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R-rated 'Game of Thrones' is also grist for debates about a second 'R' -- religion

R-rated 'Game of Thrones' is also grist for debates about a second 'R' -- religion

Last week, the New York Times magazine produced a fawning piece about George R.R. Martin, fantasy’s “reigning king” because of his seminal “Game of Thrones” series, now at five (immense) books.

I say “fawning” because the story was only on the series’ amazing success and not on the major problems Martin is having at finishing up his series. More on that in a bit. The goal, eventually, is to discuss whether the Times or any other publication has has shown any interest in the role of religion in this global hit.

These books started coming out in 1996, then continued in a (sort of) steady clip until 2011 with the release of book five. Book six, “The Winds of Winter,” was supposed to be out by 2016 at the latest, but the writer got caught up with helping produce the HBO drama (starting in 2011) Game of Thrones.

I read the first two books some years ago, but, annoyed with non-ending violence, I dropped them. I picked them up again in the fall of 2014 and finished the series while teaching in Fairbanks so as to have something to occupy me during that cold, dark winter. Now I’m making my way through the HBO drama and am nearly finished with the fourth season. As the Times says:

After the HBO show premiered, the world Martin had created became a global phenomenon, and his readership reached heights few authors have ever found — his American peers now include other household names of genre fiction, such as Tom Clancy and Stephen King.

The plot of “ASOIAF,” as fans call it, is concerned largely with events unfolding in and around the continent of Westeros around the year 300 A.C. (“after conquest” of the seven kingdoms in the books). The inciting incident of the series is the death, under suspicious circumstances, of Jon Arryn, who had been serving as hand of the king (chief of staff, basically) to a royal named Robert Baratheon. Arryn’s demise sets in motion a chain of events leading to the murder of King Robert himself, which in turn creates a power vacuum, destabilizing the prevailing political order. After centuries of relative calm, chaos erupts into a full-blown war, involving several of the realm’s great family houses.

Millions of people, of course, knew all of that already.

One reason it’s been taking me so long to get through the HBO series is because I can’t watch the stuff while the kiddo is awake because the violence/gore/explicit sex content is off the charts. Maybe that’s why — of the reams of material written about the book and wildly successful series — comparatively little has been written about the role of religion in the Game of Thrones books.

Not to say there isn’t any.

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Chinese 'evangelical Trumplicanism?' Vancouver Sun floats a totally new buzz word

Chinese 'evangelical Trumplicanism?' Vancouver Sun floats a totally new buzz word

Sometimes there’s an unusual religious group out there that reporters don’t have the contacts or the linguistic abilities to crack. One such group are the 100,000 Chinese Christians in Vancouver, B.C. They’re too large to ignore but if you don’t know Chinese, it’s tough to get an entrée.

Actually, Vancouver has 400,000 Chinese total, so the 100,000 estimate may be a bit low. And so Douglas Todd, the religion blogger for the Vancouver Sun, has found a way around this problem by engaging a bilingual scholar who can interpret this people group.

What do you know? Todd discovered -- taking American politics all the way outside our borders -- that these folks are very pro-Trump. The larger question: Why does this matter and how it this linked to larger religion issues?

Here’s what he wrote last week:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is getting support from an unusual source -- Chinese evangelicals in Canada.
Social media in Canada is ablaze with Chinese Christians coming out in support of the bombastic would-be strongman. Trump’s Chinese supporters see him as a beacon of authoritarian stability in a world that could be headed towards apocalypse. The Chinese Christians also think Trump could ensure their ongoing prosperity.
“Trump … is (seen as) a dose of strong law-and-order medicine on the world stage,” says Assistant Prof Justin Tse, who studied Metro Vancouver’s more than 400,000 ethnic Chinese while obtaining his PhD in geography at the University of B.C.
Some Chinese evangelicals in Canada are supporting Trump to “ensure the stability of global markets through authoritarian law-and-order regimes,” says Tse, a visiting assistant professor in the Asian American Studies Program of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, Chicago.
At my request, Tse wrote up a short analysis of Trump’s Chinese-evangelical support, in which he refers to the cohort as “Trumplicans.”

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