American Puritans & Game of Thrones

Sinners in the Hands of Seven Angry Gods: An Analysis of Puritan Ideology in “Game of Thrones”

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The Seven-faced God [Source]
The entertainment industry often draws from history in creating new content for people to enjoy; we saw this with shows such as Roots, North and South, and now Game of Thrones. While the former two were clear depictions of historical events, the historical background to Game of Thrones is less obvious. But with a close analysis, one can see the parallels between early Puritan ideology and the Game of Thrones religion, the Faith of the Seven, such as the notion that all are equal under the respective God(s); that all ideas are created by God(s); and fear as a tool.

Just as the Puritans opposed the royal prerogative and came to power after the First English Civil War, the Sparrows also emerged from small-folk dissatisfied with nobility after the War of the Five Kings in Game of Thrones. Both the Puritans and Sparrows believe in equality among all people under the eyes of the Gods. The Puritan minister John Winthrop states is his “Model of Christian Charity” that, “it appears plainly that no man is made more honorable than another or more wealthy… but for the glory of his Creator and the common good of the creature, man.” He also explains that those who “have” should help those who don’t “have,” without expecting anything in return if they are unable to repay, since everyone is equal under God. In Game of Thrones, the Sparrows also seek equality for the poor and condemn the excesses of the rich. When the Sparrows go to King’s Landing, they spread their message and help the poor Kingslanders, just as the Puritans spread the gospel and helped others.

Another example of the two religion’s similarities is how all ideas, thoughts, and feelings are the work of God(s). In Season 5, Episode 4 “Sons of Harpy”, the faith militant’s power is gaining back the power it had more than two centuries ago. In the episode, the High Sparrow says “All sinners are equal before the Gods”; this can be compared to the Puritan ideology because even while Puritans believe in one God and the Faith of the Seven believed in multiple, both present the idea that a higher being’s judgement is what matters, and they decide what is sinful. Another quote from Season 5, Episode 7 “The Gift”, the High Sparrow states “But I’m telling you a simple truth. I serve the Gods. The Gods demand justice.”, this being similar to Puritan ministers in that that they never saw themselves as better or more than god; they defined themselves as God’s messengers, that God chose them to spread this message so that sinners can see their wrong, and so that those that must be converted go through conversion.

Finally, both the Puritans and the Faith of the Seven maintain their religions through fear. In Game of Thrones, the Faith of the Seven hold public rituals of punishment and shaming called “the walk of atonement”. An example is in Season Five, when Cersei, who has committed adultery, is stripped naked in front of the entire community and forced to walk the streets while others humiliate her. Besides providing humiliation and repentance for the sinner, it also instills fear in the citizens, reminding them to follow the religious doctrine and remain pure. With the Puritans, ministers used fear of punishment from God to keep the congregation morally pure. One example was a minister Jonathan Edwards and his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, written in 1741. He says “There is no Want of Power in God to cast wicked Men into Hell at any; he can most easily do it” and “The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him”. The malevolent and threatening tone perpetuated by Edwards instilled fear of God’s wrath in his congregations, just as the “walk of atonement” established fear in the followers of the Faith of the Seven.

These are but a few parallels between Game of Thrones and the Puritans, but it is clear that history always repeats itself, even in the guise of a television show. History is our greatest storybook.

Written by Brian Blanchard, Kevin Estevez, Danielle Sinclair, and Michelle Zak-Strzalka

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6 thoughts on “Sinners in the Hands of Seven Angry Gods: An Analysis of Puritan Ideology in “Game of Thrones”

  1. I can see the similarities between the Puritans and the hardline interpretations of the High Sparrow and his followers who follow the Faith of the Seven. (If you feel that the apparent polytheism of the Faith weakens the comparison, in reality the Faith of the Seven dogma asserts that the Seven are seven aspects of one divine force, so it could be seen as a monotheistic divinity, much like the Trinity doesn’t make Catholicism polytheistic. I’m not saying you all were asserting otherwise, just wanted to add to the conversation.)

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  2. I really like the balance of the show content and the Puritan content in this post. The parallels you used to compare them are both interesting and are great perspectives. I also like the point that establishes the reality that history always repeats itself, which is such a true statement, even for a television show. The research to back up these statements were nicely placed. We can see in this post that the morals and principles are pretty much the same for both groups. I have learned so much about the history and connections between Puritans and Game of Thrones.

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  3. This is very well written and entertaining to read. I like the comparison between the Puritans opposition to royal rule and the Sparrows also opposing nobility. Its also interesting to read that these two groups had similar ideas when discussing their views of all people being equal under the eyes of god. They both have many similar views when it comes to God and is illustrated very well here using Winthrop’s piece “Model of Christian Charity.” Comparing this to the Sparrows when they go to King’s Landing and spread the message of helping the poor Kingslanders shows how similar these two groups really are. Overall, great post with well thought out comparisons.

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  4. This post was very interesting! First off, I was immediately interested in reading your content based off of the picture that was used to open it up. I think the use of the many examples from different episodes helped a lot when it came to laying out comparisons between Puritanism and The Faith of the Seven. It made the comprehension of the content much easier. I like how you mentioned that in both Puritanism and The Faith of The Seven, no man is greater than another. Everyone holds equal status amongst one another, and the God(s) truly hold all of the power. I also liked how you mentioned there are forms of shame and punishment in both religions, that are given to those who decide to stray (from their respective religion). Great job guys!

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  5. Excellent post! I had no idea how closely related Faith of the Seven was to the Puritans; it’s so clear that the way the Sparrows formed matches the way the Puritans spoke out against the Church of England and began practicing apart from everyone else. It’s even more clear the similarity when you point out the devoutness of the faith in the third paragraph and their use of “fear as a tool” in the fourth. The first point you made about them being all equal under God almost seemed nice until it was apparent that any religion with the amount of shaming committed by the people to please God as the Seven does must have some connection to the Puritans! The use of hyperlinks was very smart, including the Wiki page, scripts from the show, etc. Nice read!

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