Over the years Northern Ireland has been famous for a number of reasons. Once described as the last bastion of Protestantism in western Europe, it was for many years known for its adherence to the historic Protestant evangelical faith, with churches on every corner and a gospel heritage unequalled in most parts of the west world. As the birthplace of the Titanic and the home of Van Morrison, Joey Dunlop and George Best, their achievements have caused its name to echo round the world. Sadly it has also been synonymous with terrorism as a result of the violence laden years of 'the troubles'. In recent years however it has obtained another association, that of the hit HBO television series Game of Thrones. Due to Northern Ireland providing a number of filming locations it has become widely associated with the program, and is now a popular tourist destination for its fans. Although the series is undoubtedly a profitable marketing tool for Northern Ireland's tourism industry it must surely be the case that the association which Northern Ireland now has with Game of Thrones should not be a matter of pride, but rather one of shame. In Jeremiah 3:2 the Lord rebuked the people for their sinfulness saying that 'thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness'. Rather than being something to celebrate, Northern Ireland's link with Game of Thrones is a pollution on our land, and a cause for great sadness.
To oppose anything popular on the grounds of biblical morality will quickly attract the scorn of the world, comparisons will be made with Mary Whitehouse's attempts to clean up television during the 70s and 80s, and the inevitable accusations of puritanical censorship will follow. Yet the case of Game of Thrones is surely so clear that no believer can have cause to celebrate their country's association with it, or to in any way personally endorse it. Rather it must be our lament that for a country once steeped in the gospel, this is now Northern Ireland's most significant claim to fame.
The argument will be made by some that it is not possible to reject a programme without having watched it, yet the content of Game of Thrones is not in dispute. Even secular media have commented negatively on its gratuitous use of sex and violence, which has included frequent scenes of rape and incest. A columnist for the New York Times reported that that 'rape has become so pervasive in the drama that it is almost background noise: a routine and unshocking occurrence'. However the argument around ignorance of the show's content is negated by a simple examination of the 'Parents Guide' section on IMDB (Internet Movie Database), which quickly confirms that the show is undeniably replete with explicit scenes of nudity, sex and violence. References to perversions such as bestiality, prostitution and incest are also common, with incestuous relationships a central theme throughout the show's eight seasons.
In Philippians 4 the apostle Paul instructs the believers that 'whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things'. The psalmist David also said 'I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes'. Can we read these verses and see Game of Thrones as being pure and of good report? Is it not the case the multitudes in our country who watch it are most surely setting a wicked things before their eyes? If Game of Thrones is unacceptable viewing then the question must be asked as to what would constitute a program being unacceptable for a Christian to watch. An actor in the series has himself likened the frequent sexual scenes to 'German porn from the 1970s'. What cause then is there for anyone to celebrate Northern Ireland's association with it. It is but one sign of the moral downgrade in society that such content is no longer frowned upon, but rather celebrated.
What can a Christian learn from Game of Thrones? That man is totally depraved, and inclined towards the most vile of sins ... but you don't need to watch the programme to know that.