Can a Christian Watch Game of Thrones?

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David Gibson, Religious News Service

[With commentary addendum by Tor Minotaur]

Is there anything morally redeeming about “Game of Thrones”? Does the hit HBO series even have a moral vision?

The show is certainly entertaining, almost addictively so, and as “Games of Thrones” wraps up its third season on Sunday (June 9), millions of viewers worldwide have followed the ruthless struggles for power among the teeming clans of Westeros, the medieval-looking world created by fantasy novelist G.R.R. Martin.

That success has also guaranteed that the show will be back for a fourth year of mayhem and passion, swords and sorcery, despite this season’s many violent endings. Or, as one tweet put it after the bloody penultimate episode: “Why doesn’t G.R.R. Martin use twitter? Because he killed all 140 characters.”

But therein lies the moral problem for some: The appeal of the series seems bound up in the senseless violence and amoral machinations – not to mention the free-wheeling sex – that the writers use to dramatize this brutish world of shifting alliances and dalliances.

That, in turn, has prompted intense debates about whether Christians should watch “Games of Thrones” at all, or whether the show’s only possible virtue is depicting how the world would look if Christ had never been born – or what it could look like if Christianity disappeared tomorrow.

“Why should Christians watch ‘Game of Thrones’? There’s no necessity, and some will find the gratuitous sex and violence dangerous and damaging,” wrote Daniel Muth of the Living Church Foundation. But, Muth concluded, “Seeing the hopelessness and savagery of what this age threatens to become may serve to shake us from our torpor.”

To be sure, “Game of Thrones” can be as “relentlessly grim” as Jonathan Ryan described it in a Christianity Today critique. As one character puts it: “When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die.”

Dark magic plays a role in the plots, yes, and there are hints of something supernatural, if not altogether benign. But for the most part, the land of the Seven Kingdoms is a dog-eat-dog world dominated by soulless connivers like Lord Baelish, who concludes one chilling monologue by declaring: “Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

Which is not to say that the world of “Games of Thrones” doesn’t have religion. In fact, it has several of them. But belief is slippery and divine justice improbable. Even those who hope there is something at the other end of the ladder – a realm above – fear that it is populated by cynical gods who view mortals the way cats regard a mouse, as something to be toyed with until it dies.

“The gods have no mercy. That’s why they’re gods,” as Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister, coldly tells terrified young women praying for help during a siege. For some, the most damning aspect of “Game of Thrones” may be the way that it subverts the work that it most closely tracks: J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” saga that’s beloved by so many contemporary Christians.

In those novels, and the hit films they inspired, Tolkien also presents an epic struggle – but one in which good battles evil, and triumphs in the end. G.R.R. Martin is having none of that.
“The sort of fantasy where all the people get together to fight the dark lord doesn’t interest me,” Martin told The New Republic when asked about comparisons to Tolkien.

“We don’t tend to have wars or political controversies where one side is really ugly and wears dark clothing, where the other side wears white and has glowing magical swords,” he said. (Martin, who is helping to adapt the television series from his series of novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” is busy shooting the fourth season and was not available for further comment.)

But ambiguity is not necessarily amorality. It can also reflect the complexity of real life.
“What constitutes good and what constitutes evil? What happens if our good intentions produce evil? Does the end justify the means?” Those are the questions Martin says he is asking, and they are questions that have spawned a cottage industry of blogs and even a book about the philosophy behind the show.

Still, some have also detected a genuine theological framework behind the show that does not reject Christian teachings but instead reflects them in important ways. “Indeed, the series can be read as an argument for Reinhold Niebuhr’s Augustinian realism,” George Schmidt wrote at Religion Dispatches, citing the Cold War theologian who has often been invoked during America’s current battle against terrorism. As Schmidt notes, idealists who would triumph in Tolkien’s world are blithely cut down in Martin’s.

The Rev. Jim McDermott, a Jesuit priest who is studying screenwriting at the University of California, Los Angeles, also pointed out that in “Game of Thrones,” raw power and high birth provide no guarantee of protection. And, like the Bible, the series finds unlikely heroes among “the shattered, the shunned and the disregarded.”

The realism that McDermott finds in the show is the gospel truth that life is often hard and unfair – but everyone shares in that fate. “And salvation is not the purview of some elect, nor does grace inherently reside in a crown,” he wrote in America magazine. “As with horror, so hope springs from the most unexpected of quarters.”

Or maybe not. The story lines continue to unfold, and Martin hasn’t yet finished the final book that will serve as the template for the rest of the series. Strong characters and unpredictable narratives are sure to keep coming, and to keep viewers glued to the screen. But at the end will they find a “transcendent moral vision”?

That’s the question that troubles Scott R. Paeth, who teaches Christian social ethics at DePaul University in Chicago. “Thus far (Martin has) been fairly scornful of the idea that the end result of the political struggle is the establishment of social justice, and seems to be suggesting that, in the end, all succumbs to dust and entropy, or that on the whole those willing to give themselves wholly over to their will to power will ultimately prevail,” Paeth wrote on his blog.

“How he ends his story will tell us much about the moral world in which he dwells.”

[My Commentary]
This article encapsulates everything I find abhorrent about most institutional Christians. Malevolent church tax-feeders, the lot of them. Rather than honestly produce their own works of Christian Fantasy, they instead patrol the quadrants of our world in a sanctimonious Borg Cube, mockingly moralizing and threatening all they dislike as someone they can and will assimilate into their state enforced version of morality. They are quite content to have their decrees and fatwas enforced by the laws and thug enforcers of state capitalism and state social justice.

When you dare speak out against Christian violations of NAP, you are labeled as an Atheist or worse,and portrayed as an immoral Christian basher. This dialectical slander is the price you must pay, if you wish to call yourself a Libertarian. Libertarians must dare to speak truth to a corrupting power. Even when that corrupting power claims to serve the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The 2.1 Billion Christians in this world have long behaved as a ruthless and powerful thuggish mob when they don’t get their way. Pointing that out to them and demanding they desist and instead adhere to the values they preach more than they practice is never immoral. Some might even say it is your duty as a moral human being.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Why would a Christian even watch any of the garbage which spews from Hollywood?

    Of course, one should make a distinction between a mere professing Christian/Christian-by-default, vs. someone who actually believes in and practices the doctrines of Christ- as opposed to the mere rules and formalities of of some corporate church.

    And what’s with all these “fame” shows I keep hearing of? Game Of Thrones; Hunger Games; etc. I have no idea what any of these things even are- and really don’t care to know- as most “entertainment” these days seems to involve gore [not Al], brutality, group-think, etc. Sheesh! What ever happened to Let’s Make A Deal?!

  2. God Is A Concept By Which We Measure Our Pain

    ______John___Lennon______
    God is a Concept by which we measure our pain. I’ll say it again. God is a Concept by which we measure our pain.
    I don’t believe in: magic, I-ching, Bible, Tarot, Hitler, Jesus, Kennedy, Buddha, Mantra, Gita, Yoga, Kings, Elvis, Zimmerman, Beatles
    I just believe in me…and that reality. The dream is over.
    What can I say? Yesterday. I was the Dreamweaver. But now I’m reborn. I was the Walrus. But now I’m John.
    and so dear friends. you’ll just have to carry on.

  3. Back on the hobby horse, Tor? Be careful, now. Those evul Xians and Joos will get you. How hard is it for atheists and objectivists to understand that statists use whatever religion comes to hand as a shield for their nonsense. Atheism and objectivism can just as easily be used by statists, should they ever become prevalent enough to serve. Of course, they aren’t religions, exactly, are they? They’re actually just uninformed opinions which have become sort of cultish in their appeal.

    Blame me for all of it if it makes you feel vindicated somehow. After all, I’m a Christian. You remind me of TGS with this bullshit. Get a new hobby horse, will you? this one has been ridden into the ground.

    • Morning, Ed!

      I know two Christians. One of them – now an ex-friend of mine – was always in my face about his beliefs. It got very uncomfortable, which is why he’s an ex-friend. The other guy – also a friend – is very Christian, too. But he never pushes it off on me. In fact, he never mentions his beliefs – or rather, he never places me in the awkward position of arguing with him over his beliefs.

      I’ve got no problem with anyone’s beliefs with regard to the supernatural and existential questions… provided they’re not belligerently asserted as “the truth” because such things are beyond our ability, as human beings, to prove or disprove. There may or may not be more to our existence than the purely physical “reality” we see around us. But, who knows?

      • Lots of rock chunkers in the Crystal Cathedral. Hey, we’re Christians, you can’t throw those rocks back, you godless heathens.

    • Are you sure the real hobby horse rider isn’t you, Ed?
      How are most Christians not exactly like the Pharisees who persecuted and then executed Jesus?

      – – – –
      I’m with Gene Roddenberry who insisted that religion and mystical thinking were not to be included in Star Trek writing.

      In Roddenberry’s vision of Earth’s future, everyone was an atheist in public, and it definitely made for better stories. Gene stubbornly resisted the effort of network execs to put a Christian chaplain on the crew of the Enterprise. It would be ludicrous, he argued, to pretend that such a cosmopolitan people would impose one group’s religion on all the rest of the crew
      – – – –
      Mystical thinking is an oxymoron. You can be mystical, or you can think. You can’t do both. That being said, I have five prayers I say each night, and I do believe a soul benefits from having mystical components.

      So you denounce TGS, and myself then? I hope not.

      Why is it only the state can command the service of institutional Christianity? If I attempt to scapegoat Christians into serving my hobby horse of individual freedom is that a crime? What would Jesus Do? I think he would show equal wrath to those use force against their brothers whether in the name of a King, a God, or a Banking System.

      My contention is statists and religionists are one and the same.

      The means TGS advocates to obtain his depopulated monoracial utopia is not something I can condone. But I claim no superior standing to say Pope Jorge’s vision of a world where having physical money or wasting a single morsel of food is a crime against the poor and against humanity.

      The fact is, small towns always publish these Christian movie gatekeeper ramblings like they’re the gospel.

      Get Off Your Hobby-Horse… A Rallying Cry
      http://ihjournal.com/get-off-your-hobby-horse-a-rallying-cry

      Pope Benedict XVI’s Call To Be An Internet Zealbot

      These internet spaces and social networks, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family.

      The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since, in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves.

      The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important.

      Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.

      Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth.

    • To be honest, Ed, I do hate Christian Institutions. I also hate American Institutions. My intention is only to complain about collective actions that come from these institutions, and the men who enjoy a parasitical existence through misuse of religious and nationalist sentiments.

      If I come across as attacking Christians as a group I don’t mean to. My only beef is their complicity in restricting our social liberties.

  4. Can a Christian Be a Libertarian?

    Christians in American politics have argued for years that God endorses the political agenda of Republicans or Democrats, but is there a third way to think about the relationship between God and government?

    Christians from the left and the right are increasingly turning to libertarianism not because it is a “middle ground,” but because it is an entirely different way of thinking about government and power.

    http://libertarianchristians.com/can-a-christian-be-a-libertarian/

    The core of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle: that the initiation of force against person and property is immoral, and it is in many respects a kind of political corollary to the Golden Rule. Thus, Christian libertarians think that government power should be limited, sound money and truly free markets should return, aggressive war must cease and civil liberties must be preserved. Despite objections raised by other Christians, many Christian libertarians have found a friend in Texas congressional representative, presidential candidate, and lifelong Christian Dr. Ron Paul, because he also believes in these important principles.

    Libertarianism treats man’s sinful nature realistically. Christian libertarians take this a step further, saying that it is precisely because men are not angels that government must have extraordinarily limited powers. God does not show favoritism nor does he give special privileges of position. Everyone is accountable to the moral law in the same way. When governments and politicians extend their power so that they can abridge people’s natural rights with impunity, they have crossed the line into immorality.

    Rep. Paul’s message is that the United States government has been far across this line for decades and the remedy is to follow the Constitution. The Founders created the boldest attempt in history to limit state power, yet presidents and congresses, both Republican and Democratic, have repeatedly refused to adhere to their own rules. True, lasting change can only be found in reducing the power of the federal government.

    Libertarians think that everyone should be free to do as they will provided they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Christians can recognize the importance of this principle by simply observing history, recognizing how often that other Christians have been prevented from practicing their religion as their conscience requires of them. If we do not afford others the freedom to live their lives as they choose, how can we expect to receive the same freedom to do as we choose?

    Rep. Paul explains that government does not make people good in The Revolution: “The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous… God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.”

    God created us to be free to carry out the dictates of conscience. We cannot continue to demand state control to restrict people’s personal activity and yet assume our liberty is safe.

    Through libertarianism, many Christians have found a way to move past their previous beliefs about politics and embrace a more consistent, more biblical political philosophy. The message of abolishing government power is powerful on its own.

    In Ron Paul, many Christian libertarians see a leader who points to principles that conservatives and liberals have long forgotten: “A system of government without limit, if unchecked, will destroy production and impoverish the nation. The only answer is to better understand economics and monetary systems, as well as social and foreign policies, with the hope that they will change once it becomes clear that government policies are a threat to all of us.”

    Libertarianism is not going away, and it surely will take an increasingly prominent place in the political discussion of Christians for years to come.
    – – – –

    Unfortunately, Christian Libertarians look only to be seeking to appear to support some of Ron Paul’s ideas. Not in any way, disbanding or altering any of their vast influence blocs as a gesture of sincere intent to bring about true freedom in our time.
    – – – –
    Here, you see the true colors of a “Christian Libertarian”

    The threat of protracted international conflict is bad enough, but there is also the well-founded fear of domestic violence and crime. And even if we are lucky enough to escape actual robbery, we know that inflation is steadily draining our wealth. We’ve seen the race issue go from integration to Black Nationalism; we’ve witnessed the emergence of the sex and drug cult, the rise of astrology, witchcraft and voodooism; V.D. has reached epidemic proportions among the young; and then there is abortion, homosexuality, the campus crisis, the environmental crisis, the inner crisis in man himself. For is it not true, as Yeats says in a famous poem, that “The wicked act with dreadful intensity, while the good lack all conviction.”

    http://libertarianchristians.com/2013/02/21/six-ideas-to-keep-us-human/#more-3752
    – – – –
    Those are not the words or sentiments of someone who believes in “live and let live.” Those are the ancient hackles and hectorings of Busybodies, who are only displeased that the government is no longer the type of Busybody Overlord “Libertarian Christians” have come to rely on to enforce their will over peaceful innocents.

  5. “When you dare speak out against Christian violations of NAP, you are labeled as an Atheist or worse,and portrayed as an immoral Christian basher.”

    Agreed. They can slander us all they like, call us blasphemer, heretic, and godless. Is that the best they’ve got? Yeh, and without evidence of any god. Dare any of us call them god-botherers and they go for a sook to someone with real power over men – gubberment. God don’t listen, apparently 😉

    That’s nothing compared to the Islamic “lice-ridden carpet-sucking arse in the air begging to receive allah from behind 5 times a day” oxygen thieves. They build bombs instead:

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com

    They’re all cowards, hoping to be “saved” and expecting their deity to smite their enemies. At least Islamics know they must perform work before reward, but they can have their imagined 72 virgins – nobody guaranteed they’d be human female.

    Wanna start a REAL war? Don’t drop bombs on them. Find a catholic church near a mosque, wipe your arse on pages of the quran and stick them on the doors and windows of the church. Repeat with the mosque. Guess who wins? Hint: It won’t be those sucky wussy catholics..

    Notice I didn’t use a first-letter capital for god or allah, because I have absolutely no respect for physical impossibilities. I only used it once because it began the sentence.

    Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts. Religious people couldn’t be further from expert than they profess. I don’t apologise to anyone for my views, because I don’t enforce them on anyone – unlike some groups we know. Read it and weep.

    • I have no quarrel with Authoritarians. If you are the Author and creator of your realm, make any rules you want there. My issue is with the Totalitarians. The ones unsatisfied until command everywhere and everyone in a totality of conformity, down to every last man.

      Christians, Muslims, Chauvins, White Race Purity Adherents are all brothers to me. I have no quarrel with them and their chosen way of life.

      My rage and wrath is against the Christianists, Islamists, Male Chauvinists, or White Supremacists. The fuckface cuntmouthed bastards who lick and spit shine the jackboots of the state, in hopes the state marches against their enemies. The appelation of the “ist” at the end of their names is a distinguishing mark of shame and intolerance for them and their ways. Whenever I walk the streets and narrows of their cubes and cells of butchery and mutilations, I look for ways to subvert and dethrone them.

      In our present world, as you say, the “ists” all seek to control the undead bloody hand of the zombie horde state. What heartless inhuman coward chimps such animals are. May they at least be cast out of one realm. A solitary place of reasonable respite I would gladly defend and enrich with all my available effort should it be brought into fruition.

      I don’t wish any man to die at the hand of another. But I grow weary of begrudging these bipedal savages and their barbarisms. I do believe in a personal God, one only I know of and speak to, unknown to anyone else. May my God guide me down the path that leads me away from these evildoers. I can forgive and tolerate anything else in this world, except for them.

    • ЯΞ√ΩLUT↑☼N wrote, “…and without evidence of any god.”

      Seems to me your very presence is the evidence.
      You come across to me as a man walking out of a house while claiming there’s no such thing as carpenters.

      ЯΞ√ΩLUT↑☼N wrote, “…Notice I didn’t use a first-letter capital for god or allah, because I have absolutely no respect for physical impossibilities.”

      Physical impossibilities, says you. …and without evidence.

      Anyway, why would you use a comment like this?:

      ЯΞ√ΩLUT↑☼N wrote, “Wanna start a REAL war?…”

      I’m not weeping, I’m just kind of puzzled by your whole take and approach. It seems a bit like what you just commented on, that which you don’t like. I mean, I’m having difficulty seeing a difference, other than you’re not forcing your views on anyone, you seem quite a bit the same in this respect.

      • I’ve felt for the longest time now that the most honest answer to those eternal questions I simply can’t answer was to say “I don’t know”. And seeing as I haven’t all knowledge I can’t make sweeping comments and be honest at the same time. If I did have all knowledge then I’d essentially be “god” and then to say that no god is possible would be an insane statement. So I’ll leave it at “I don’t know” and I’m quite happy with that.

  6. Old Nan tells Bran a Story: “Oh, my sweet summer child. What do you know about fear? Fear is for the winter, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides for years and children are born and live and die all in darkness. That is the time for fear, my little Lord, when the white walkers move through the woods. Thousands of years ago there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts. And women smothered their babies rather than see them starve, and wept and felt the tears freeze on their cheeks. So is this the sort of story that you like?”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQGWCzELVB4
    Doomsday never quite arrives because overall society’s wealth increases. Yet the individual’s wealth always shrinks, soon it may disappear altogether and we’ll be left with nothing to call our own at all.

  7. Some Progressives I know of like this show quite a bit.

    Some other Freedomistas I know of like the show too.

    The Freedomistas root for the underdog, hope for the virtuous, and grieve when their favorites are killed off the show.

    I wonder: do the Progressives enjoy the show because they Like the oppression of The People, the victory of tyrants, and enjoy the conquest of the virtuous, and only argue over who is to be the next king?

    Understanding the Progressive Mind
    [On the left. and the right]

    “They really believe that the application of state power, complete with coercion, threats, and even killing can work major miracles, …
    if there is killing or imprisonment or imposing financial ruin, well, it was deserved…”

    http://lewrockwell.com/anderson/anderson353.html

    Progressives and the Bloody 20th Century

    “… It is hard to know how many innocents died in these Progressive conflicts, but it is clear that the so-called vision that these We-Want-To-Remake-the-World that Progressives demanded resulted in slaughter and calamity that is hard even to describe…”

    http://lewrockwell.com/anderson/anderson323.html

    Be Happy! Progressives Have Wonderful Plans for You!

    “…Progressives always have believed: all individuals should be firmly and absolutely made subservient to the State…

    Their end is a society in which the State makes all decisions for individuals, and their means is violence and more violence.”

    http://lewrockwell.com/anderson/anderson355.html

    • They even bring their “help” to other creatures. In Nevada they chase wild horses with helicopters into corrals, so they aren’t hit by cars or some BS. When I lived in the Upper Midwest, they fed the deer in the winter. Worldwide, they trap, neuter, tag and release more and more species every year.

      Statists I have known always talk in creepy voices about how “lucky” their pets are. Their dearest wish is to lay around all day and be fed by an owner. Statists will never rest until we are all nothing more than “pets of the state.” Who’s a good citizen? You are! Yes you are. Good boy.

      Why would you get a cat, for example, and then be forced to butcher it and baby it into some kind of living dead stuffed animal freak mockery of a real cat. It’s sickens me.

      Supercats 1,2, & 3
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf_IIbT8HGk
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRAMO0_6g-M
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOKsUDL3q_o

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