Monthly Archives: April 2014

Game of Thrones is NOT Downton Abbey

(Photo: Jack Gleeson by Flickr/Veronica Paz)

(Photo: Jack Gleeson by Flickr/Veronica Paz)

(Spoiler alert) In the HBO series Game of Thrones, King Joffrey embodies what happens when an adolescent acquires absolute power: cruelty and tyranny. Of course the same could be said of some modern politicians; there’s no telling what debauchery and evil schemes they indulge for sport and the maintenance of their power. Perhaps King Joffrey would have been less insufferable if he’d had an iPad on which to play Assassins Creed or Call of Duty. Anyhow, King Joffrey is dead. Long live the King! If you want the gory details of Joffrey’s demise you’ll have to watch the most recent episode. It isn’t for the squeamish.

Jack Gleeson, the actor who portrays King Joffrey, does an excellent job inspiring viewers of the series to despise him. His character is the opposite of what humanity hopes for in a leader. I admit it was with smug satisfaction when I saw the clip of King Joffrey’s death at his own wedding (oh the irony). Youtube has videos of peoples’ reaction to the end of King Joffrey’s reign. Suffice it to say, viewers cheered. I find it encouraging that many people, even today, can still recognize an obviously nefarious despot. Of course in real life not all leaders are so obvious in their wickedness. Modern players of the Game of Thrones have learned to be shrewd. How can we tell if a leader is good?

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother taught him three pearls of wisdom for a king: (1) Don’t waste your strength on promiscuous women. (2) Kings should not crave beer and wine which clouds judgment. (3) Kings are supposed to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, and defend the rights of the poor. Proverbs 31 confirms that humanity has always had leaders who struggle with personal vices and misguided focus. When was the last time we saw a king or political leader who reflected all three of these pearls of wisdom? Power remains to this day a very addicting and toxic thing. Few have the wisdom and morality to wield it properly. Fortunately God has a hand in who rises to power, and who falls from power.

Game of Thrones is clearly not a representation of the positive and lighthearted side of monarchies and oligarchies (with the possible exception of Tyrion’s wit). The often abysmal real-life history of monarchies and oligarchies testifies to the exceptionalism of the rare unsullied leader who wields power solely to help the people. This is why Christ is so appealing to millions around the world. He is the ultimate king with unlimited power, and yet he only has our best interest at heart. Even democracies and republics can’t boast of producing many leaders who ALWAYS place the people first. Yes, human systems of government will always be subject to the schemes of corrupt individuals. This reality makes Christ and his Kingdom very precious, at least to those who choose to be part of his Kingdom.

On a side note, do I recommend Game of Thrones to new viewers? Nope. Why? Well, the acting is very good and the storyline draws you in like a good book, but the gore, coarse language, and explicit sexuality are necessary elements to the story. Such elements are not exactly conducive to Christianity’s imperative that we renew our minds. On the other hand, the show reminds us that some people remain honorable and good in the midst of darkness. Game of Thrones is not for the squeamish or those with delicate sensibilities. The ladies book club at church should probably pass on this one. I’m just saying.

Malaysia Airlines Mystery Flight

MH900442499A Fox News report begins: “The world is riveted by the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, and the world media has focused on it non-stop for over a week.” CNN managed to dramatically increase their ratings on the back of this mystery story, which, let us not forget, still includes families waiting in terrible anguish to hear the fate of their loved ones on flight 370.

What is it about this mystery that drives people and news organizations to follow every twist and turn of the story, even when there aren’t that many actual twists and turns? The past few weeks we’ve seen news media cover this story like they cover an action-packed basketball game (I feel guilty even blogging about it), except there isn’t much genuine action happening in the reporting of the story, just the contrived illusion of “breaking news.” The actual pace of this story is much slower than the media portrays. I don’t just blame the news media; I blame consumers (me included) of news. Our attention spans and our ability to discern the difference between actual news and hype have become dangerously compromised. As a result, we are easily seduced and manipulated into spending copious quantities of our precious time glued to the “news.”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the fascination of a compelling mystery. Human beings have an innate need to solve mysteries. We crave answers to questions. We love to discuss theories about what happened. After all, people are still looking for Amelia Earhart’s plane, and it disappeared in 1937. To me, the core of the Malaysia Airlines story is a reoccurring one: a blend of human tragedy brought on in part by humanity’s often arrogant confidence in our own technology (think Titanic, the unsinkable ship). We have a powerful curiosity about what went wrong because the fact that something did indeed go wrong makes us uncomfortable. Sure, we want to learn and prevent things from going wrong in the future, though we know in our heart that the complete elimination of tragedy is unlikely. It is part of the compromise we make to risk in order to learn and improve the human condition. Even the most timid among us can’t navigate this life without taking on some degree of risk. Thinking about risk makes me wonder if God takes risks. My gut tells me God risked more than we will ever know by breathing life into the lungs of humanity and, later, sending his Son to the cross. What’s the risk to God? Answer: rejection.

The mystery of flight 370 will likely be solved, one day. And until the day when all mysteries are solved, we can enjoy the mystery of our faith.

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
Psalms 139:8