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Should a Christian be Watching Game Of Thrones?

31Jul

About the Author

Matt Fradd Matt Fradd

Matt Fradd is the director of content development for Integrity Restored and a bestselling author and popular speaker. His most recent book, The Porn Myth, is a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon. He is the co-creator of Victory, an app that provides a strategic battle plan for winning the struggle against pornography. Matt lives in Georgia with his wife, Cameron, and their children.

Comments (14)

Fr. Matt Hartley - July 31, 2017 7:00 pm

I’m glad that it was clearly stated that GOT contains pornography. When I heard of the show, I went to IMDB to read the parental review and immediately thought, “Nope…not watching that.”
The question that seemed to be missed is the issue of immoral material cooperation in evil. If a person is paying money to HBO in order to watch Game of Thrones, they are giving money to help the creation of a show that contains what you called “insanely gratuitous” pornography, which by definition also includes the serious denigration of women. They may say that they don’t support the creation of the porn and so avoid the guilt of formal cooperation, which in this case would be grave matter. But, there definitely is material cooperation in the giving of money to the network. And this is more proximate than, for example, buying a pop made by a company that is donating money to an organization like Planned Parenthood. The money is going directly to the company producing the evil. This is much more like giving money to Planned Parenthood which is directly involved in the grave evil (I know I’m using the extreme example). You can say you don’t support their abortions and are giving money to support their moral services (if they have any). But what is being done there is so serious that it would be an immoral material cooperation in the evil they are doing. I think this is the same with Game of Thrones and HBO. The amount of filth they are producing and its damaging effects means that our money should go elsewhere. Someone may argue then that people cannot give money to Netflix or Amazon Prime. But I would argue that the amount of immorality in the shows produced by Netflix or Amazon vs. the services you get, especially with Prime’s 2 day shipping…that would be an allowable material cooperation like buying the pop. Plus, you can only watch the shows that don’t contain the filth. This is watching the show that contains it, giving money for the purpose of watching the show that contains it, just choosing to skip over it. Sorry, my honest moral analysis says that Catholics should not be watching this show nor giving money for its creation.

Reply
    Paul Fahey - August 1, 2017 12:44 pm

    Father,

    Thank you for your analysis. Though I would like to followup on your discussion of material cooperation in evil, specifically this point:

    “Someone may argue then that people cannot give money to Netflix or Amazon Prime. But I would argue that the amount of immorality in the shows produced by Netflix or Amazon vs. the services you get, especially with Prime’s 2 day shipping…that would be an allowable material cooperation like buying the pop.”

    The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has a really helpful chart of the different degrees of cooperation with evil (http://archphila.org/HHS/pdf/CoopEvilChart.pdf), I’ll be using that to guide my question.

    As you pointed out, Gomer paying for GoT is clearly not formal cooperation in evil because he does not intend to support porn. The next question is, is it immediate or mediate material cooperation? Immediate being defined as “providing the material that is necessary for the immoral act to occur” and mediate being defined as “providing the material not necessary for the immoral act to occur.” Since Gomer’s subscription isn’t *necessary* for HBO to continue producing GoT I would say that it’s mediate material cooperation.

    The final question is if it’s proximate mediate cooperation or remote mediate cooperation. If proximate is defined as “making a contribution to the act that leads to the commission of the act” and remote is defined as “making a contribution to the act that does not lead to the commission of the act” then I would say it is proximate because Gomer’s subscription is a part (though not a necessary part) of HBO deciding to continue producing GoT.

    With all that said, here’s my question. If we are to apply this standard to all of our economic activity then why shouldn’t paying Amazon or Netflix for products and services also be proximate mediate material corporation in evil? Both these companies distribute pornography and my dollars, while not a necessary part of that distribution, does contribute to it.

    Now let’s expand the examples. What about buying Disney products or services? They own studios that produce pornography. Wouldn’t going to see Cars 3 also be proximate mediate material corporation in evil?

    Finally, what about companies that produce that use sweatshops to produce their goods. Treating workers as mere means to an end and deliberately
    subjecting workers to subhuman living conditions are both intrinsically evil acts (Gaudium et Spes 27 and Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 23), acts that sweatshops are certainty guilty of. Is knowingly buying a pair of shoes made in one of these sweatshops also proximate mediate material corporation in evil?

    Please don’t see my comment as antagonistic, I’m genuinely trying to understand this more. Thank you, Father.

    Fr. Matt Hartley - August 3, 2017 4:13 pm

    Paul – Thank you for your comment and the chart. I appreciate you trying to understand this issue.

    A good article on formal and material cooperation can be found on the National Catholic Bioethics center site:
    https://www.ncbcenter.org/index.php/download_file/force/185/159/

    Basics – We know that shows continue to be made based on tracked viewership, either through tracking clicks or polls. When someone pays HBO and then watches certain programs, it tells HBO that they like and want those show to continue. The money isn’t given with the intention of supporting every show that is on that network, but the shows that the person wants to watch, though some may be used for the creation of other shows. But a large portion of the money goes to the actors, writers, and all those involved in creating that show. This is why I would see my Amazon Prime subscription as morally acceptable. 1) I’m using it primarily for the 2 day shipping, 2) I don’t click on or watch shows that contain nudity/pornography. Thus, any amount of money from me that would go to those shows being produced would be very small because the vast majority is going to the shipping companies and the royalties on the show that I’m watching. So that would quality as very remote mediate material cooperation (if it can be shown that any money from me is used to make the show). Nevertheless, if I were to learn that a substantial portion of my money was being used to create those immoral shows, I would cancel my subscription.

    As it says in the article, “Do not contribute to evil indirectly, if you can avoid it….In principle, material cooperation with evil is wrong; it violates the positive obligation of charity. It is licit only by exception.”

    With someone paying HBO to specifically watch GOT, the situation is different. First, I will say that someone could make the case that it is implicit formal cooperation in evil because of the “insanely gratuitous” pornography and their role in paying for its creation. Just as paying for a subscription to a porn magazine, arguing you just read the articles and skip the rest would still be seen as formal cooperation because central to the authors mission is the creation of the porn. The same for being an accountant or janitor at Planned Parenthood, they are supporting the mission of Planned Parenthood, which has abortion at its center. When the creators of the show intend the evils of pornography and you are giving them money to produce what they intend…a case could be made that you are implicilty formally cooperating.

    That aside, I definitely think paying for and watching GOT is at least immediate material cooperation. The action of giving money to HBO to support the creation of the show is necessary to bring it about. They won’t create the show for free. If no one was giving money and no companies were advertising on the show, the show would be cancelled. The fast that my portion is small compared to advertisers paying millions doesn’t change the morality of the action. Its like saying to someone, “Here is $20 to created GOT because I like GOT.” They respond, “Okay but I think the porn is necessary to so I’m going to keep it, even though I know it is tempting millions to mortal sin and loss of salvation.” And the response is, “Well…I don’t really like that…but the artistic value and entertainment to me is more important to me than the loss of salvation of others and the denegration so I will just close my eyes to all of that.” Sorry, that doesn’t work and seems like a real lack of charity and concern for the salvation of souls. I don’t care how great someone things a story is…the salvation of one soul is far more valuable. If I’m driving by and see someone getting abused, I don’t just “fast forward.” I won’t go so far to say that paying for and watching GOT (skipping the porn scenes) is still mortally sinful (though I would tend to that opinion because of the grave damage to millions of souls), but…in my honest moral analysis…it is definitely at least venially sinful.

Corbin - July 31, 2017 9:56 pm

A television show that you watch for recreation that you have to watch with your wife while your finger is hovered over the skip button in hope of skipping over 5-minute(!) long graphic sex and nudity scenes that you’ll probably end up seeing bits and pieces of accidentally anyway – gee, sounds very “relaxing”.

Gomer also didn’t give very many reasons as to what made the show worth watching, he only defended himself from its reputation. I haven’t watched the show, and after this podcast, it doesn’t seem like there’s any reason to. Gomer, the only Christian I know that has defended this show, can’t really give me any good reasons to watch it, and it sounds like as soon as I do, I’m going to spend as much time justifying it to my friends and family as I will trying to “enjoy” the story bits between the boobs.

I very much appreciated the parts that talked about nuance in art, and I agree that there need to be more discussions of this nature about modern media. The way that Gomer described how he watched the show, however, sounded to me like one of the most stressful television-watching experiences a Christian could have, and did not seem worth it for me. Thanks for the episode.

Reply
    Michael Gormley - August 1, 2017 11:51 am

    Hello!

    So I didn’t give reasons why I watch the show is because I was presupposing you probably have had numerous conversations with annoying people saying, “YOU HAVE GOT TO WATCH THIS!”

    That said, this is one of the most engrossing storylines, and most original, to have been produced in fiction in years. The books contain literally hundreds of characters and you are expected to remember them all and their motivations as the plot unfolds in dozens of different cities around the fictional world. History, religion, politics, and lore are all interwoven. You feel like you are watching Medieval history unfold around you but also are seeing something new at the same time.

    One of the reasons why I love things like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings is what we call “World Building.” With Star Wars, the space opera feels invented, but fun. With Lord of the Rings, the world feels not invented but discovered. With Game of Thrones it is more discovered than invented. When I finished the Rings trilogy I wanted to know more about this place, so I read the Silmarillion, which is way different than the other books. It is more of a chronicle than narrative, or rather, the key character is the chronicle covering thousands of years. Game of Throne is like reading the Rings trilogy with the Silmarillion woven in. The individual story arcs connect the reader to its fictional history and the prophecies of an apocalyptic future, so you get both narrative and chronicle at the same time.

    Morally, it depicts the world of Real Politick, where the “Game of Thrones” is the machinations of politically elite is a zero-sum game, where the virtuous and upright try to maintain their integrity in a world that makes it impossible, and how the innocents suffer when the Powers-that-be play their Game of thrones. A recurring theme is the high cost of pride and arrogance. Each player moves for more power and it undoes them in the process. The unscrupulous are constantly rewarded by destroying the virtuous, only to be undone by their schemes.

    In the words of David French at National Review: “To defeat evil by force of arms, even the good must become perilous (Tolkien was quite good at demonstrating this reality). Yet the very act of steeling oneself to do what’s necessary to confront deadly evil can also harden a heart so completely that it transforms heroes into villains. Arya, Sansa, and Dany have changed. Daenerys still has a conscience. So do Arya and Sansa. But it’s flickering. Whether our heroes remain heroes will be just as interesting as the coming confrontation between dragons and white walkers. One mad queen is enough.”

Cyril - August 1, 2017 10:43 am

St. John Paul the Great said that “God has assigned as a duty to every man, the dignity of every women.” Let’s replace the word “pornography” with the phrase “real denigration of women” for a moment. Would you give money to watch and give money to support the creation of a show that has an insanely gratuitous amount of the real denigration of women? Watching this show and giving money for its creation is contrary to that duty. No one should enjoy watching a show that they know contains an insanely gratuitous amount of the real denigration of women. A show that is literally enticing and ensnaring millions of people into mortal sin should not be supported or watched.

The other sad thing from the show is the statement that Mother Teresa wouldn’t do 90% of the things I do as if that justifies one’s actions. It doesn’t. Sins are different than faults or different vocations. Would St. John Vianney tell people in the confession it is okay to watch this show so long as you faithfully skip every porn scene? No…he would say don’t watch the show. We shouldn’t try to downplay the witness of the saints in order to justify our immoral actions.

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Average Catholic - August 1, 2017 4:46 pm

First I am a big fan of the ministry that you and Gomer do. I am someone who has read the books, but not watched the show. I have also read articles that summarize episodes, so I am aware of the types of scenes depicted. I thought there was some thought provoking ideas, however I also thought there were some problematic messages as well. Here are some thoughts.
1 – You had a podcast about “should Christians watch Got” and only interviewed a self-proclaimed “Rabid Fan”. It seems it would only be appropriate and fair if you also interviewed someone of the opposite opinion.
2 – There was frequent justification for watching GoT while also being extremely critical of how other forms and tactics of media effect us to the point of saying how bad watching someone drink a Pepsi in a movie was. Maybe I missed something there, but does not seem the same at all.
3 – I thought the distinction between “Pornography” and “pornographic scenes” was made without sufficient reflection on the similar effect those two things have on the consumer. “pornography bad! – Pornographic scene in the context of a compelling story great!” I just don’t really buy the distinction that was made.
4 – The “I would be willing to give this up if Jesus asked me” point – Is that not some form of asking for a sign from the heavens to not watch filth? Where else in our lives has God worked this way? Are there not sufficient revelations from God and the church to lead us to have a formed enough conscience to know if we should or should not? That honestly seems like a cop out. Like saying “well Jesus has not directly appeared to me in my dreams to tell me to not watch it so it must be okay.”
5. The issue of giving money to the creation of this was not addressed, however the comment above did. Nor was the issue of discussing and promoting the viewing of this publicly (social media, blogs, podcasts) as an occasion of leading someone to watch it and thereby leading them to sin. Whether it leads one to sin who watches it or not, I think it is inarguable that it can and does lead some to sin who watch it. Therefore, a christian in the public eye publicly discussing their fandom could be morally problematic even if their personal viewing is not.

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Sarah - August 2, 2017 5:24 am

I don’t agree with a lot of the conclusions made in this podcast. I have been deeply hurt by pornography. I have been a victim of sexual crime due to someone’s addiction to pornography. If you cannot resist giving people that endorse and create movies and books like this as a Christian, you need to re-examine your conscience.
The women who are subjected to these roles in these movies/series, are being harmed. They are God’s daughters. Put it this way, if Our Lord and Our Lady wouldn’t sit down and watch this, then you need to follow them and choose the same thing. The road is narrow to the Kingdom of heaven. Doesn’t matter if you think it is “boring” to say no to watching things pornographic, it is wrong and needs to be avoided. Every time the women and men in this show are in a scene that is sexually immoral, they are actually committing mortal sins, whether aware of it or not. They cannot fake these scenes and what they need to act out in them. They are partaking in actual acts of indecency.
Think of saints, would they be watching this? I don’t think so. We need to practice a spirit of detachment and fill our souls with wholesome shoes/movies/books. I dare say they won’t be streaming this show in heaven, but would they stream it in hell??? Probably. It’s very debased.

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Melody - August 2, 2017 2:39 pm

I will never watch, listen to, or read anything that Gormley participates in again. As a woman, I am actually sick to my stomach listening to him. Women are not for consumption. And GOT is porn. If someone doesn’t already have a tendency toward this addiction, they will be ensnared quickly by GOT. He’s full of defensive words but I pray to God that my sons never get a hold of this podcast. I fear that it is going to do tremendous harm by solidifying people’s preference for watching. Even in this podcast, it is obvious that Gormley has forgotten the personhood and dignity of every woman and man depicted on that show. They are enslaved by their sin… he is consuming and encouraging others to ignore the TRAGEDY so that they can consume as well. Put whatever “nuance” you want on it. Toying with hellfire. Stay far away from me and those I love, Gormley. The world doesn’t need another person encouraging it to consume porn in any form… it needs real men who would rather die than allow a woman to be disrespected. Lord, have mercy.

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Robert - August 3, 2017 1:25 am

I’m a recovering sex addict. My addiction began 34 years ago, and I have been in and out of recovery for the past 15 years. I’ve been enjoying your podcasts until this one.

I’m concerned that the denial and rationalization in this episode might cause some recovering addicts to either fall back into their addiction or engage in the same kinds of denial.

The guest talked about skipping over sex scenes as sexual tension started to build up, he also said that he watched with his wife and that it hasn’t caused him to act out. It’s possible that everything’s just fine. If so, he would be very different from myself and the hundreds of recovering addicts I’ve worked with on a daily basis for the past 15 years.

Some subtle things that your guest might notice are an increase of sexual dreams and fantasizing about the characters in the TV show during times of physical intimacy with his wife. Since both of those things are deeply internal, they’re usually not talked about and often remain hidden (for a time) from the recovering addict as well. In my experience, those subtle symptoms of suppressed lust often build up over time and can cause other problems in the future. Maybe your guest can let go of it all without any problems. I don’t know any recovering sex addicts who would be unaffected by engaging in similar behaviors.

Then there’s the issue of giving money (and views/ratings) to a company who injects lots of sexualized media into our society. Watching that TV show is like paying tithing to the wrong team – the team that’s damaging people, families, and communities one TV episode at a time. It also sends a message to that company that we want more of the same kind of programming in the future. It’s helping keep sexualized media alive.

I hope that you can address some of these issues in an upcoming episode. I’m fighting every day to keep myself and those I love sober, clean, headed toward Christ, and regaining their integrity. We have enough obstacles out here. We don’t need any more obstacles in our lives – especially not in places where we’re looking to get relief and strength.

Again, I appreciate all the work you’re doing. I just couldn’t remain silent on this episode.

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Corbin - August 4, 2017 10:25 am

Matt and Michael,

I apologize for the tone of my first comment, which probably comes off as rude or disrespectful. I wanted to tell you that I really appreciate you opening this up to discussion because I think it’s important to talk about. At this time in America, funding for the arts is getting slashed left and right in an effort to “make room for more important subjects” – but as we can see, the discussions that art can incite are fruitful and important.

I will make no claims to be perfect. For a long time, movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “Fight Club” were my favorites, and I watched “House of Cards” in much the same way as you watch “Game of Thrones”. But it was only in the middle of this last season of “Cards” that I decided that I didn’t find it relaxing to watch a show in that way, and I didn’t find the temptations worth the entertainment. While I don’t have the philosophical chops to get into the morality of how much a subscription to HBO GO supports the production of shows with pornography in them, I will just say that if you, Gomer, as a viewer, can watch “GoT” and not feel incredibly stressed out the entire time, and you don’t find yourself in a morally precarious situation, I suppose we can just settle on calling each other “different” in those ways. You’re the only one who really knows if it’s worth it to you to put yourself into those kinds of tempting situations.

God bless the work that you both do and thanks again for the podcast.

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Adam Plomaritas - August 9, 2017 10:20 am

Hey fellas, great podcast. The follow up with Alanna was also quite good.

To those saying, “as a recovering sex addict, I could never watch this show”. You are surely correct. Please don’t.

The show is fantastic, minus this glaring and frustrating issue. I remember also being frustrated like gomer at the prospect of missing out on important plotlines by skipping the nudity. Oh well.

I have seen some figures bantied about in the comments and in the follow up episode of the podcast about how much of the show is made up of the stuff. I believe Matt said something along the lines of, “how much do you need to skip of each episode – 8 minutes? 20?”

Here’s a handy dandy chart that shows how much nudity is in each season/episode. The average scene containing nudity is about a minute. If my math is correct, it averages 3 minutes per episode, with some having none.

Having said that, it’s still a minute or so of garbage to get through and is that worth it?

I’m not a recovering sex addict and I have not felt led to sin as a result of watching the show. But I still wrestle with the dilemma.

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