Entries with tag podcast .

3 Things "Game of Thrones" Gets Right

After a short summer break, we’re happy to announce that our podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour, is back (with a new logo, too)!

To kick off our new season, Emma and I discussed Game of Thrones, which recently concluded its seventh season. You can listen to our conversation here.

Though incredibly popular, Game of Thrones can rub a lot of Christians the wrong way. Its episodes often include violent, sexual, or downright disturbing scenes. And it can seem that there’s no moral compass in the GoT universe: good characters die, bad characters thrive, and any good vs evil narrative seems cloudy, if not completely absent.

Emma and I push back on this take in our episode. Though GoT isn't appropriate for everyone (Christian and I talked about how to deal with things that are difficult or inappropriate to watch back in episode 6), we can find Christ at work even in the mixed-up world of Westeros. And we can identify some important themes that can offer a bit of encouragement and inspiration for every Christian who seeks the Kingdom.

To get the conversation started, here are three things Game of Thrones definitely gets right:

[Needless to say, spoilers ahead.]
 
1. Death is the Real Enemy
 
The title of Game of Thrones perfectly captures how the series started out: it was a gritty medieval fantasy that focused on the conflict between the great families of the land of Westeros. After the death of King Robert Baratheon upsets the tentative stability of the realm, intrigue and outright war commence. Established noble families and upstart schemers alike begin to play the “game of thrones” as they maneuver for power and, ultimately, the Iron Throne.

Yet, from the very beginning of the series, it’s clear that a malevolent force lurks in the north, beyond the Wall. While lords and ladies vie for power, the dead prepare to destroy mankind. As the seasons progress, characters like Jon Snow realize that even the winner of the “game of thrones” will ultimately lose when the White Walkers sweep south, killing all in their path.

As season 7 concludes, the warring powers face a choice: will they realize that their machinations and strategies have been distractions from the existential crisis that threatens them all?

As Snow says, “There is only one war that matters. The Great War. And it is here.”

Christians have a similar insight. Our sinful desires for fame or wealth are vain. Even a moralistic desire for good conduct, on its own, misses the mark. Our enemy is death, the oblivion that results from separation from God. 

Yet the Son of God took on flesh and became human for us. He took on our pain and loneliness and anguish, even to the point of dying on the Cross, so that we could have the true life that is properly His.

God has already won the Great War. Christ is Risen!
 
2. Being Good Can Cost You Dearly, and That’s Okay
 
Many important characters have died in the last seven seasons. Yet Game of Thrones is haunted by the memory of one man in particular: Ned Stark. 

Stark was the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. A great man and the head of one of Westeros’ most important and historic families, Ned Stark was nonetheless grounded by a firm sense of truth and justice. He consistently tried to make choices, not because they would advance his position, but because they were right.

In a dramatic turn at the end of season 1, Ned Stark is executed.

Ned is not the only Stark who is injured as a consequence of trying to do what’s right. His son, Robb Stark, chose to marry for love rather than political advantage. And it cost him his head.

Jon Snow, whom Ned Stark raised as his own son, is cut from the same cloth. He tells the truth even when it will backfire on him, he refuses to make a false oath even though it will be politically advantageous. As Snow reasoned late in season 7, “I'm not going to swear an oath I can't uphold. When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.”

Christians take a similar stand. While others may tell lies, we speak God’s true word. While others may work violence, we resolve to turn the other cheek.

When faced with the ultimate choice, Christians will even choose death rather than deny their Lord. Because we have already died in the waters of baptism and risen into new life in Christ. Even the world’s worst is nothing to fear.

3. There's Hope for Everyone
  
In Game of Thrones, even a noble character like Ned Stark can have a tragic flaw that leads to his undoing. Similarly, even a villainous character can have a deeper complexity that leads to his redemption.

We meet many characters that are deeply unsympathetic. Tyrion Lannister, the despised son of a powerful nobleman, is a lecher and drunk. Sandor Clegane, a knight and bodyguard to royalty, is a violent and ruthless killer.

Yet, as the series progresses, we uncover the scars that shaped these broken men. Lannister, a man of short stature whose mother died while giving birth to him, is despised by his father. Clegane, a man who bears a terrible scar on his face, has also been psychologically scarred by the violence and depravity of his older brother. 

And we soon find opportunities for these men to channel their pain into noble conduct. Lannister, an outcast who was arrested and almost killed by his family, becomes an advisor for Danaerys Targaryen, the “Breaker of Chains” and liberator of slaves. Clegane, himself the victim of abuse, becomes a protector of the downtrodden and even risks his life to help Jon Snow awaken Westeros to the dangers of the White Walkers. 

There is hope for even the lost of Westeros. And often, this hope grows out of their deepest pain.

Christians have a similar hope. St. Paul the Apostles, once a zealous persecutor of the Church, became a zealous evangelist. St. Mary of Egypt, once overcome by her lust, developed a desire for the Lord that drove her into a lifetime of repentance. St. Moses the Black, once a violent thief, resolved to take the Kingdom of God by force as he threw himself into a life of ascetic struggle.

Game of Thrones may not be suitable for every viewer, but it does present us with a complex worldview that is not always found in fantasy stories or popular television series. Its complex worldview and unexpected twists have presented some powerful themes over the past seven seasons, themes which may even help us better appreciate the drama and power of the unfolding story of salvation.

If you’d like to listen to our podcast on Game of Thrones, click here.

 

Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM.

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Beautiful/Sensational Stories from Anonymous/Shipwrecked People - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

I’ve recently become a huge fan of a new podcast: Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People (Beautiful/Anonymous). I love it.

I don’t know that I can necessarily recommend it to everyone because it can have some really strong, colorful language and often intense subject matter that might be upsetting for others. So if you choose to listen to it, be advised.

The premise of Beautiful/Anonymous is that anonymous people call Chris Gethard, a comedian and the show’s host, in order to have an hour long conversation about anything they please. Sometimes the guests discuss incredibly intense topics like being married to a sociopath, and other times they talk about some relatively less intense but still extremely personal issues like their reasons for converting from Pentecostalism to Anglicanism.

Regardless of the actual content of the show, the circumstances of each episode, the lives of the people involved seem to be uniformly exceptional.

They tend to be stories of people beset by great pain. They are people who have either overcome adversity or who are in the midst of challenge. You find yourself rooting for the raw power of human beings who endure great tragedy and either emerge victorious or struggle to maintain hope that one day they will do so. The show is deeply moving, and the lives of these people are truly sensational.

And that’s when I realized something: that’s just the point.

Their stories are beautiful, yes, but by and large, they are extraordinary. These stories are meant to appeal to us through their sensationalism. They get us amped up, they get us shocked, they get us drawn in through just how nuts their lives have been.

After all, it’s supposed to be entertaining.

And I realized this as I listened to the most recent episode of Beautiful/Anonymous, “Noodlebody,” wherein the 23-year-old woman interviewed seemed to possess anything but an exceptional story. She was totally okay. Ordinary.

In fact, she never once lost her cool, got emotional. She actually was a very put-together, considerate young woman whose life is full of prospects. At one point, she admitted some mild “stalking,” which really amounted to some guy being alternatingly dismissive and then clingy. Gethard’s response to this was, “That’s it?”

At that point, Chris Gethard decided it was his duty to spend the remainder of the podcast offering her (tongue-in-cheek?) advice. He encouraged her to start making bad choices, to do drugs in seedy places, to make mistakes. He said that our twenties are meant to be a time of destruction and the thirties are a time of rebuilding ourselves. I think (hope) he was kidding?

But as I listened to Gethard interact with her, I couldn’t help but notice that he was getting extremely frustrated with this girl for being so error-free. He was getting irritated that things were going well for her. He became upset with her because she didn’t seem have any crazy, sensational story worthy of a Beautiful/Anonymous call.

And as I listened to his growing irritation amount to actual yelling at her, I began to realize something: I also was bored with her.

I began feeling like I was wasting my time, thinking that she didn’t have anything good to share. I said to myself, “She’s just some young girl who is fresh out of college and wants a boyfriend.” And I was mad at her for it.

Uh-oh.

I had been duped by the show’s premise.

I had been invited into the podcast to hear Beautiful Stories, but what I really had grown to love was Sensational Stories. I don’t just mean that the content was necessarily graphic, but the content was raw, honest…“real.”

But after hearing this young woman share her thoughts, share her inner workings (which, she admits, don’t like to stay angry), I realized that my and the show’s working definition of “real,” was essentially synonymous with evocatively painful.

I had grown to think that the only real stories worth hearing were the ones that elicited some kind of response from me, that the only stories worth taking the time to listen to had to be extraordinary, as if “ordinary people” were simply a waste of my time.

But then I started wondering: what if Christ approached human beings this way? What if Christ were only interested in people whose stories were ultra-sensational?

Almost immediately, I realized how uncharitable toward others I had become. I begrudged others, shaming them in my mind for being “boring,” judging them as “less than” others because their story didn’t involve being stuck in a loveless marriage.

We run a great risk in thinking this way, as if someone’s “beautiful story” ought to be determined entirely by the course of what has happened to them in the past. It would be far better, rather, to consider other human beings beautiful in the light of what they are becoming. Indeed, in this way, for Christ, there is no such thing as an ordinary person.

All of us are called to be perfected in the image and likeness of our extraordinary God.

To this point, C.S. Lewis writes:

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to [or hear on a podcast] may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations."[1]

For God, there is no such thing as ordinary people, and every story is a beautiful story, for all stories are fulfilled in His Story, the Story of an extraordinary God, who became an ordinary Man and gave Himself for the life of the world.

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, p. 46


Photo Credits:

Silhouette: Depositphotos

Lego Guy: coleydude via Compfight cc 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Podcast Monday - Secular Worries

To say that our country is deeply divided in a number of ways would surprise no one. Social issues such as abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, and gay marriage have created groups of “social tribes” in our nation, with each vying for dedication to its own personal philosophies.

It is very easy for us as members of the Church, knowing the fullness of Truth in our Faith, to become embroiled in these debates. To an extent, it is even understandable. These issues are oftentimes a part of our everyday lives.

But are our positions on these matters what make us Orthodox Christians?

The Church, as Christ’s body, is the bridge from Earth to Heaven. The beauty of the Church—a trait it possesses that no other institution does—is its “other-worldliness.” In allowing the Church to become simply another place for debate, we, in a sense, tarnish its ultimate value. We subconsciously convince ourselves that we are good Christians because we know all of the good talking points, even if our relationship with Christ—the one thing that matters—is lacking.

Check out Fr. Seraphim Aldea’s podcast “Secular Worries,” found here, on Ancient Faith Radio, where he discusses this topic and brings to light what our true priorities ought to be as Orthodox Christians.

 

As you listen, consider:

  1. What is the true message of the Church? Do we preach a system, or a Person?
  2. How ought the Church (that is, us, as individuals) go about spreading its message to the society around us?
  3. What do you think of when you imagine a typical Christian? What traits do you imagine the average non-Christian would use to describe a typical Christian?
  4. How might debates over these social issues actually harm the mission each of us is called to? In what ways might these debates cause us to depersonalize others?

 

 

Podcast Monday - Is Orthodoxy in Decline?

You’ve probably heard it. You may have even said it yourself. That alarmist cry: “the Church is shrinking!” And why shouldn’t we be alarmed when studies and polls seem to regularly support the idea that the Church in America has a rapidly dwindling future?

Even without professional studies and statistics, many would agree from personal experience that the Church is quickly becoming marginalized in the face of popular culture and other influences of the modern era.

Perhaps all of this has led you to ask yourself, “Is Orthodoxy in decline”? Fr. John Ivanoff, director of the Orthodox Natural Church Development program, and our own Steven Christoforou, explore this question in a thought-provoking podcast hosted by Ancient Faith’s Kevin Allen, located here.

As you listen, consider:

  1. How does one measure the “vitality” of a church? Is it a matter of numbers, or a certain level of outreach, of growth, or of something else?
  2. What does it look like to be a practicing Orthodox Christian? How would an Orthodox Christian’s day-to-day life appear, and what would be essential components of this practice of Orthodoxy?
  3. What might be some of the problems in the Church that lead to a low retention of its baptized members? Are our youth simply no longer interested in God, or is the Church not providing what lost young people are looking for?
  4. What unique traits does the Church possess that can fill the particular emptiness of many people today?
  5. How might we, as Orthodox Christians, act to reverse this decline? As faithful friends, parents, and evangelists?

- Anthony
Anthony Ladas is a student at Fordham University and currently an intern for Y2AM.

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