Anyone who listens to our Homebrewed Christianity CultureCast knows that we love Game of Thrones. The writing is complex and dramatic, and the characters are fascinating. What’s more, after the recent “Red Wedding” episode, we’re all too aware that no character, no matter how important or beloved, is safe.
The series, set in a fictitious medieval Europe, is also dark, exploitive, highly sexualized at times, and one has to stretch to glean any moral redemption from the episodes. As such, there’s a debate swirling online about whether Christians can or should watch such a show. Where’s the Gospel? How can we justify all the sex and bloodshed? Do we watch with the (possibly deluded) hope that things will incline toward virtue, even though the series creator has suggested no such intention?
Or should we just turn it off?
Now, there’s a constituency of evangelicals and Tea Partiers who claim that, since the coffee super-chain Starbucks supports same-sex partner benefits, drinking their coffee (and therefore inadvertently supporting gay rights, I suppose) is anti-Christian. So sorry, followers of Jesus, but that favorite frappuccino you look forward to every afternoon is off the menu. If you don’t want to make Jesus cry, at least.
Now, I could go the route at this point of pointing out any number of Biblical passages which seem to have little or no redeeming values, like the story of Jael* driving a tent stake through a man's temple, or Lot throwing his daughters to an angry mob to be gang-raped. I could also go the way of arguing that Jesus hung out with – and even ministered to – the socially marginalized rather than shunning them, and that he never once said anything about homosexuality.
But that’s not the point this time. While I affirm the right of any Christian to boycott a product, show, or the like, and even to explain why in the public square, I’m weary of the heavy-handed tendency of Christians to slap the “anti-Christian” label on anything they find objectionable. Granted, I’ve probably done this to some degree in the past, and yes, there are behaviors and words that are inherently un-Christ-like. But don’t tell me that my cup of coffee is anti-Christian.
By this logic:
If you drive a car powered by gasoline, your car and what you use to make it move are un-Christian, given the lives exploited and lost in the name of procuring affordable oil.
If you buy clothing or other goods without knowing all of the sources of those goods, chances are dozens of things you’ll wear, consume or otherwise use today are un-Christian, because they take advantage of the poor and are hostile to the environment.
If you have any money invested in the stock market, and if you don’t research every company in which you invest, your way of life likely is funded by anti-Christian means in more ways than one.
So I ask which is more important: whether a made-up show we watch on Sunday nights portrays a dark underside of humanity that is hard to reconcile with a world otherwise imagined by Christ and his followers, or the actual underside of our own daily habits and lives, buttressed by the sweat, blood, and very lives of those with less power than we have?
Until we get all of that sorted out, I’d suggest putting the “anti-Christian” moniker on the sideline when it comes to our entertainment and choice of coffee.
Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician, and spoken word artist. He is director of church growth and development at First Christian Church in Portland, Ore. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date."
Image: Starbucks cup, by EgoAnt / Flickr.com
*Correction: An earlier version of this piece mistakenly used the name Heber to refer to the woman. Heber was Jael's husband.