How to use Game of Thrones to talk about Jesus
Spoiler alert: This article involves spoilers for the Game of Thrones season eight finale. Read at your own risk.
The Game of Thrones finale airs this week. After eight seasons of violence and death, millions will tune in to see who will finally rule the seven kingdoms. While there are strong articles around about watching the show - I believe John Piper called said that Christians watching the type of sex and nudity common on GoT should ask whether they are “recruficying Christ”- there are some who do. So, what does Game of Thrones show us about our world and how can we use it to point others to Jesus?
The reality of our world
While it is true that Game of Thrones is notorious for its graphic representation of violence and sex - including incest, rape and implied bestiality- our own Bible reading shows us that the world has always grappled with these issues so we can’t tie a blindfold around our own eyes and ignore human nature. It is not just in a Game of Thrones universe that violence exists.
That also helps us show the world confronting truths about ourselves and the full extent of our sin. It is not just that humans aren’t always polite or are sometimes selfish. The brutality depicted in Game of Thrones mirrors the brutality in our hearts.
But it’s not just our own lives. It's the Bible too.
The families in the Bible were heavily involved with destruction and sexual deviance. Just look to Jacob’s family. Judah gets his own daughter-in-law pregnant. Dinah, Jacobs’ daughter, is abducted and raped. In revenge, her brothers trick an entire town of people into being circumcised and massacre them all. David, the King, takes a woman to be his lover who is already married and arranges for her husband to be murdered.
The Bible is filled with broken families, people using sex to dominate others, and violence. This is the true state of humanity, and it’s only when we recognise this reality that we are able to grapple with it.
How to use Game of Thrones to talk about Jesus
Rather than pretend that we aren’t watching Game of Thrones, here are some key themes Game of Thrones explores which can point us back to Jesus.
Every human is flawed
The characters depicted in Game of Thrones are morally ambiguous. Even the characters who the audience is positioned to identify with and cheer for make decisions we cannot be comfortable with. A character like Ned Stark who values honour and purity is beheaded. Revolutionaries like Danaerys Targaryen fight for good, but murder thousands in their search of justice.
How you can relate this to Jesus
How many times have you heard someone say “I’m a good person. I’ve made some mistakes, but on the whole I’m okay”. This attitude is common, but it’s not actually true.
Game of Thrones is confronting in that you see your favourite characters descend into moral ambiguity, but it is helpful to remember that human nature is fundamentally flawed. We are all broken before God.
“What comes out of a man, that is what defiles him. For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man.” - Mark 7:20-23
Are there any “good” characters on Game of Thrones?
Death is a reality we will all have to face
Game of Thrones is notorious for killing off key characters. Over the last eight seasons we have said goodbye to many characters who- at the time - seemed like the protagonists. A constant in Game of Thrones is that your favourite characters will end up dead.
How you can talk about Jesus.
It is easy when not confronted with death every day, to forget the reality of death. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will be fully aware of the frailty of the human body. As Christians, we have reason to be aware of death, but also a hope that speaks into that vulnerability.
"And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son."
– 1 John 5:11
How does it make you feel seeing so many characters dying?
The cyclical nature of life
A central theme in Game of Thrones is the cyclical nature of the fight for power. Dany’s speech describing the houses as “spokes on a wheel” which continually crush each other is a powerful reminder that things don’t change. Despite the promise of Danerys to “break the wheel”, she become a ruler just like her father and is eventually murdered. While the finale does show some hope for a slightly more democratic way of government, the struggle for power among the remaining characters is likely to remain.
How you can talk about Jesus
The Bible is realistic about the cyclical nature of humanity. We read in Ecclesiastes that there is “nothing new under the sun”. And we see throughout the Old Testament the pattern of rebellion against God repeated over and over. Kingdoms rise and fall, politicians make promises and fail to keep them.
For anyone feeling dispirited about the recent election, the Bible gives confidence in a King who we know will bring peace and justice. Jesus breaks the repetitive cycle of political power struggles.
"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." Revelation 11:15
How long do you think Bran and his council will last?
What does it mean to long for the end to the destruction
Before the finale, cast members had all but promised audiences would be unsatisfied with the ending. There is already a petition signed by 600,000 asking for the entire final season to be redone.
Whatever your opinion on season eight and the new council, it is not a satisfying ending. Too many people are dead. Too many people have been hurt. While I do hope that Bran and his council will be able to make this vague democracy work, it seems unlikely.
It is easy, in modern day Sydney, where elections are peaceful and everyone drives on the left side of the road, to stop longing for heaven and true peace. If the bloodshed and destruction depicted by Game of Thrones helps us long for true peace, and can help us point others to the one who brings this - in the real world, then perhaps it was worth watching after all.