To My Christian Brothers Watching Game of Thrones

August 26, 2017

So a few weeks ago, Keven DeYoung dropped this little gem on why Christians should not watch Game of Thrones (GoT), which was controversial enough for him to write a follow-up.  (Personally, I think John Piper’s article that DeYoung cites is a good read, no matter where you land on this issue.)

Since posting DeYoung’s articles on Facebook, I’ve had several Christians who strongly criticized DeYoung and disagreed with him.  I wont address the criticisms about the tone of the article nor the criticisms that somehow attribute malicious motives on the author.  The tone is hard to judge, and motive impossible to substantiate.  Instead, I would like to address some of the criticisms of the merits of DeYoung’s arguments.

1. “The author … singles out the sex scenes as though they are somehow more sinful than lying, cheating, stealing, killing, etc, “

So why is DeYoung singling out sex on television?  TV is a visual medium, and there is a strong link between seeing and lusting.  Seeing people have sex will naturally cause arousal.  That is why there’s so much porn on the internet; people want to be aroused and they watch porn. (And frankly, that is why the sex scenes are shown in such graphic detail in GoT contrary to their descriptions in the books, as someone who has read the books informed me.  The creators of the show stuck it in there to get you to watch the show.)

The Bible is not blind to this strong link between seeing and lusting.  Jesus said “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Matthew 5:27-29.  Gouging out your eye may be a hyperbole, but it should not diminish the gravity of his warning against wandering eyes.

Jesus doesn’t talk about anger in this way.  There is no proximate or causal link between seeing a person that causes anger.  Same with divorce.  Same with oaths.  To drive this point further, consider Piper’s 8th question in his article: “Am I assuming nudity can be faked?”  Anger, killing, etc. is faked on screen.  Nudity is not.  And if you’re watching people even pretend to have sex, you’re opening yourself to temptation.

I’m sure GoT is a great show.  But do you love the show more than your eyes? Gouge out the show instead.  It’s better for you to have not watched the show than to struggle with lust rest of the afternoon or later at night before you fall asleep.

But let me spur you further.  Consider this instead: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” Job 31:1.

2. “We’d probably have to stop watching the news, too. [W]e would have to skip the parts in the bible…. To witness sin is not to celebrate it. “

I like the word you use, to witness.

To witness is to see something that happens or has happened in the real world, like the news, like the bible.  So when we watch the news or read the Bible, we’re not celebrating the horrific sinful acts.  Witnessing sin is not necessarily celebrating it .  There is a lot of brokenness in the world, and we as Christians are called to be salt and light in it.  We should not put our heads in the sand and avoid all contact with the world.

But compare witnessing some real event vs. watching as a form of entertainment.  Entertainment is a matter of enjoyment.  GoT is a TV show, set in a fantasy world, made for entertainment, created for your enjoyment.

What you take joy in – that is what you celebrate.

Let me spur you further.  To witness has another meaning.  In a court of law, a witness is someone who testifies to what she has seen.  So what are you a witness of, in this waiting, watching world? What will you testify to them about? That you watch the same shows as them?

3. “But the point is that context matters.”

I wholeheartedly agree.  The context in which the sinful acts are presented matter a ton.  Some of the scenes you describe, of rape, incest, etc., are of course set within the story.

Step back, though, and look at the water you’re surround by.  Look at the bigger context of the broken world we’re living in.  Look at the rampant pornography use in the world, in our churches that stunt the spiritual lives of believers.  Look at our society where 1 in 5 women are raped some time in their lives.  Look at the context of the how the show was created, how the gratuitous and unnecessary graphic details of sex were put in there solely to attract more viewers by arousing them.

Yes, context matters, and your choice of entertainment should be informed by it.

Let me make some recommendations.  I just watched the movie “42” few days ago.  It’s a movie about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player to play in the MLB.  There are scenes of intense racism and hatred.  Are we called not to watch that movie due to its depiction of racism and hatred?  By heavens, no!

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