In the days after 9-11, “United We Stand” signs began appearing everywhere as Americans of different backgrounds and political beliefs came together. There were a few fringe elements that preferred to believe in conspiracy theories instead of a real threat to our country, but most joined with our President to do whatever they could to fight terrorism.
People were so sensitive at that time that there was even a petition drawn up on PetitionOnline.com to change the name of the second Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers. Peter Jackson was even accused of trying to exploit the fall of The Twin Towers in New York City. Never mind that the second book of The Lord of the Rings was published as The Two Towers in 1954. (The petition was removed in May of 2004 due to inactivity.)
Reviewers (for example, The Return of the King: "Fellowship" by Martin L. Cowen III) had already made a connection between the first movie and 9/11 in Gandalf’s words to Frodo in Moria. Frodo wishes out loud that the Ring had not come to him and that “none of this had ever happened.” Gandalf replies:
So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
The Fellowship also illustrates the ability of free peoples who have a past of mistrusting each other to come together when there is a need. The three free peoples of Middle-earth, Men, Elves, and Dwarves, have a history of squabbles. The past must be put aside in order for the Quest to be accomplished.
We see the repercussions of this history in The Hobbit in the way the Dwarves are mistreated by the Wood Elves and how the Dwarves refuse the requests of the Men of Dale after Smaug is slain. The old prejudices are exacerbated by greed and pride. What a lesson for today where greed has contributed to the devastation of our economy and pride is keeping many politicians from honest debate of the important issues of the day.
Our pride also causes us to forget that Providence is still at work. The Gandalf quote above presents our personal responsibility. But Gandalf does not stop there.
There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
September 11, 2001 did not take God by surprise. As Frodo could count on the fact that his burden came to him not without purpose, so we can be confident that God has a purpose in the challenges we face as a nation, and as individuals. The question is what we will do “with the time that is given to us.”