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Earlier this week, Bishop Robert Barron wrote a short essay about the History Channel’s drama series Vikings, arguing that it’s the most explicitly religious show he can remember watching. On this advice, my husband and I watched the first episode last night and our 14-year-old son was immediately sucked in. His parting words for the night were “Don’t watch it without me!” (The 19-year-old came home in the middle of it and, scandalized, asked why we were letting him watch Game of Thrones? Um, no dear.) From a spoiler-free portion of the bishop’s piece:
[E]veryone in Vikings is religious: the Northmen (and women) themselves, the English, the French, and visitors from distant lands. To be sure, they are religious in very different ways, but there is no one who does not take with utter seriousness a connection to a higher, spiritual realm. Moreover, their spirituality is not an abstraction, but rather is regularly embodied in ritual, prayer, procession, liturgy, and mystical experience. The ubiquity and intensity of faith in these various peoples and tribes calls to mind philosopher Charles Taylor’s observation that, prior to 1500 or so, it was practically unthinkable not to be religious. That God exists, that spiritual powers impinge upon the world, that we live on after we die, that a higher authority judges our deeds—all of this was simply the default of the overwhelming majority of the human race prior to very recent times in certain pockets of Western civilization. Taylor speaks of the “buffered self” that has come to dominate today. He means the identity that is closed in upon itself, oblivious to a transcendent dimension, committed unquestioningly to a naturalist or materialist view of reality. I must confess that it was enormously refreshing to watch a program in which every single self was unbuffered!
I’ve read that, as a piece of historical fiction, it’s fairly accurate. Any opinions, Ricochet?Published in