I greatly appreciate Benedict Augustine’s critique of Game of Thrones. Mr. Augustine identified serious moral and artistic defects in the show. And I agree it relies heavily on gratuitous sexuality and violence for its appeal. These points are difficult to dispute. (In fact, that’s not the purpose of this post. I have been kicking around this idea this week, and Benedict Augustine’s post “beat me to the punch.”) Anyone considering watching the show needs to consider these defects seriously.
With this in mind, there is a theme in the show that is worth contemplating, especially for Christians living in a post-Christian age.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Game of Thrones takes place on a continent named Westeros, which is divided into the Seven Kingdoms. Thousands of years before the events in the show, an event known as the Long Night occurred, where the Seven Kingdoms were invaded from the north by the Night King and the Army of the Dead. This army was made of White Walkers and wights, a legion of nearly invincible undead ice-zombie creatures.
The men of Westeros were able to beat back the Night King to the north. To prevent another invasion, The Wall was built. The Wall is a 700-foot high, 300-mile long wall of solid ice. The Wall was manned by several castles guarded by the Brothers of the Night’s Watch – a group of knights who take vows of celibacy and poverty – sworn to protect the kingdom from the White Walkers. The Wall and the Night’s Watch protected the Seven Kingdoms for thousands of years.
Cut to the present. The Wall has existed for 8,000 years. The Long Night, the Night King, and the White Walkers have become the stuff of fairy tales and legend. A story told to scare children. The Night’s Watch–once a noble calling of the best fighting men of Westeros–has been decimated by neglect and carelessness. Because no one believes in the dangers they protect against, the Night’s Watch has become a dumping ground for criminals. Its numbers have declined to a fraction of what is needed to man the wall.
Here’s an exchange that illustrates the problem:
This is what struck me: There is this 700-foot high, 300-mile long wall of ice. Castles built to fortify and defend the wall. An entire army of men, who swear oaths to take no wife and hold no lands, dedicated to defending the wall. And no one believes in anything.
It reminds me of this line from The Lord of the Rings:
Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.
This resonates with me in our post-Christian age. There have been thousands of years since the most important event in human history: The Incarnation. The life of Jesus Christ and the testimony of His Apostles is perhaps one of the best documented historical events of the First Century. And yet, with the passing of time, history has become legend, and legend is becoming myth. Things that were undisputed history (in fact, things that people died for) have become subject to an impossible burden of proof. Was Jesus an actual historical person? Was he crucified? Did the Church pick the right books for the Bible? Are the Gospel writers reliable sources? Etc., etc. Any discussion with a superficial collegiate atheist is full of such myth-making. Religion is under constant attack for being an outdated superstition.
Of course, as Catholics, we are not afraid of critical thinking. And we are not afraid of asking hard questions of our faith–of its historicity, its application to modern society, or its relevance. But it is important to realize the age we live in. History has become legend, and legend is becoming myth. It is incumbent upon us as Christians to be prepared to defend our faith and serve as witnesses to the people of our post-Christian world. Training in apologetics and Church history is critical to our success. Though, like The Wall, the evidence for the truth of Christianity is self-evident, this truth has become lost in our post-modern age.
Make no mistake. We know the truth. The Wall exists for a reason. As the people of the Seven Kingdoms will soon learn, the monsters on the other side of The Wall are real.