have in the drama of history. In the trilogy, it was Frodo Baggins, the little hobbit, who embarks on a perilous adventure to destroy the ring of power at Mount Doom and save Middle Earth from the power of the evil Sauron.
Frodo is like each of us: just another person who, when met with a perilous challenge, took up his Cross and carried it to his own Calvary. He left all that was comfortable — the Shire, with its strawberries and cream, good cheer, and plenty of beer — to follow his calling.
“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.” – Lady Galadriel
In this life, and especially in the public realm, each one of us as Christians will have the opportunity to be like Frodo. But often, we will be full of doubt. Who are we but seemingly insignificant spectators in a great drama that seems out of our control? Like little hobbits, we can do nothing and should just get back to tending our serene garden, minding our business.
That is a lie Satan tells us. When in fact, we can do something. As Gandalf the wizard tells Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo Baggins
Frodo came to mind following the recent court victory of Carl and Angel Larsen, the St. Cloud videographers who are challenging the State of Minnesota’s prosecution of wedding vendors who will not do business related to same-sex weddings.
Carl and Angel are inspiring people and joyful Christians. Their home is a model of Christian hospitality, including to people who experience same-sex attraction. They walk the walk and are just like others who sit in the pew on Sunday.
But Carl and Angel didn’t just sit there. They walked out the door of their own comfortable hobbit hole and embarked on the great adventure of standing up for civil rights—free speech and free exercise of religion.
Undoubtedly, they couldn’t imagine what this nationally significant case had in store for them. But they went out their door, and they are winning.
“Folk seem to have been just landed in [adventures], usually — their paths were laid that way. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten.” – Samwise Gamgee
Carl and Angel had many chances to turn back: a loss at the district court level with a sneering opinion by a judge who dismissed their case; media scrutiny and hate mail; discouragement and criticism from other Christians who do not believe that using the courts to protect the spread of the Gospel is appropriate. Yet, they have persevered.
Their case is a microcosm of work in the public arena generally, which is characterized by setbacks and advances.
Sometimes positive developments are hard to see, but history shows that the Gospel does advance, beauty and order can be brought into the world, and souls do come to know the Lord. All this can unfold through our daily labors of tilling the soil, sowing the seed, and playing our part so that others may reap the harvest.
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” – Gandalf
We might view Carl and Angel’s lawsuit as something more significant that only they could do. Again, this would be a mistake.
Each one of us has the opportunity to turn the tide in small ways — with a word of grace and truth here, with a letter to the editor there. Oftentimes, politics, especially at the local level, is just about walking out the door and showing up.
What we can do may seem insignificant, but collectively, it can change the culture, though we might not live to see it. Like little Frodo, we must step forward to do our part.
Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.