Written by: Kevin DeYoung
I don’t understand Christians watching Game of Thrones. That’s what I said two weeks ago. And a bazillion blog and Facebook comments later, I still don’t understand.
This seems like an important enough issue–not the show itself, but the larger principle at stake–that I thought a follow up post might be helpful. Let me zip through a number of common criticisms and then finish with one salient point.
1. You haven’t even seen the show! True, but no one has tried to refute that Game of Thrones is full of graphic sex scenes. The facts of the matter aren’t in dispute.
2. Don’t like it? Then don’t watch it! That would be a fine point if the argument only concerned taste and preference. But what would you say if your son tried that line in defense of his pornography?
3. The Bible is full of sex and violence. This is a popular retort, though hardly persuasive. No one is arguing that reading about sin, or even, in every case, watching sin, is necessarily sinful. But there is a world of difference between a terse description of sin (David lay with Bathsheba), a metaphor-laden poem about romantic love (Song of Songs), or a chapter about the ugliness of spiritual adultery (Ezekiel 16) and watching two naked people pretend to have sex. There’s a reason the Bible speaks of the lusts of the eyes. Hollywood skin and Hollywood sex are meant to arouse. That’s the aim. That’s part of the attraction. By contrast, the Bible never aims toward unholy arousal–exactly the opposite. The most explicit sexual book in the Bible celebrates the pleasures of married love with metaphorical language that is designed not to encourage voyeurism but to appreciate the beauty of a what God created for one man and one woman.
4. Sex scenes and nudity don’t phase me. No doubt, people are wired differently, but I question whether the folks who says this know themselves as well as they think. And if looking upon what God has forbidden has no effect on us, that’s not a good sign.
5. My conscience isn’t bothered. The conscience can misfire (Heb. 10:22). We may not feel conviction for sin where we should (1 Tim. 4:2). God covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Gen. 3:21). Job made a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1). And Christians are commanded to dress modestly (1 Peter 3:3-4). Sex scenes should bother us.
6. Stop judging and shaming! Judgmentalism is a spirit of censorious nitpicking. Making moral evaluations is what Christians do all the time, like arguing that a television show is not appropriate or that a blog post is judgmental.
7. I close my eyes during the bad parts. Better than nothing, I suppose. But how reliable really is squinting and peaking to see when the bad stuff if over? And how important is it to watch HBO that we must go to these lengths to get in on the action? Someone mentioned that they use VidAngel to cut out the bad parts. That’s a better option.
8. Most shows have good and bad elements. The story and artistry outweigh these bad scenes. But everyone agrees (I hope) that some elements are so bad that the good stuff is not worth it. Like picking up Playboy for the articles. Or thumbing through the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to enjoy the pretty beaches. Granted, Game of Thrones is a more impressive piece of art (from what I’ve heard) than these blatant attempts at sexual stimulation. But then again, from what I’ve heard, the sex scenes in Game of Thrones are pretty blatant too.
9. I watch the show to engage my co-workers with the gospel. I’m willing to bet that the number of unbelievers coming to Christ through Game of Thrones chatter is quite low. Perhaps we could get to the gospel more quickly in gently explaining why we don’t watch the show.
10. Don’t we have more important things to worry about? Of all the bad social media arguments, Whataboutism is one of the worst. There are always a thousand other important issues we could be addressing. But then again, there are also a thousand other important things we could be doing rather than watching graphic sex scenes on television.
The Heart of the Matter
The problem with these rebuttals is that most of them make an implicit assumption; namely, that immersing ourselves in sensual entertainment is somehow a gray area of Christian liberty. It isn’t.
Which leads to my one salient point: I’ve not come across a single, compelling argument for the legitimacy of Christians viewing graphic sex scenes.
From Adam and Eve scrambling for fig leaves (Gen. 3:10), to the dishonorable nakedness of Noah (Gen. 9:21), to the embarrassingly exposed buttocks of David's men (2 Sam. 10:4), the Bible knows we inhabit a fallen world in which certain aspects of our bodily selves are meant to be hidden. Indeed, this is precisely what Paul presumes when he speaks of "our unpresentable parts" which must be "treated with greater modesty" (1 Cor. 12:23). There's a reason Momma called them private parts. Outside of marriage, we aren’t mean to show them, and we aren’t meant to see them.
Does anyone actually think the Apostle Paul (or any other Apostle, or Jesus for that matter) would have been cool with the sensuality that is prevalent in Game of Thrones (and so much of our entertainment)? We are not talking about marble statues or a Holocaust documentary or a physician examining a patient. We are talking about two naked people doing in front of us what naked people do together. Take the medium of television out of it. Would you go into a private room and look through a peep hole to watch this? Would anyone think that’s the sort of thing we can give thanks for? Or the sort of thing mature Christians do?
If there are serious Christians reading this blog who really feel okay with viewing graphic nudity and sex, I humbly challenge you to take a week and pray every day, asking God if you are listening to the Spirit and reading the word correctly on this matter. Better yet, take a month to pray, and during that month do a detox of anything that could possibly be construed as sexually explicit or provocative. You may see with new eyes what you are too comfortable seeing at the moment. You may even realize there has been a nagging conviction of sin that you’ve been pushing aside as nothing but religious baggage. And in coming to grips with our casual approach to sexual sin, could it be you are missing out on grace, forgiveness, and the purity of heart that is blessed to see the Lord (Matt. 5:8).
On occasion I’ve stumbled upon a few minutes of PG-13 movies I used to enjoy as a teenager (like the Naked Gun series). I’m appalled by the things that didn’t tweak my conscience then but do now. We are so awash in sensuality that many Christians have no idea how compromised they’ve become. I’m not on a crusade to banish one particular TV show. The show itself is not the point. But as long as I am still considered somewhat “young” and “current,” I want to do all I can to ring the bell for holiness and sound the alarm against all the high places we don’t even recognize. Only in a hyper-sexual, pornographic-saturated culture like ours could we think that graphic sex scenes are no big deal, or somehow offset by a brilliant screenplay. I cannot imagine how anyone growing closer to the God of the Bible will want to see more sex and nudity, or that anyone has found shows like Game of Thrones to be a serious blessing in seeing and savoring Christ. We become what we behold. So let’s be careful little eyes what we see.