Friday, August 11, 2017

Game of Thrones is Theology

Image result for Game of Thrones Arya and the Hound
Two of my favorite characters from Game of Thrones - Arya and The Hound

I love the HBO series Game of Thrones. This fantasy medieval Continent of Westeros is peopled by folks like us.  Like our world and its history, Westeros is place where vice, betrayal, incest, sodomy, devil worship, megalomania and brute force appears to clear the way for a seat on the Iron Throne.

That is the basic appeal, for me anyway.  The worst of us always seem to avoid cancer, heartbreak, neglect, disappointment, favor and position.  The best around us seem to die too young, bear burdens unimaginable, pay the checks and receive scorn for their best efforts.  Just like life in Westeros.

The Captain of the State Championship Football team diddles his sister, murders the kid next door and is appointed by the Ward Committeeman to stand for the Cook County Board.

Just like here.  There are a few good people in public office, (name two) but there are more dummies, grifters, power junkies and cowards smiling over the crowd of hapless helots passing out their palm cards at the polling places every election.

If all of this seems rather depressing to you, it should not.

Life is not Sesame Street, it is more like Westeros, whether we live in Cook County, Pyongyang, or Kenebunkport.

Oprah, the Frugal Gourmet, Phil Donahue, NPR, Bill Moyers Barack Obama and The View numbed us for decades that we should all worship ourselves.

Game of Thrones, like Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, the Wire and other cable dramas appear to have snapped us out of our stupor.

We are not all that important. The world is a Vale of Tears, get over yourself.

We are all redeemable - St. Augustine, Mary Magdalene, Ignatius Loyola, St. Olga of Kiev, Mary of Eygpt, St. Dismas and St. Callsitus, the Whitey Bulger of Rome all managed to turn things around before their obituaries were written.

We are all lovable to other people - even Donald Trump, even Cercei Lannister.

The great Chicago writer John Kass is a huge fan of Game of Thrones.  He recently challenged me to give some examples of " stone cold killers " and crooks who salvaged their souls, like the delightfully thuggish Hound - a knight without pity, but great sense of irony.

This beast serving cruel masters has made an ocean of blood from his victims, some of whom offered him a place on a cold night and the last of their food.  The Hound breakfasted by slaughtering the widower and his daughter. " They would not survive the winter," is his summation to the little girl the brute has saved from his cruel masters.

The little girl is a fierce Arya Stark,, who now appears to be more dangerous than Hound ever dreamed he could be.

John Kass is worried that this girl is now too far gone.

Nope.  Game of Thrones and the above mentioned dramas are at core theology lessons.  Theology draws us back to God, once we have re-hab-ed our way out of the delusion that we are god.  To quote Oprah, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” ― Oprah Winfrey

Worked for the delusional Walt Whitman as well.  Celebrate yourself!  Then what?

God gave us everything.  What do we do with health, finance, family, home, friendships, or integrity?  Do we cave in to "what the heart wants?"  Yep.  More often than not, we do.  Our faith, if we were ever rooted in one, might get us to snap out the need to celebrate ourselves - to be the very bestest me there is - and actually lend a hand to the work around us.

Some of us might become Whitey Bulger, or Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Some few of us might even become a Cardinal George, or a Gertrude Weil.

Most of us live in Flea Bottom, join the Lannister Army, or as Wildings. Some of us advance like the Onion Knight, Ser Davos Seaworth, the perfect model of working man, or the Bastard Jon Snow and find ouselves confronting our worst nightmares as well as pure human villainy.

The bad guys might win, the crumbs might have more in their checking account balances, but soldiering on and taking stock of lives and wondering if there is a right side to history, or whether God's plan includes your future comfort and good fortune are the very things that unite us. We are not 'special, entitled, or vital to life's path.'  We are here and that is good enough.

It took our culture decades to erase God.  It takes time to realize that fact and that God is not going anywhere.

Game of Thrones is not for children.  Game of Thrones is a theology test.

The Hound, Jamie Lannister, Arya Stark and even Little Finger can be redeemed.

Tomorrow, I shall talk about St. Callistus, a slave, an embezzler, a gang-leader, a cut-throat and back-slider who became Pope and a Martyr.

Go to church on Sunday and watch Game of Thrones.

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