How the entertaining HBO show does more to further the Kingdom of God than many sanitized Christian films.
A few months ago some posts were shared all over social media with titles like "If you're watching Game of Thrones, you are watching porn" and "I Don't Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones". Of course, these articles spread like wildfire and did exactly as the authors intended: get clicks, shares, and lengthy arguments in the comments sections. These arguments usually end with both parties being mad as hell at the other - objective achieved!
But before I get into my thoughts on the needless debate (I tried to refrain for a while but couldn't), I want to make a disclaimer: I am not a cheerleader for Game of Thrones. I like the show. I have watched every episode, but I also realize that there is content in it that some people should rightly avoid. I respect anyone's opinion not to watch it and would never go out of my way to try and convince someone to do so. I am merely using Game of Thrones as a talking point to approach the ideas of art with immoral content as possibly pleasing to the Lord.
One thing I've realized over the years is that Christians like black and white issues: sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, smoking and drinking, etc. It's almost as if we have 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 tattooed on our arms, on the lookout for someone to break one of those laws. And when they do, our mouths begin to water as we pick up stones to throw at them until they repent and turn.
You know what are less popular sins to talk about: gluttony, breaking the sabbath, and divorce to name a few. One reason (besides the fact that we like fried chicken too much) is because these cannot be approached with the same black and white mindset. If someone goes and sleeps with someone they aren't married to, you can look in the Bible immediately, label it "SIN" and start chucking hard objects. But if someone goes back for a second donut, I doubt even a wadded up napkin would be thrown... Where in the world is the line for gluttony? We can't answer these questions so we ignore them all together.
This is where art comes in at a unique position. Sure, we can approach a movie starting with the parental review. We can read all the sins present and declare a boycott (which never works btw). This method woul help us avoid movies like Eyes Wide Shut (thank goodness), but we'd also never see The Shawshank Redemption - which depicts rape, language, murder, and nudity. Yet I would argue that the Shawshank Redemption is the most redemptive and spiritually moving film ever made. (Don't believe me? Watch it and then let me know you're thoughts).
And if we do this for movies, why not books as well? (I'm looking at you Fifty Shades of Gray). If a book has sexual content, graphic violence, and significant immoral behavior, it should be written off and ignored by Christians. God cannot use something with significant content, even written, to spread his message.
This would cover so much of what our society consumes regularly, even to the best selling book of all time, one that has stories of just about every sin - rape, murder, incest, unjust death, revenge, hate, prostitution... etc.
That's right, if we used this checklist for all conent, it would bar all Christians from reading the Bible, which would ironically create a world with no Christians.
The logical response to that last statement could be, "Hey, hold up, but the Bible uses all that immorality to tell a positive message", which I fully agree with it, but now aren't we changing the standard for judging content? Or if we're really reaching maybe we could say, "But the Bible's true", which I'd also agree with. But again, that changes the argument. Now the litmus test is if a piece of content is true or uses immorality to point toward a greater good, and I can think of plenty of true stories I never want to subject myself to consuming.
Here's the bottom line: You cannot judge art and stories based solely on the parental review. A more important question than how much nudity is in something, shouldn't we ask what the content is saying? Is it using all the dark, realistic, immoral depictions to point us toward a loving God with a higher meaning for our lives? Or is it using sanitized, PG rated content to make us feel like we are under attack and that we need to start throwing stones at people, like the ones who watch Game of Thrones?
Here's the reason we don't like approaching art this way, because looking for meaning instead of f-bombs is way more confusing. Suddenly there's discussion and the line is blurred, but maybe it's meant to be blurred?
If we can get past the content, and let art instead, speak to us, something may begin to happen in our spirits we didn't expect. Watch this scene from Game of Thrones season 7. There are a few spoilers but if you've read this far you're either an avid fan of the show or have no desire to ever watch it:
Conversations in the show like these happen regularly. In this world there are the old gods with faces in trees and idols (representing paganism). They have followers but lie mostly dormant, with no real influence on any events in the world. Then there is this new god on the scene who is very active. His followers claim he is the one and only true god. They even call him the Lord of Light... uh, Psalm 27:1 anyone?
For the first several seasons of the show we are subject to watching so much pain and anguish, it makes us ask "How can any god exist in this world at all?". The Lord of Light's followers seem crazy and unhinged at first, but as the seasons go on, things begin happen with this Lord of Light - miracles, undeniable miracles. Characters in show are slowly, one by one, finding themselves unable to keep there existential worldview. They are leaving the world of interesting, random and painful events, and moving toward a worldview of meaning, forgiveness, and redemption. Cold and atheistic characters are seeing visions and prophecies while the meek and abused are rising to power.
It's exciting isn't it? That the most watched show in the world is taking viewers on a journey from pain and confusion to purpose and redemption, all the while openly talking about God?
I think the "content" that has so many riled up, needs to be there. The same way if you sanitized the Bible, it lessens Jesus' ressurection, if they sanitized Game of Thrones, the redemption wouldn't be believable or nearly as powerful. How can there be redemption if there's nothing to be redeemed from?
Yes, it's difficult to watch a scene depicting a rape or a good man getting his head wrongfully chopped off, but I'd rather watch content with redemption than sanitation with a false message.
God does all of this with us throughout our lives. We cannot sanitize our personal experiences - when our loved one dies instead of being healed, when that date takes advantage of us, when our coworker backstabs us for that promotion. You cannot avoid the undeniable messiness of life, but what Christianity says is that there's a reason for all of it.
And if we were asked how a child in a another country dying of starvation fits into God's plan?... if we were honest, we'd admit we don't know... but we'd keep believing:
"we can keep others alive, defend those who can't defend themselves, and be the shield that guards the realms of men. Maybe we don't need to understand any more than that. Maybe that's enough."
I'll close with this: Don't watch Game of Thrones if you don't want to. If the content leads you to a bad place, don't watch it. If certain stories in the Bible lead you to a bad place, don't read them... but please don't throw stones at people who watch Game of Thrones and read the whole Bible, justifying the action with black and white parental review guide.