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preciousGollum is a small, slimy creature, “rather like a spider himself, or perhaps like a starved frog.” He’s a bit of a goblin, first introduced to us in the Hobbit. His relationship with the ring, his precious, and how it consumes his soul, is the stuff of legends and trilogies.

Precioussss, the ring, and the “Inner Ring” an essay once written by CS Lewis or rather a graduation speech he once gave that became an essay, are both themes I cannot seem to get away from these days.

The idolatry of the precious, the Inner Ring that CS Lewis wrote about, tried so desperately to explain to us, that sense of belonging, the seductive nature of tribalism, the way we will compromise everything, sell our very souls to the devil himself hoping to fit in, to become popular. That is the nature of human beings, our desire to be part of  a group, to wield power within it, that permeates so much of what we as people do.

Tribalism, membership, hierarchies, and loyalty. I see it all very clearly because I am such an outlier, wounded long ago and taught never to seek the favor of the tribe. Never. The moment you taste the power of the precious, that inner ring begins to call to you and the sense of belonging, the heady feeling of membership can override your own morality and cause you to condone things you never dreamed possible.

Cults, I grew upon the fringe of cults and watched people become downright stupid, so easily played by the lure of those inner rings. It’s extremely disconcerting to a child to watch the adults around you lose their minds, a bit like free-falling through space actually, so I have spent most of my adult life trying to understand how this can even happen. What causes people to follow insane ideologies? To support things that any sane person would understand is clearly wrong?

The answer is really simple, it’s the seductive nature of the inner ring. It is the collectivism and tribalism inherent in human beings. We’ll do anything to belong, engage in bizarre initiation rituals, deny the nature of reality, bypass our own reason, suspend our personal moral codes. We’ll stop at nothing, nothing is too awful, not genocide, not torture, to pour into the abyss that is the longing in our souls, the precious, also known as the inner ring.

There’s a frequent complaint I get on the internet, one that is quite valid, and it involves someone accusing me of disloyalty. What is wrong with you, you are covorting with the enemy of this tribe! You are betraying the family, you are siding with our accusers. Where is your loyalty?  Bad politics, bad thought, even, bad Christian, no wafer for you! You must be shunned, you’re out of the tribe! It can be a bit amusing because I recognize how some people might care about such things, but I just don’t and really never have.

Often people are quite correct, I have absolutely no loyalty to human tribes, to the favor and approval of men, for the foolishness of inner rings. That urge for tribal membership was broken long ago and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can be a narrow walk and a sometimes lonely one, but conversely it is extremely unlikely you will ever find me with a roll of quarters in my pocket following the other wildebeests off a cliff. Or covering up for pedophiles.

I really sense that Somebody has turned the fire up on the global teapot, that pressure is building within our culture, that division, disunity, separation, is becoming even more pronounced because people are so desperately seeking their tribe, their I-dentity, what allegedly separates them from all the others, their membership in an inner ring, that secret sanctum for their souls. The problem with that kind of hunger is that it lends itself well to being easily deceived and taken advantage of.

There really is only one loyalty that makes any sense to me at all and that is loyalty to the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

I’d like to give a shout out to Elijah Wood, one of the stars in the Lord of the Rings, who is bravely standing up and speaking out against yet another powerful inner ring that absolutely permeates Hollywood, their problem with protecting, defending, and outright advocating pedophilia. Elijah says, “What upsets me about these situations is that the victims can’t speak as loudly as the people in power. There’s the tragedy of attempting to reveal what is happening to innocent people:  They can be squashed, but their lives have been irreparably damaged.”

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