Yes, I watch Game of Thrones. So do you.
It’s a great storyline especially if you can get past the first 2 seasons, which are basically pornography—although, I also get how all that sets the scene for the rough and tumble world of Westeros and the corrupt run for the Iron Throne. But I digress.
I like good stories that, without your control, place you in another world where you become part of the story. You know what I mean. You identify with characters, imagine yourself as him or her, and wonder what you would do in this or that situation.
Good stories present us with an alternate world that we can enter and then, from a fresh vantage point, look back on our own and evaluate it.
So this is a small thing, perhaps, but nevertheless it entered my brain somewhere as I was rewatching seasons 1-5 to get up to speed for season 6.
You may have noticed [spoiler alert] that there is a tad amount of violence on this show. People are getting hacked to bits left and right as the normal course of things. Families are [spoiler alert] getting massacred at weddings, streets running red with blood, etc.
Violence is just normal, expected, like going to work in the morning and getting stuck in traffic.
And they are always calling upon their gods to crush their enemies, etc. It may be [spoiler alert] sacrificing your child to the Lord of Light (“the one true god”), or swearing “by all the gods, old and new”—just for good measure and to cover your bases.
All of this reminds of me of the military conflicts in the Bible, mainly the Old Testament.
Game of Thrones isn’t necessarily lifting biblical themes (and if it is I don’t know it) but more likely appealing to a genre of storytelling and to geopolitical realities as old as recorded civilization and, I would say, the norm for most of world history—”one of us has to die and we invoke a higher power against you.”
Watching all this on HBO GO (“It’s HBO. Anywhere.”) put the biblical stories into some perspective for me, though not for the first time.
I got out of my head for a brief moment and looked with more sympathy at the persistent geopolitical violence we read in the Bible. I “felt” how I would probably want to go to war with God on my side too if I lived in a world of mad kings and armies grabbing for land, where injustice can only be protected against by violence—and I would assume the same of God and think of God in that way.
This is why, when engaging biblical texts on violence, I’m not interested in judging their value or morality. Rather, I am interested in understanding why stories are told as they are.
Culture, one’s place in time, affects how we talk about God.
I really think it’s that simple.
Humanizing the Bible like this may introduce some theological challenges, at least for some, but so be it. That’s the down side (so to speak) of what C. S. Lewis calls “an incurably irreverent religion.”
This is part of the deal with a religion that has at its center an incarnating God rather than a lofty and distant one: our human cultures and limitations are the very categories by which we speak of a God who is not bound that way.