Can we talk about Game of Thrones?

CULTURE | 7 mins

Everyone has an opinion on Game of Thrones. And I mean, everyone. But before we get to that, let’s talk about crowds.

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Crowds are great for some things—serendipitous opportunities for chest-bumping strangers, as a backdrop for flash mobs, funding your niche publishing project on the internet.

But, let’s be honest, there are some things crowds just aren’t great at—exiting a large building in a timely manner, not putting ruthless dictators into positions of power, deciding humanity needed 17 seasons of American Idol.

I’m an introvert. My vote is decidedly for labeling crowds as “mostly awful.” But there’s one thing they are the literal worst at—dictating your moral convictions.

Can we talk about Game of Thrones?

Every Sunday night, my social media feeds are full of two distinctly different things: non-spoilery reactions to the hit TV show’s final season… and Christians shaming (mostly other Christians) for watching it. Insert facepalm emoji.

My nerd fandom pedigree is strong. The Lord of the Rings. The X-Files. Doctor Who. Star Wars. Battlestar Galactica. Firefly. The Twilight Zone. Two nights ago, my wife turned to me while laying in bed, just before falling asleep, and said, “Caleb? Comic books on your phone? Really?” Yes, really.

And… I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones. Why? Because I know I’d love it. Of all my nerd fandom loves, Lord of the Rings is the top of the list. And I’ve heard that everything I love about Middle Earth can be found in Westeros. I love mythology. I love complicated storytelling. I love strong female characters. I love dragons and ice kings and ancient battles. I’d eat up Game of Thrones. But I can’t sit down for that meal, because in college, an addiction to pornography nearly ruined me. It became all I thought about. It changed the way I interacted with every female in my life. It had me running to my room when I should have been living life. One night, I got tired of the shame, the addiction, the broken system I was directly feeding. Enough was enough, and I decided I would never, ever, willingly walk back into that bear trap. By prayer and the tough love of a few close friends, I never have.

Dear internet, I don’t watch Game of Thrones because I can’t handle the sexual content. I’m thirty-five. I have three kids that I adore. I sleep beside the most beautiful woman, inside and out, that I’ve ever met. And I’m not putting any of that into jeopardy for a freakin’ TV show.

But, lest you be tempted to not finish this article, let me be clear: I’m not spiritually superior to my friends who can’t wait for 9PM on Sunday nights. My choice to not engage with Game of Thrones doesn’t make me holier than people who do.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, please, for the love, don’t make your choices based on the crowds. Just because a blogger says believers shouldn’t watch Game of Thrones doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Equally, just because half the staff at your local church posts about it every weekend doesn’t mean that you’re ready to dive into the story of the Starks. You don’t need to crowdsource your opinions about culture. You’ve got a much stronger advocate.

On a side note, if I was the Holy Spirit, I’d be pissed about how many people called me “their gut.” Just trust your gut. Don’t do that. Your gut makes poop. It doesn’t think. If you’re a follower of Jesus, he promised you something way better than your GI tract to help you make smart decisions. He said so, right before he died.

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Yes, I’m actually suggesting that you ask God if it’s okay for you to watch a TV show. For that matter, maybe you should ask him about the books you’re reading, the music you’re listening to, the amount of time you do (or don’t) spend at the gym, the people you allow to give their opinions about your life, even how long your sleeping at night. I believe he has opinions. And, shocker, his opinions are pretty spot on.

My biggest pet peeve: water hoses. I know, that’s weird, but they drive me insane because no matter how hard I try, they always kink. It’s 2019, don’t we have a way to fix this by now? Think of your life as a water hose. The good things God has planned for you should be able to flow right through. If that’s not the case (and it rarely is for me too), it’s worth looking for the knots. Is your life knotted around sex? Then maybe Game of Thrones isn’t for you. And for that matter, maybe pop radio isn’t either. Does your life get kinked around the fact that you don’t have a spouse? Maybe you shouldn’t be watching rom-coms or reading Nicholas Sparks. Are you having trouble with forgiveness? Leave Kill Bill in the queue and log-off that Taylor Swift playlist on Spotify. Do you struggle to trust God’s authority over dark spiritual forces? Stay away from the new Sabrina series or American Horror Story.

Here’s the bottomline—your character is more important than your entertainment. I believe God wants to develop much more that’s lying dormant inside you—greater degrees of trust, of obedience, of spiritual breakthrough, of freedom. I love that we get to ask questions like “What TV shows should I watch” and “Which music artists can I listen to?” The early believers in Jesus would never have anticipated these questions. But they too struggled to figure out what it meant to follow Jesus in their cultural context. We don’t get to slink back into our holy huddles. We’re meant to live in this world, enjoying the good things it has to offer and pushing back on the bad.

For the first followers of Jesus, their Game of Thrones debate was about food. Were the followers of Jesus supposed to keep the Jewish kosher laws? Were they allowed to eat food sacrificed to idols—what if they did so without even realizing it?

Paul, an influential leader in the early church, tackles a lot of these questions in his first letter to the church at Corinth. But this wisdom, pulled from that first letter, seems to summarize it best:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Can you do just about anything? Within reason, yes.

Is everything beneficial to you and others? Absolutely not.

Will you be mastered by your choices? You better not be. Jesus paid too high a price for you to be a slave to anything—TV, food, comparison, social media, loneliness, you name it.

Your life is a summation of the decisions you make every day. So make better ones. Engage the advocate Jesus promised you—the Spirit of truth. Tell your gut to shut up. And for the love, stop crowdsourcing your convictions. You know they killed Jesus, right?

Written by Caleb Mathis on Apr 30, 2019