Re-crucifying Christ

Marco_palmezzano,_crocifissione_degli_Uffizi There’s this show you may have heard of, Game of Thrones? It’s heavy on the violence and character death and by all accounts there’s also a fair amount of nudity. I’ve only seen a few episodes, but I can testify to both.

Pastor John Piper was asked two questions:

“Pastor John, do you believe there is a difference between film nudity versus pornography? I know many Christians who are against porn, but they have no issue watching movies or TV shows that show graphic nudity.”
and
“Pastor John, what would you say to a Christian who watches the cable TV show Game of Thrones?”

He had a lengthy reply, but a couple of things jumped out at me. One, he said, “If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.” This quote fell under the question “1. Am I Recrucifying Christ?” And under the question “3. When Will I Tear Out My Eye, If Not Now?” he said “Seeing naked women — or seeing naked men — causes a man or woman to sin with their minds and their desires”.

These two responses bother me quite a bit. Hebews 4: says:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt

So in essence he seems to be saying that by watching a show like GoT we risk becoming apostate or that it is as bad as becoming apostate. He also says unequivocally that seeing a naked man or woman automatically makes you sin. While we can certainly argue about whether or not the latter is true in all cases (it’s not, in my opinion), I can’t say that I agree with the former sentiment at all. We all continue to sin. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist sin, and if seeing someone nude does cause you in particular to sin, then you should avoid it. It doesn’t mean that by doing something that someone else sees as a sin in their lives that we are necessarily risking falling out of God’s grace.

The thing that interests me about this is how little he touches on the violent aspect of the show. This is a show were we unflinchingly get to see someone pout molten gold over another man’s head. He does say:

Nudity is not like murder and violence on the screen. Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.

Here’s the thing though. Being naked isn’t a sin. Looking at a naked person isn’t a sin. These men and women aren’t actually having sex (which would be a sin outside of marriage according to Christian doctrine). They’re faking it. Just like they’re faking murder. Sex on screen is make-believe; nobody really gets f***ed. If the reality of the act is what causes the actors and actresses to sin then this doesn’t qualify (unless you can prove that showing the human form is a sin).

Now, he does raise one point that I do find interesting and that I potentially agree with:

11. Am I Craving Acceptance?

Christians do not watch nudity with a view to maximizing holiness. That is not what keeps them coming back to the shows. They know deep down that these television shows or these movies are shot through with the commendation and exaltation of attitudes and actions that are utterly out of step with the death to self and out of step with exaltation of Christ.

No, what keeps those Christians coming back is the fear that if they take Christ at his word and make holiness as serious as I am saying it is, they would have to stop seeing so many television shows and so many movies, and they would be viewed as freakish. And that today is the worst evil of all. To be seen as freakish is a much greater evil than to be unholy.

This is something I will admit to struggling with. I’ve done things that I shouldn’t have, merely to gain acceptance. I won’t for a second pretend to speak for other people’s motives for watching this. I can imagine Christians watching this show for the story telling and the character development. The acting is apparently top notch. I think it’s possible to watch shows like this for perfectly pure and genuine reasons. I also think it’s possible to watch shows or do things that you feel run contrary to your conscience for reasons of gaining acceptance. I would want anyone to do that. Be who you are and remain true to what your conscience tells you to do. I think people will see that and it will speak more to people who disagree with you than any kind of faking it would.

4 Comments »

  • KC Bob says:

    Good thoughts Scott.

  • Richard Green says:

    I think that there is a temptation for Christians to see the sin (or perceived sin) in others; especially the sin that we may not share (or we think we do not share), and judge that sin harshly. At the same time we can justify what *we* want to do with remarkable skill. Jesus knew about these and gave up a number of passages to confront this.

    If we can not address sin (and I think that we are called to treat sin seriously – especially our own) without being judgmental; then I think we really should (pardon the language) shut the hell up.

    Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

    Matthew 23 discusses religious hypocrisy at length, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) addresses who our neighbor is (among other passages).

    Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery, but he reserves his strongest condemnation for the religious hypocrites and those who put more of a religious burden on people than God Himself.

    If watching Game of Thrones is a problem for this guy, then by all means he should stay away from it; but to place a burden on others because of his own issues is dangerous ground.

    Personally, I think a true “fundamentalist” or “Biblical literalist” should pay attention to the whole chapter Jesus spoke against hypocrisy and weigh that against the few verses that may address a specific “hot button” issue. (Yes, I do know that chapter and verse designations came later, I’m just pointing out that there are reasons why certain things get more “Biblical real estate” than others).

    Maybe our response to other people’s sin is to help them be better people … by helping them and by caring about them, and accepting that like the person in the mirror that other person is never going to get rid of all their short comings at least in this life.

    How many people change because of condemnation? How many people change because of love, care, and understanding?

    Are there things that have to be actively railed against and fought against? Yes. We shouldn’t just sit around and let other people cause grievous and violent harm to others. There are some things that should be against the law and have harsh penalties.

    But even then once people are imprisoned, people of God are called to go to the prison and help the criminals where we can, not just shut them away. And this may be one of my greatest sins. I have not been to the prison to seek out the neighbors that I have there. I may be wrong, but I would be surprised if “Pastor John” speaks as harshly about people with this sin as he does to those who watch Game of Thrones. But wouldn’t it make much more of a positive impact to people’s lives if we truly ministered to the prisoners, than the negative impact might be for adults to watch Game of Thrones?

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do think that maybe if we call ourselves Christians maybe we need to see what Jesus might really be trying to tell us; rather than arbitrarily making some sins as more grievously that others on the basis of our own sensibilities.

    Rant over … for now.

    • Scott says:

      Excellent feedback Rich. It’s so easy to point fingers and condemn an entire activity rather than to have a more nuanced view.

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