My wife and I have become fascinated with these “pre-gunpower” shows as I like to call them. Rome, The Tudors, The Borgias, Marco Polo and now Vikings (of course, these aren’t all technically pre-gunpower, but they do predate the dominance of firearms as the main source of military power among nation states). Vikings represents our latest fling.
I always enjoy the culture clash that many of these shows include. And while this isn’t an “east meets west” scenario like we see in Marco Polo or the book/mini-series Shogun, we do see a clash of religions which in many ways makes this culture clash every bit as dramatic as Blackthorne’s exposure to pre-Edo era Japan culture in Shogun.
Vikings and Christianity
One of the great beauties of this show is Athelstan’s (a captured Christian monk) interaction among the Norseman. The show’s main character, Ragnarok (at this point of the show, king of these Vikings), absoltely treasures Athelstan. The relationship reminds me of Toranaga and Blackthorne of Shogun, or Kublai Khan and Marco Polo in the Netflix original TV series of the same name. That Athelstan is an indispensable person (more to the point, a friend Ragnarok trusts like no one else, even among those he grew up with) makes the anti-Christian argument difficult to make with a straight face.
Furthermore, Athelstan is an enlightened and learned individual, while his surrounding Norse counterparts are a bunch of drunk hicks by comparison. By the end of season 3 (where Ragnarok is singing his praises) it’s clear Ragnarok values him above all others. By the end of the 3rd season, both Ragnarok and his brother Rollo have been baptized into Christianity (though at this point. it’s still in the air whether they underwent these baptisms in sincerity or out of jest or Machiavellian scheming). Whichever the case, it does not make Christianity look specifically bad.
“Vikings Portrays Christians as Hypocrites”
I would argue that this is nonsense. In terms of the Christian world (meaning 8th century England and France), Vikings only focuses on royalty and other political elites. And yes, there is no shortage of hypocrites within this sphere. But this can just as easily been seen (as I see it) as an attach on a privileged elite class, that’s largely been spoiled by the luxuries afforded to them by a larger more structured culture that allows for such decadence (which their ‘Northmen’ counterparts have yet to experience).
What’s more is that it appears that the Christian world appears to be more knowledgeable in general. By contrast, the society of the Northmen are little more than farmers and raiders with little knowledge of anything else. Yes, their harsh lifestyles are glamorized but it’s not clear that the show is claiming their religion is any better than that of their southern European counterparts’.
The usual Christian bellyaching and ‘crying wolf’
Many Christians will claim it’s ‘anti-Christian’ solely on the fact that the show doesn’t declare that Christianity is the one true faith. This is in fact, the basis for much of the Christian belly aching out there. The show makes no attempt to elevate the beliefs of the Norsemen (the assumptions about Thor, Odin, Frey and others go just as unverified as those of Jesus Christ). Yet some Christian bloggers are too busy only focusing on the fact that the show doesn’t claim Christianity is the one true faith to bother making a comparison.