My Facebook newsfeed was full of statuses over the last two weeks. (I tried to make a joke about the Stark reality that all the posts I Red were from Christians but that just died in the words – like my jokes were Robbed). To many people who don’t watch the show it would have been a sickening surprise to realise that so many Christians were sucked into this show, but as a former watcher I know how addictive the show can be.
There is a lot of talk going around about the deception and lies found in Scandal and how it is an abomination for the people of God to watch it. There was also a lot of talk about Harry Potter and how it should be banned from screens, et cetera et cetera, because it deals with witchcraft. There was also a lot of talk about The Golden Compass. And then there’s Spartacus, Mad Men, and pretty much anything else that shows on HBO after 9pm. Scandal never interested me (I sigh at shows on ABC), neither did The Golden Compass, but if they did, the reasons why I should not watch them as a Christian wouldn’t really cause me to think twice.
“It’s just entertainment,” we say. Such shows are cried down for their obvious taboos while other shows continue to slip in under the radar. “You don’t watch Scandal, but you watch Game of Thrones?” my internal dialogue mocked me one day. And that’s pretty much the theory. If we can find good in one show we allow it.
I stopped watching GoT because one day I did something wrong. I sat down and looked at myself with God and had to answer this question: what’s the difference between GoT and porn? Porn has no storyline. Of course, there’s more to GoT than naked bodies. There’s violence, lots of cursing and a thick, well-written storyline. But that was not what stopped me. Half way through season 3, when Lord Baylish and Varys had their conversation by the Iron Throne, I thought “wow this plot is very twisted. Everyone is playing games so they can rule” – hence why it’s called Game of Thrones. And it was that deceiving nature that I did not want in my life as a leader.
The series had become my model of leadership, as all series are models of something. When we love a character we identify with it and adopt some of his/her tendencies, either using them ourselves or condoning their use.
Now, of that non-exhaustive list mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, anyone can justify watching any show. The opening phrase of the well-known verse in 1 corinthians 6:13 echoes continually in churches – everything is permissible. Paul said it twice! It’s true. It’s there. But the scripture goes on to point out that though everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial. And though everything is permissible Christians will not be mastered by anything. Should not…must not…will not…
In my time talking with God about these things I came to realise that the moment I try to justify something to be right is the moment it’s wrong. Anything not done from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). “I am the king of excuses. I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do” DC Talk sang. And it’s true, we are free to do anything. But as Galatians 5:13 says, do not use this freedom to indulge your flesh, because freedom is not being able to do whatever we want, it is being able to do what is right.
So the pastor watches GoT, maybe even used it in a sermon to bring out a point. That doesn’t mean we have permission to do it as well. We have to know our faith for ourselves. Some things in our lives may not cause us to fall but are they beneficial to our individual tasks to which God has called us? Jesus said in John 15 that he will cut off every branch that does not bear fruit. Not every bad branch or weak branch but every fruitless branch – anything that hinders us from the purpose God has made each of us. Let us therefore throw off anything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1, emphasis added).