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Why youth workers shouldn't be watching Game of Thrones

We may think TV programmes like Game of Thrones are harmless, but what if they’re actually detrimental, not just to us, but to those we influence? Youth for Christ’s Neil O’Boyle explains 

Agree or disagree with this post? Read the opposing argument, Why Youth Workers CAN Watch Game of Thrones, here.

I have a healthy relationship with failure. I feel like I get more stuff wrong than I do right, and I am inconsistent. However, I would also say I try to learn.That’s my starting point to a conversation that is possibly going to rattle you.

As leaders we are culture setters. The tone we set, the things we do and the passions we carry are watched, heard and examined by the children and young people in our circles. 

As a Christian you will be driven to use your influence to see children’s lives changed by Jesus.

Violence, abusive sex, porn and inequality are not things associated with Jesus. Nor, I’m guessing, would you advocate for any of those things with a young person. 

Many children and young people have unhealthy relationships with anger, porn or poor self-esteem born out of some form of brokenness or pain. Into this space we carry the message that the way of Jesus is counter cultural. Biblical values are different but they lead to transformation. Christ is living within us (Ephesians 3:17). His example renews the mind (Romans 12:2). But we should focus on what is good, pure and noble, as described by Paul (Philippians 4:8) and live a holy life, following his example (1 Peter 1:16).

TELEVISION TRAUMA

In a media driven digital world where our hobbies and habits are deemed subjective to the individual through the lenses of relativism, determining what is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy can become confusing for those in our sphere of influence to understand what is good or healthy.

I wonder if there is any way all this might interfere with the renewing of the mind that God has for us

I wonder about the choices of some of the things we do or watch as they might cause young people to question our lifestyle. For example, what we might watch on TV, the computer games we play or our use of social media and how that impacts our discipleship. 

It’s pretty universally clear among Christians that it wouldn’t be OK to visit a porn site (Matthew 5:28). We would never promote such an idea with young people as we believe it to be harmful at numerous levels, not least of all to their self-esteem, their view on sex, it’s devaluing of people and how that might impact how they function in their relationships.

But what about a TV show that has explicit sex scenes? Is that OK? Is a show that is brutally violent also OK? At what point is a plot around rape and the victim then wanting to have a relationship with the rapist OK, for example? 

It’s all relative right? As long as we don’t get turned on or want to go outside and beat someone up or champion a rapist, it’s OK. But, I wonder if there is any way all this might interfere with the renewing of the mind that God has for us.

After watching TV shows, such as Game of Thrones, that contain all of the above we might turn off our devices, return to our discipleship journeys and possibly give profoundly mixed messages to those that we are showing the ways of Jesus to. Why? Because they will catch our values - the values of ‘don’t do what I do but rather what I say’. 

So, are we giving permission for children and young people to justify not being fully sold out for Jesus through our own subjective life style choices? In other words: “Don’t watch porn…but I love that TV show (when it’s widely known there are graphic sex scenes in it).” It becomes confusing for people to figure out, right?

I’m sure by now I have jarred you. I didn’t mean to. I guess all I’m asking as influencers and culture setters is: Are we inconsistent? And are our inconsistencies unhelpful to a younger person’s walk with Jesus? 

INFLUENCING INFLUENCERS

While I am actively involved in youth ministry, my real sphere of influence is more with youth leaders. I know they watch my life closely. What I give value to is often valued and what I question is usually scrutinised. I am on a journey with roughly 50 to 80 leaders in one way or another, some much more closely than others. However, I need to be careful about what I give permission to through my lifestyle, as younger leaders may not question it, but simply accept it. 

I listen with great interest to leaders sharing their excitement to TV shows that go against what I believe to be the very values taught by Jesus. It causes me to reflect on my own inconsistencies, but I’m compelled for the sake of those in my sphere of influence to try to not give mixed messages, especially when the road of discipleship is so fragile for young people today.

What do you think? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter: @YCWmag

I try to stay away from portrayals of nudity and excessive violence. When Harry Potter first came out I didn’t read the books or watch the movies because of its link to witchcraft. That all changed when I heard that my pastor loved the books. My thoughts went like this: “If he thinks it’s OK, then it must be!” I was a much younger leader at the time who didn’t question my own pastor and saw permission by the actions of that individual. After reading and watching Harry Potter, I can say with confidence there are numerous things in the plot that are spiritually and biblically challenging and that made me uncomfortable.

We carry a great deal as leaders, let’s not lose sight of the responsibility that we shoulder. 

Imagine how powerful it would be to change our habits and to then have conversations with our young people or those in our spheres of influence as to why we have done so. Those conversations will be rich, deep and meaningful for anyone on the road of discipleship, because it’s real and authentic.

In no way am I trying to be condemning or judgemental. As I said, I have a relationship with failure and am inconsistent in my thinking. I am deeply grateful for God’s grace and patience, but I am trying to resolve both my failures and inconsistencies for my sake and the sake of those I influence.