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Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark, and Matt Walsh

Recently, Matt Walsh told Christians that now is probably a good time to stop watching Game of Thrones. http://themattwalshblog.com And he may be right. But I still disagree with him.

I’m not a prude when it comes to books, movies, and TV shows. But there comes a time when I feel like the producers, writers, and directors are making things as graphic as possible just because they can. I gave up on American Horror Story, because the sex and violence was gratuitous, sensationalist, and the story appeared to be centered around characters who were devoid of a moral compass of any kind. It started to feel unhealthy and salty (as addictive and empty as Cheese Puffs) and I couldn’t find a single thing pointing to God. In other words, the show was going to starve me spiritually. And, as a wise woman once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

The reason Matt Walsh may be right is because Game of Thrones has gotten lazy about throwing in the perfunctory nudity/sex scene, and it has nothing to do with story development. However, it’s not titillating to someone like me. It feels more like the show has paused to show a commercial on how nameless, faceless men and women living in the gritty reality of something like the middle ages can still have flawless skin, flat stomachs, and no hair below the neck. It takes away from the fictional realism and removes the audience from the show. In other words, it’s bad art.

The reason I (somewhat) disagree with Matt Walsh is because the scene in question, the rape of Sansa Stark, was not in any way gratuitous. Only her bare back from the waist up is exposed (she’s fully clothed otherwise), and the act takes place off screen. It was not pointless sensationalism, either. In fact, it was the exact opposite. For the first time–after watching women raped and brutalized through five seasons–the woman/girl in question is humanized so much that seeing her humiliated and reduced to nothing but a vehicle for pleasure by the villainous Ramsey Bolton struck a chord with many. But this is exactly how rape works. It’s the reality of rape, and it’s about time someone has the guts to show it in front of such a large audience.

It’s telling, however, that our culture is more horrified that it’s made to feel horrified, because it’s harrowing to see the daughter of the beloved Eddard Stark abused in such a way. But that same culture is unconcerned with all the other young women treated as slabs of meat in pornography, magazines, music videos, and Game of Thrones itself. It’s not a big deal, though, because…well, we didn’t watch them grow up. We can’t see them as their fathers’ daughters. And….so….it doesn’t matter.

But isn’t that the definition of “gratuitous?”

I still love Game of Thrones, becauseĀ I believe that all art, all good art, all art that simply strives–not to push an agenda–but to be excellent, points to God, no matter how gritty it gets. (The honest frustration expressed in A Perfect Circle’s “Judith” has more richness than the fluffy generic references to the joy of Christian-hood churned out by some Contemporary Christian artists.) Likewise, in Game of Thrones, every time a man believed to be hopelessly wicked starts on a path to redemption, it points to God. Redemption, after all, is a story only Christianity can tell. Those who tell it while rejecting Christianity are quoting a Master without referencing the source, but the Master’s work is still evident. (God always wins.)

Every time a man lays down his life for the sake of others in Game of Thrones, it’s retelling the story of love, the story of Christ. Every time the lofty goals of the heroic are cut short by treachery, it reminds us of how confusing and hopeless life can seem at times, that all our aims and expectations can be cut short by unforeseen circumstances. It reminds me of my own smallness, how I am just a grain of sand in the vast ocean, in a world that is merely a dot in the galaxy, which is merely a speck in the universe.

It reminds me of the immensity of God and his creation and how much of it I don’t understand.

So, no, I won’t stop watching Game of Thrones. But I respect the warning that Matt Walsh gives. It reminds me to slow down and consider what I’m consuming, what I’m putting into my head. I have stumbled many times in this area. The concern of fellow Christians, even if the initial sting of criticism is always unpleasant, has helped me say goodbye to several less-than-savory movies and TV shows, even books.

My advice to other Christians who are also Game of Thrones fans is to take Walsh’s warnings to heart, and with a grain of salt. Evaluate why you are watching the show. Is it enhancing your life, your walk with Christ? Or is it hampering it?

Then, if you will, remind yourself that criticism, something this culture fears and rejects beyond anything else, is actually a useful societal tool, something we all sorely need now and then.

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Why Christianity Isn’t Selling Anymore

My (biased, uneducated, and hasty) perspective on why Christianity is dwindling in the west.

1. Christians are terrible representatives of Christianity. Take myself for example. I have a bad attitude, a foul mouth, and when things don’t go my way, I’m like any 2-year-old throwing a tantrum. I’m also opinionated and bossy, and sometimes I’d rather be right than loving. Okay, I’d always rather be right than loving.

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But Christians as a whole are even worse, and most Christians are Circumstantial Christians, which means their personal lives and their faith don’t actually intersect. So an atheist is more likely to live a life of morality than a Circumstantial Christian, because an atheist had to actually think about it.

In other words, it’s hard to put a good spin on Christianity with a world full of “Christians” doing terrible things.

2. The Church hasn’t kept with the paces. They got stuck in the feel-good, gooey alter calls of the 80’s and 90’s and haven’t changed fashion since. They neglected to disciple their followers. They threw tradition out the window and opted for contemporary and easy-going and forgot about substance, sacrifice, and sacredness.

The sacred act of worshiping God can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, possibly a little sobering, or maybe even a little boring. But when the Body of Christ is fed more than just baby food delivered with flashing lights and big happy sounds, the Body receives actual nourishment. It isn’t flabby and weak, like those Christians who have lost their ability to digest anything of substance.

The rest of us are going hungry.

3. Churches failed to recognize a growing demographic within their pews: Single people without children. Churches have a place for babies, children, teenagers, and college kids in between. They have a place for families and married couples, marriage retreats, you name it. But virtually nothing for single men and women. And since being unmarried and childless is becoming almost as commonplace as being married, an entire group of people has been lost to the church.

It’s not all their fault. Some of us single people, facing the pain of being in a place filled with families, husbands, and wives, have quietly slipped away. In a sense, we failed them as much as they failed us.

4. They didn’t tackle the issue of homosexuality the way it should have been tackled. No, I don’t think the church and Christians should open their arms and declare homosexuality a God-ordained practice, as some churches have. Clearly, it’s not. The Bible is explicit about condemning the acts, in the same vein that it condemns other sexually immoral practices–such as incest and bestiality.

However, the church should have had the foresight to welcome sinners, all sinners, including those who struggle with the sin of homosexuality. While the church was focused on making a home for single mothers, divorced couples, alcoholics, and pornography addicts, it forgot to make room for gay people, struggling with a unique set of sins no better or worse than anyone else’s.

5. Last of all, churches have failed to be places where members of a Christian community come to serve others. Instead, churches are places where Christians come to be served. The pastor, youth director, and music leader are all there to serve us, to meet our needs, to keep us happily entertained and comfortable for 60 minutes a week.

This makes being a Christian easy. I don’t have to commit to anything except those 60 minutes. In fact, the Church has made Christianity so easy and so comfortable, it hardly seems worth it.