The Power of Darkness

Much of today’s culture is tired of the perfect hero who always saves the day. Gone are the days when the traditional Superman was the ideal; instead, the hero of today is raw, real, and flawed. He is not invincible or wholly good. He has in him some of the darkness that we all see in ourselves, making him relatable and realistic. People might wonder if he truly is a hero at all.

This is the hero we are given at the start of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. We find a young Galadriel who has risen to the rank of general. She has been forged in the darkness of loss and the war against evil (embodied in the godlike character Morgoth and his servant Sauron). Her brother was killed by Sauron and his forces, the very agents of darkness Galadriel now fights to destroy in a quest for vengeance. But the darkness has not been seen in centuries, and many believe that the evil is truly vanquished. Middle-earth lives in the light of peace and prosperity, unsuspecting of any potential danger. However, Galadriel is haunted by the idea that the darkness is merely sleeping. She is told countless times to turn towards the same light that the other elves look to, but she remembers something her brother told her: in order to know what light to follow, we must “touch the darkness.” With this in mind, Galadriel turns away from the light and plunges into an ocean of darkness.

This narrative isn’t a surprising one in a culture that has fallen in love with the allure of darkness. Media has been churning out content that capitalizes on this theme such as Game of Thrones, The Batman, or the plethora of films and shows about complex villains like Cruella De Ville. Many find solace in this idea which feeds into the “live your truth” movement. This is why Galadriel’s decision to reach out to “touch the darkness” is such a poignant moment in the show—it is a call for people to accept all of themselves, even when some people tell them that doing so is wrong.

However, the people who embrace this idea don’t realize the truth of their situation: they don’t need to reach out to touch the darkness because they are already in it. God tells us that Christ came to bring light to “those living in darkness” (Luke 1:79)—the darkness of a fallen world, spiritual forces, and our own sin. He tells us there is something better than the darkness—abundant life found in Christ (John 10:10), and that this life is true and good. But the world argues that good is boring, and evil is exciting. At times, what is wrong may even appear good (Proverbs 14:12). So, why should anyone follow God’s path of light when the way of darkness seems to be more desirable?

The Allure of Darkness
The darkness portrayed in various media has a certain allure to it. It’s aesthetic, relatability, and the emotion it elicits often make it attractive to the viewer. It appears cool and confident, even beautiful or romantic. The “bad guys” can even seem virtuous at times. They seem relatable to the audience who knows that they themselves have a dark streak inside that they keep hidden. Seeing others celebrated for their darkness makes viewers wonder if their darkness could be celebrated, too. Yet we seem intuitively to know that evil and darkness are not how life should be. We pity the bad guys as we understand their faulty reasoning and hope they can ultimately find goodness. If even the most evil of characters can find redemption, then perhaps we can as well.

None of this is new. Since the original fall of humanity, evil has been dressed up to look appealing. Why? Because most people don’t want the real-world death and decay that proceeds from it. The consequences of evil are not appealing. A convincing lie must have some thread of truth, some ounce of beauty, or it will be able to be seen for what it is early on. In the garden of Eden, Eve saw that the fruit the serpent offered her appeared good for eating and when he lied to her, “you will not certainly die,” he paired it with some ounce of truth, that she would know “both good and evil,” and would be like God in that way (Genesis 3:4-5).

Since the very beginning, evil has disguised itself as good because even when people choose the path of darkness, they do so wanting to believe that it is the better (or right) choice. Paul tells us that Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). But the reality of the path of darkness and evil is in no way alluring. It is filled with pain, wrath, loneliness, despair, and, ultimately, death (James 1:13-15).

The Radiance of Light
If this is the truth of evil’s path, then, what does the path of goodness and light entail? Is it boring and uneventful? Are we destined to lead a life without excitement and happiness? Will we eventually die having never truly lived? Will heaven be a place of endless standing around dressed in white whilst singing placid hymns? This caricature of the path of goodness has shaped the belief of many people. But God tells us that no one has seen, heard, or imagined “the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). This idea takes on new life when one considers all the wonders of the world, the sounds that people find sweetest, and the stories that have captured their imaginations. Eternity will be even more magnificent than these.

The path of light is one of goodness and truth, giving it a radiance that shines on everyone around it (John 1:5). This is what gives light more substance than darkness could ever have; the path of darkness is one of lies whose shadows disappear in the light of truth. Unfortunately, goodness has begun to fall to the wayside because people are (rightly so) not compelled by its caricature. Following the ultimate light (John 8:12) is a compelling and desirable life in the here and now. There is beauty and joy in the simple pleasures of food, a good friendship, and the creation God has made. These are things worth fighting for. As Tolkien puts it, even when so much bad has happened in the world, there is still “light and high beauty forever beyond [the shadow’s] reach.”1 Jesus, as the light of humanity (John 1:4) offers true joy and life eternal, a life which starts the moment one becomes a new creation in Christ.

To be clear, this is not a call to ignore the fact that we all go through dark and difficult times in life. However, to rejoice in, embrace, or pursue darkness is to turn away from God and his light.

The Galadriel of Rings of Power has confused goodness with the darkness of vengeance. But there is no goodness in vengeance. It is good to long for justice, but there is no room in the path to light for reaching out to the darkness. The dominion of darkness is the realm of the spiritual forces of evil (Colossians 1:13, Ephesians 6:12). It is a place we are rescued out of. Followers of Jesus are called to be children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). To refuse that call is to refuse the true goodness and the radiance of abundant life.

Far from being boring or mundane, a life pursuing Christ and (therefore goodness in every area) is one of being genuinely raw and real (Mark 14:35-36). A true hero is one who consistently chooses to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7) despite the allure of darkness.

By Rebecca Sachaj

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Rebecca Sachaj

Rebecca Sachaj is enthusiastic about helping fellow believers deepen their relationship with God. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, she pursued further study in Apologetics through The Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She plans to obtain her Masters in Apologetics, focusing on the connection between the Christian Imagination and Apologetics. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her two dogs, Strider and Samwise.