Jesus Died On the Cross to Save Us From Game of Thrones

game of thrones

That’s what fundamentalist Christian pastor John Piper thinks. In a post titled 12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch Game of Thrones, Piper answers a question from a Christian about watching Game of Thrones. Here’s the question: Pastor John, what would you say to a Christian who watches the cable TV show Game of Thrones?”

Piper responded:

…The closer I get to death and meeting Jesus personally face to face, and giving an account for my life and for the careless words that I have spoken (Matthew 12:36), the more sure I am of my resolve never intentionally to look at a television show or a movie or a website or a magazine where I know I will see photos or films of nudity…So here are 12 questions to think about, or 12 reasons why I am committed to a radical abstention from anything I know is going to present me with nudity.

1. Am I Recrucifying Christ?

Christ died to purify his people. It is an absolute travesty of the cross to treat it as though Jesus died only to forgive us for the sin of watching nudity, and not to purify us for the power not to watch it.

He has blood-bought power in his cross. He died to make us pure. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). 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.

2. Does It Express or Advance My Holiness?

In the Bible, from beginning to end, there is a radical call for holiness — holiness of mind and heart and life. “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Or 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Nudity in movies and photos is not holy and does not advance our holiness. It is unholy and impure.

3. When Will I Tear Out My Eye, If Not Now?

Jesus said everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away (Matthew 5:28–29). Seeing naked women — or seeing naked men — causes a man or woman to sin with their minds and their desires, and often with their bodies. If Jesus told us to guard our hearts by gouging out our eyes to prevent lust, how much more would he say: “Don’t watch it!”

4. Is It Not Satisfying to Think on What Is Honorable?

Life in Christ is not mainly the avoidance of evil, but mainly the passionate pursuit of good. Remember Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

My life is not a constrained life. It is a free life. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

5. Am I Longing to See God?

I want to see and know God as fully as possible in this life and the next. Watching nudity is a huge hindrance to that pursuit. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The defilement of the mind and heart by watching nudity dulls the heart’s ability to see and enjoy God. I dare anyone to watch nudity and turn straight to God and give him thanks and enjoy him more because of what you just experienced.

6. Do I Care About the Souls of the Nudes?

God calls women to adorn themselves in respectable apparel with modesty and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9). When we pursue or receive or embrace nudity in our entertainment, we are implicitly endorsing the sin of the women who sell themselves to this way and are, therefore, uncaring about their souls. They disobey 1 Timothy 2:9, and we say that’s okay.

7. Would I Be Glad If My Daughter Played This Role?

Most Christians are hypocrites in watching nudity because, on the one hand they say by their watching that this is okay, and on the other hand they know deep down they would not want their daughter or their wife or their girlfriend to be playing this role. That is hypocrisy.

8. Am I Assuming Nudity Can Be Faked?

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.

9. Am I Compromising the Beauty of Sex?

Sexual relations is a beautiful thing. God created it and pronounced it “good” (1 Timothy 4:3). But it is not a spectator sport. It is a holy joy that is sacred in its secure place of tender love. Men and women who want to be watched in their nudity are in the category with exhibitionists who pull down their pants at the top of escalators.

10. Am I Assuming Nudity Is Necessary for Good Art?

There is no great film or television series that needs nudity to add to its greatness. No. There isn’t. There are creative ways to be true to reality without turning sex into a spectator’s sport and without putting actors and actresses in morally compromised situations on the set.

It is not artistic integrity that is driving nudity on the screen. Underneath all of this is male sexual appetite driving this business, and following from that is peer pressure in the industry and the desire for ratings that sell. It is not art that puts nudity in film, it’s the appeal of prurience. It sells.

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.

12. Am I Free from Doubt?

There is one biblical guideline that makes life very simple: “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:32). My paraphrase: If you doubt, don’t. That would alter the viewing habits of millions, and oh how sweetly they would sleep with their conscience.

So I say it again. Join me in the pursuit of the kind of purity that sees God, and knows the fullness of joy in his presence and the everlasting pleasure at his right hand.

Is there nudity in Game of Thrones? Sure. Is it gratuitous at times? Sure. Should a Christian watch Game of Thrones? That’s up to them. Polly and I love the show and think it is one of the best dramas on TV. While we think there is a double standard at HBO when it comes to nudity, (HBO has no problem showing female frontal nudity, but rarely does so for men) this is not enough to keep us from watching Game of Thrones. We think tasteful nudity can add to a program. After all, sex and nudity are a part of the human experience.

Piper plays the classic fundamentalist card…death is coming for us and then the judgment. What will we tell Jesus about our binge watching Games of Thrones and other shows like Orange if the New Black on HBO Go?  Something tells me that many Christians aren’t listening to the John Pipers of the world.

Since I don’t think the Christian God exists, I have no worries about being judged for my TV viewing habits. I watch what I want to watch. I love some programs and hate others. I’m glad that I no longer have to feign outrage when there is a nude scene. Polly, Change the channel! But, please change it s-l-o-w-l-y. Of all the problems facing the human race, Game of Thrones doesn’t even make the list.


  1. Karen the rock whisperer

    Such obsession with nudity!

    Admittedly, I’ve never watched the show, and the books are on my Kindle waiting to be read. But just judging from the ads and the comments I’ve read, I gather that much of the series, from a Christian point of view, would be a manual for How Not To Behave… and showing too much flesh is the least of those people’s sins.

    But my experience with people is that those driven by lust (for things as well as bodies), envy, jealousy, etc., are pretty equally distributed in religious vs. non-religious populations. Some people, regardless of religion, get the “we humans are all in this together” mindset; others just don’t, and there are as many religious excuses as secular excuses for taking advantage of one’s fellow humans or wishing/doing evil unto them.

  2. Suzanne

    Clearly Piper doesn’t understand that many things on GoT actually occurred in history. Red Wedding? Happened in Scotland between two rival families at a gathering. So many of the characters based on real people. Amazes me how they diss history and think only the sex/murders/drama/incest in the Bible is the only ones that count.

  3. Kerry

    I am sad to inform you that I have never seen the show discussed. My comment is about the last paragraph. My family would mute the tv when a commercial came on. No, not because of the content, but because of the worldly music that played during most commercials. At least two of my siblings still do this. So, turning off nude scenes was hardly the issue?

  4. Melody

    “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 basically the story of my Christian life. Not being allowed to join in does make you look freakish and different, and if you’ve had a lifetime of this without it being your choice, i.e. being a child with strict parents going to a completely different church with different rules than all the other kids, you (I definitely did) long to be normal…

    Being holy and having a strong faith and standing up against all these wordly evils was all fine for the preachers and grown-ups but the kids are put in the same position without choosing it for themselves, and then when they grow up, there’s this disconnect. On the one hand, you want to be (and have to be, otherwise God will be angry and disapointed) just as holy as they are, or as you perceive them to be; on the other, you still want to be normal. Watching the popular tv-shows or listening to populair music means you have at least one thing in common with other people, at least there is one subject to discuss, one topic to feel more normal and less freakish about.

    So strangely enough I get his point. I was raised on it. In some ways it is true: some Christians choose to be very different and are seen as freaks and it fills their hearts with pride, others really long to be both good Christians but also want to be perceived as ordinary people and long for ordinary fun…. Of course, the last group has to be shamed into compliance… Can’t have them thinking being a Christian isn’t all about suffering and isolation.

  5. Daniel Wilcox

    On this topic, nudity in movies, I disagree. Even though others tell me, I’m missing great characterization, powerful plotting, excellent acting, I’ve chosen not to watch Game of Thrones, (or for that matter any films which include gratuitous nudity, visual rape, torture, etc.).
    As an artist (used to paint in oils and acrylic) and a poet), I am a very visual person. Gross scenes are still embedded in my mind from movies from over 40 years ago, etc.

    There’s a huge difference between beautiful nudity such as The Birth of Venus by Botticelli and many instances of demeaning sexual scenes in movies.

    If anyone is interested in understanding why I think no one ought to watch such movies ((though everyone should have the “right” to), check out my movie poem, “Film Over My Eyes” about my young adult experiences–going from Baptist prohibition to The Graduate to Deep Throat in 5 years. It’s available at The Camel Saloon and elsewhere on the Internet. Or visit my website for prose explanations such as “Pure and Profane.”

    I hate to partially agree with John Piper on anything. If there is life after death, (which I think not) I definitely want to go to the opposite place as that pied piper.

    1. Brian

      Hi Daniel, The Graduate was a very fine film and in my memory (not that good), Last Tango was superb; very tough, yes but a strong film. The subject matter of both films provoked much thought, much challenge to me. The Nichols film really shocked and challenged my idea of norms in society and the power of passion and love, the hurt of loss. Are you actually saying that this was too real, to hard on you from your Baptist background? Have you looked at what you survived among Baptists, how sheltered you were? Do you say thanks for that? Do you think you were prepared to be in the world? What did you think of The Graduate, the young man drawn into adult-themes, falling love, losing and so on? Or do really support the idea that nudity is just going to far and that film is a kind of masturbatory waste? Your poem does not reveal these things to me, so I am querying because of your mention of films. And is it your intention to group a Nichols and a Bertolucci film beside Deep Throat, simple porn? Or is it that all films with any challenging content are too much for a sensitive person brought up Baptist?

  6. Troy

    I suspect the producers wouldn’t agree that the nudity is gratuitous. For example to establish the character of Tyrian you have to show he is a whoremongering and hedonistic and you don’t have pages upon pages to establish this fact, so you show him in the brothel. As for the nudity being unfair to women…well men are commonly shown without their shirts just as women are. HBO does have rules, one is that they may not show a man’s erect penis. I dunno do women really want more flacid peckers waving around? I kind of doubt it. Frontal nudity is different for women anyway, all you see is pubic hair a.k.a. the “Kings Landing Strip”. I don’t think anyone watches for the nudity anyway. If that is all they want they could just watch Skinemax as an attractive couple pretend to do “it”. Keep in mind the nudity rules I mentioned to keep adult cable at an “R” rating (as opposed to an NC-17 or X) are a result of what the audience will tolerate.
    After a couple of high profile rapes that weren’t specifically in the books (though rape as depicted and worse do occur in the books) many on the left (the feminist-social justice warrior) types whine and complained and complained (But eviscorations, decapitations, and burning are ok so long as it is MEN). My suggestion, if you can’t handle the show don’t watch the show and I expect never to hear another peep out of you. Not everyone should watch the show. I can’t recommend it to my mother for example.
    As for Pastor Piper, who no doubt watches just to protect his flock from such filth. Good luck telling your parishoners not to watch. If only the Bible had the nuance, intrigue, and a good surprise decapitation maybe you could get them to stop Game of Thrones and read the Bible. Good luck with that ha ha ha!

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      That’s my take on any and every program…don’t like it turn it off. Most Americans now have pay TV, so we should be able to watch what we want without the morality police screaming about it.

      Likes and dislikes are quite personal and subjective. Each to their own. My songs of sacrilege series is a good example of this. I post the songs that readers send me. Some of the songs are not something I would listen to, others songs are. Again, each to their own.

      Skinimax? Polly and I call it the comedy channel. Some of the dumbest and silliest stuff on TV. In general, I’m not a big porn fan. I find most of it boring and unimaginative. I prefer a great drama with an erotic element.

      1. Troy

        Lucky you, I don’t even think Skinemax is funny, just boring. (The 700 club was always the other comedy channel for me)

        [spoiler alert season 5 ep 9 GOT]
        When Shireen is sacrifice many people I see on youtube were saying they’ve quit the show. A hallmark of great art is that it affects you in this way. They need to take the advice of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, “repeat to yourself it is just a show and you really should relax”
        Sacrifices like this and worse at the hands of well meaning people gleefully pursuing their religion and what they believe their God wants are all too common in history. GRRM actually didn’t conjure GOT out of nothing, it is a tapestry of historical precedents and events threaded together in an expert manner. The middle ages aren’t all fun and games like your local Renascience fair, a lot of horrid things went down.

  7. Brian

    Just as I am no good at discussing sports (I don’t watch it), Christians are mostly worthless at critiquing or even sensibly commenting on cinema or TV. If they do not watch it because GENITALS, then they are completely useless in adding to the discourse. When somebody tells me a ball score from yesterday, I usually answer, I don’t follow hockey. They correct me until they get the joke. I am ignorant in an area I choose to be ignorant in and Christians should take the same view, not try to judge from ignorant verses they think they understand. The problem with nudity in TV is not genitals: It is that it is an area that does not go to church and add to the offering plate. It demonstrates life outside the cage and though some Christian might suggest that actors and artists live in another very real cage, they have no clue. They are pissed because they cannot demand compliance, cannot cajole and punish as they do to their own children. At least you can beat a child into the knowledge of Christ bleeding all over the Cross. What can you do about evil nudity! The world is free, pretty wild and mediocre sometimes, but free to be. Heck, in church, you can’t even lie down on a pew! And people are all over you for private matters like your intimate life and even what you think! Why would any halfway balanced soul want to be badgered like that? Could it be, some of us like to be violated like this? That is familiar and known? That it feels like home? Praise Jeebie!


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