Why justice is the wrong emphasis of the church

Daenerys Targaryen.jpg

Game of Thrones has been a guilty pleasure of mine for quite some time. And needless to say, this 8th and final season has had some mixed reviews. But this last episode clarified in horrific fashion a trend that the church has jumped on with both feet, and a trend, that I fear, will end similarly to how Season 8, episode 6 ended.

A quick refresher:

One of the most fascinating characters that have been become the major through-line in this show is Daenerys Targaryen. There are 8 full seasons which slowly unpack her story. But for the sake of this post, what has brought her mass appeal is that Daenerys is a liberator!

In fact, this is her full title:

“Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons”.

It is this second to last part of her title that has been so inspiring to so many people. She is the breaker of chains. She sees herself as a great liberator. And in fact, she is just that. She stands up for the slaves, the poor, the oppressed, and liberates them when she conquers the cities. In fact, what has been incredible is that she didn't conquer the cities. She protected slaves, and the slaves rose up and freed themselves. And in this movement towards liberation from oppression, Daenerys did some brutal acts, but they were in the name of justice. (I get this is Game of Thrones, and violence is a major component.)

I found myself strangely siding with her as she crucified the slavers in an episode where she freed the slaves. How satisfying to take the people who have systematically oppressed the poorest and most marginalized and to publicly humiliate them, shame, them, and kill them as to show the entire city and world that this is not right and not acceptable. And I applauded this!

But as the show progressed, Daenerys true character has emerged. There were many indicators of her true character, but the cause was so great and noble, that all her people overlooked her increasing desire for not just justice, but vengeance, to complete horror. And all the while her advisors slowly and surely died, backed away, and turned on her, but not before she had unlimited power to unleash the darkest and most evil part of her character, the total annihilation of a city, every man, woman, and child.

What Daenerys Targaryen reveals about the human condition and how she should be warning to those of us in the church:

The thing I have really loved about Game of Thrones, and many on the interwebs have hated is that there is no escaping the human condition. Culturally we have fully bought into the lie that we are really good people, and sometimes we do stupid things. But this is in stark contrast to the biblical account that, while having high value because we are made in the image of God, we are rebellious, corrupted, and have a human/flesh nature that is prone to evil. Each and every one of us is capable of doing what Daenerys Targaryen did. Each and every one of us is capable to be guards in Auschwitz. Because we have given up this reality, we let or perceived good get the better of us, and don't check our impulses until it is too late.

Justice is an important value. One of the highest. Micah 6:8 says, "What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." Justice is the fruit of our faith. We are to stand up for the weakest and poorest among us. And if our faith doesn't care about justice, then we are missing it!

But making justice a major emphasis, especially in the minimization of other values, specifically in Micah about loving mercy and humbly walking, we put ourselves in grave danger.

You see justice is about power. If you want to change things, you have to change the power structures. And with power, also comes the power to cause even more death and destruction. The church is rapidly giving away its highest value of love, selfless love, forgiving love, merciful love, for power, and this never ends well. And if you spend any time on twitter, you can see the cracks forming.

I am horrified that my Christian sisters and brothers are leveraging their social media platforms for justice while betraying the other Christian virtues. And the cause is what matters, the ends are what justify the means. But all of this is totally an unchristian perspective. The means are all we have as Christians.

The New Testament is written to oppressed people, marginalized people, and what moved the mission of the church and expanded the Kingdom of God was not the rallies and riots of the zealots, but it was the martyrdom, the laying down the life of Jesus and the laying down of thei lives of the apostles and first disciples, the turning the other cheek, and not holding the sins of others against them, being ambassadors of reconciliation while continuing to care for the poor, adopt the abandoned and model the selfless love of Christ that ultimately changed the world.

We need a more humble assessment of ourselves and our nature, a longer view of history, and closer resemblance to Jesus, who was in very nature God but did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. In fact, he humbled himself, to the point of death. And so should we.

We are all Daenerys Targaryen, the good, the bad, and the horrifying. The church needs to step into this call for justice, this call for the ends justifying the means before we totally lose our credibility for those who come after us.

May we fully embrace the call of the prophet to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.