I confess that I’m a fan of Game of Thrones. I started watching the series when it was in season 3, which was nice because I was able to catch up to all the back episodes. Once caught up I read all the books.
The show is engaging enough that I’m always surprised when the credits appear on the screen. It’s as if a few minutes have passed and the show is over. But that’s not what surprised me in the last two episodes. My reaction, even physically, is what surprised me.
So…the show is violent. Most of the characters are complex. Sometimes story lines go off on to seemingly weird tangents. Sometimes little inconsistencies strain credulity. But I like watching it. It’s fiction and in my mind fiction has permission to strain credulity. It is also fantasy…with dragons, weird diseases, and strange abilities all alongside human beings who are often very human in their flawed decisions.
Then there are the white walkers and the army of the dead. They’ve been encountered before this season. The entire story is leading to a grand battle between the flesh and blood humans and the white walkers with their army of the dead.
Last week there was a big battle. A small group of humans was vastly outnumbered band were rescued by a queen and her dragons. The dragon fire can kill these walking dead creatures. But one of her dragons died in a battle…and is now one of the “flying” dead. This battle physically and emotionally disturbed me. I later described the episode as “intense.”
Then last night, the season finale set the story for next season’s grand battle between the living and the dead. The dead seem to outnumber the living (of course their numbers increase whenever anyone dies). So last night, the flying dead dragon destroyed the centuries old wall that separated these creatures from the rest of humanity. There used to be real, living people north of the wall but they now make up the army of the dead. Anyway, the prospect of this battle once again disturbed me.
As I’ve thought about it today, I remembered that as a child I didn’t mind fantasy. But, I never liked supernaturally scary movies. I guess I haven’t changed much.
I think my visceral reaction is because the walking dead represent pure evil. These bodies are walking fighting machines but they are vacant. They do not contain life. They do not contain the promise of life. They have no spirit. These are scary because there is no reasoning, no bargaining, no way to come to a truce. In a sense they remind us that there is not negotiating with evil. Rather one must fight or become one of the walking dead. It seems like being swallowed into the darkness.
Thankfully this is fiction… we are walking, talking, spiritual beings. We have challenges but we don’t face an army of the walking dead. I love the story in Genesis of God breathing life into the first human…breath is life and breath is spirit. I think of Ezekiel 37 and the promise of restoration for the valley of bones. This scripture describes the opposite of walking dead, but rather the breath of the spirit, bringing life. It describes the coming together of dry bones (the rebuilding of the body), not as monsters but as new life. I find comfort in this imagery because it is a reminder that new life is possible…for each of us every day.
Meanwhile we are in a fight for the soul of our country. As we engage in that battle, we remember that humans… flesh and blood, spiritual beings… are engaged in both sides of this struggle. There is evil present, or the potential for evil, but we mustn’t de-humanize those with whom we disagree.
Jesus called us to love God and to love one another (including our neighbors). If we can do that we don’t need to know anything else. This call to love seems to be a hard call lately. We get confused into thinking that love is submission to the loudest voice. This is not true, but rather love is in seeking the good for our neighbor, and I believe this sometimes means standing in opposition to those who would exclude, oppress, or demean others. Its not easy to love in this way, but it is not an impossible. It is also necessary for our own humanity. The more I think about it, the more it seems as if hate is the feeling that can swallow us into the darkness. Lets not let that happen.