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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.

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You Say “Immature” Like It’s a Bad Thing

Fans in Stadium CelebratingI’ve been to a few men’s retreats in my life. (The ladies are so intolerant when I try to sign up for theirs.) I recall one men’s retreat in particular. We were well into the retreat when a contingent of men shared their disappointment about the theme and lessons presented by the speakers. The theme was fairly mainstream for a group of Christian men, so I was a bit surprised by their discontent. Granted, the speakers encouraged men to confront some of their deepest emotional injuries and disappointments in order for the Lord to bring healing (an endeavor akin to asking ladies at a women’s retreat to participate in bare-skin paintball battles).

After decades in the church ecosystem, I have learned many things. Here is one definitely worth sharing: not every sermon, men’s retreat theme, conference speaker, Bible study lesson, worship song or worship team will move me spiritually, speak to me in a profound way, or have anything to do with me. It is OK to feel a little disappointed when this happens. But simply put, sometimes the message is from God to others and our role is that of a witness to support and affirm what God is doing in the lives of the people for whom the message is meant. When we are able to do this, I believe it is a milestone in our journey of maturity in the faith. Oddly enough, I receive a blessing when I accept that the message is not for me and I pray for and encourage those to whom God is speaking.