Game of Thrones Beats the Bible for Violence?

Game of Thrones more violent than the Bible?
Someone headlined a story about this addictive program that postulated that the Game of Thrones featured more death than the Bible, with the implication being that the show must also beat the Bible in the arena of violence. With the season finale upcoming on 9 June, it seems like a good question to ask.

Last week USA Today asked the question of whether or not it is acceptable for Christians to watch the über popular HBO series of Game of Thrones. Interesting question, but now, will Christians themselves not get a little upset at the claim of Thrones gaining a lead on the Bible in the violence and death stakes.

The show currently has more than 5.5 million viewers. Arguably the show is additively entertaining and that, despite an obvious lack of morality, it features more than it’s fair share of death and destruction. While excitement and murderous characters obviously make for high ratings, does it, in fact challenge Biblical death rates?

This is a show that keeps fans gripped with it’s bloody, ruthless struggles for power between the Westeros clans and its medieval sword and sorcery setting from the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series written by George R. R. Martin.

Game of Thrones is beyond question a fantastically successful show. With the show’s season three finale airing on 9 June, just the amount of fans that will be tuning in for this momentous event has already guaranteed a season four and it will most likely have a season five as well.

So fans can rest easy knowing that, if nothing else, the murder, mayhem, rampant sex, sword play and sorcery will be back, despite this season’s violent and deadly endings of so many character. It remains to be seen if everyone thinks that the high body counts are of Biblical proportions. There is current joke about author George R.R. Martin.

Referencing the hight body count someone tweeted, “Why doesn’t George R.R. Martin use twitter? Because he killed all 140 characters.”

It is show’s prevalent themes of sex, murder, double crossing and mayhem that brought up the question of whether Christians should be watching the show last week. But unlike the Bible Game of Thrones is not an old fashioned type of morality tale. Where the villains get their comeuppance. It is a show where allegiances ebb and flow about as much as the sexual trists do.

While the question of whether or not Game of Thrones beats the Bible in terms of violence seems almost trite. One has to remember that both “verse” where the events take place, whether it be in the time of Christian historical events or the fictional setting of Thrones, it is a violent brutal world.

It is the televised brutality, along with lots of ramppant sex that has raised the debate of whether it is morally acceptable for Christians to watch. But while the Bible isn’t aired on TV each week, we’re not going to include all the Biblical film epics that get repeated on late night television, the world of the ancient Christian was pretty grim.

Any Christian or theology student will tell you that the Bible is full to the brim with, violence, sex, murder, mayhem, scandalous dealings, and even magic, or sorcery if you’d rather use that term. So while the question of whether or not the popular Game of Thrones can beat the Bible in terms of violence, remains to be seen.

The “good book” as it is often referred to, has plenty of the above mentioned acts in it.

And sorcery.

The Christian guidebook, aka the Bible, gives us more than a passing nod to the evidence of sorcery and witchcraft. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” is one of the best known references to magic and sorcery. Another well known reference deals with the aforementioned Moses. “The Egyptian Kings advisors had magic.” Although it turned out that Moses and his God had a much more powerful sort than the King’s lackeys.

Jesus himself, walked on water; turned water into wine; brought Lazarus back from the dead; and of course the real show stopper was His own returning from the dead. So in modern parlance, you could say that he was a sorcerer or a magician of his time.

But Game of Thrones doesn’t all revolve around magic. Nor does it rely too heavily on religion. What it relies upon is a lot of murderous violence and death. So much so that it caused Josh Gad to cry out, “You’re killing us here!”

We agree to a point, but honestly they aren’t killing us as much as each other. And don’t forget double-crossing. That alliances are made, broken, shifted and re-made also form a huge part of the Games of Thrones verse.

Double-crossing played a huge part in the Bible as well. From Sampson’s gal Delilah who conned the strongman into divulging the secret of his strength, to a lambs fleece on the top of the wrong son’s head to fool a dying father about the identity of the son whom he wanted to bestow his last blessing to.

There have been complaints about a lack of redemption for any of the characters of the show, but redemption is not guaranteed, even in the bible. Even that great leader of men Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land because he’d disobeyed God. Where is the redemption in that?

But the program and the books that it is adapted from aren’t trying to copy the Bible, it is a different bit of lore that they are recreating. Martin has just come up with a cast of characters that are extremely popular and made their lives interestingly brutal and bloody.

Martin tells us that in his world evil isn’t always defeated by the forces of good. In fact, he and the shows creators are suggesting that evil wins the day, a lot. The bad guys consistently get to grab the brass ring and have the added pleasure of kicking their opponents teeth in at the same time.

In an interview with The New Republic, the author said, “We don’t tend to have wars or political controversies where one side is really ugly and wears dark clothing, where the other side wears white and has glowing magical swords.”

That the television show is adapted from, with a lot of help from the author himself, a fantasy verse that is dark and bloody and cruel. It is enormously popular, so much so that it has spawned countless blogs, forums, and even a philosophy behind the show.

Martin himself appears to be asking us, “What constitutes good and what constitutes evil? What happens if our good intentions produce evil? Does the end justify the means?”

According to The Rev. Jim McDermott, a Jesuit priest who is studying screenwriting at the University of California in Los Angeles, that in the “Game of Thrones,” raw power and high birth provide no guarantee of protection. And, like the Bible, the series finds unlikely heroes among “the shattered, the shunned and the disregarded.”

Rev McDermott believes that the realism in the show is proof positive that life is often hard and unfair — but everyone shares in that fate. Writing in America Magazine he said, “And salvation is not the purview of some elect, nor does grace inherently reside in a crown. As with horror, so hope springs from the most unexpected of quarters.”

But not necessarily. The story lines continue to unfold and evolve. Martin hasn’t finished the final book that will serve as the template for the rest of the series. Will there be a moment of final redemption? We don’t know.

While it remains to be seen if the world of Game of Thrones will have a defining redemptive moment or not the show itself does try very hard to “out-Bible” the Bible in the arena of violence, but, having read the books, I think Thrones has a way to go yet. The season finale on 9 June will bring us that little bit closer to knowing.

By Michael Smith


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