Can a Christian Watch Game of Thrones?
- Wednesday, June 05, 2013
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.”
*This Article First Published 6/5/2013
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