Unless you’re living under a rock (or the proverbial bushel), it’s impossible to have missed the phenomenon that is Game of Thrones. Part fantasy epic, part prestige television, its controversial subject matter has made it a bit of a touchy subject for Christians. Both straight-laced Protestant pastors and boozy Catholic rabble-rousers have condemned the show for its graphic sex and violence. More importantly the fact that the author of the books on which the series is based has blown through multiple deadlines and promises to his readers demonstrates the precipitous decline of moral values in America.
Yet the Bible—a book that we all have in our homes—is also full of graphic violence and descriptions of sexual perversity. The unsavory content covered in an hour of Game of Thrones is surpassed by 10 minutes after lights-out at any Christian camp hosting boys between the ages of 8 and 13. So we must ask ourselves whether there is some redemptive value in Game of Thrones’ blood, guts, and boinking. After all, we don’t want to repeat the Christian subcultural errors of the 90s that condemned Harry Potter (which is probably the closest thing to decent literature most millennials will bother to read) or Dungeons & Dragons (which is really a great way to develop the skill of loving something bizarre and arcane, a necessary prerequisite for full participation in any Benedict Option community).
Thus, we must look to see if there are Biblical themes that we can apply and use to relevantly communicate the Good News to our neighbors who are fascinated by the show. Is one of the many characters who gets eviscerated a Christ figure? Does the darkness and despair of the series point us to our longing for a True King? Are the sorcery and swords meant to help us more deeply imagine a world in which monsters can be slain? Is there a Gospel message in Game of Thrones?
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org