December 21, 2017 Eric Blauer

We Drank Blood From Skulls

“This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter.”A description of The Viking raid on the monastery in Lindisfarne, AD 793 by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles:

The interest in Viking culture, paganism and the ancient conflicts between competing religions and world-views is hot in entertainment with shows like: The Vikings. The Last Kingdom, Game of Thrones and Knightfall.

What draws us to these types of shows has been gnawing on my mind and heart lately. After watching a recent episode in season 5 of The Vikings, where yet another Christian priest is murdered, this one drowned in molten gold, I find myself getting outraged at the narrow, selective historical narrative being pushed. The new Christian Bishop warrior is introduced and of course he’s dark, weird, violent and every word he spouts is constipated, angry and self-righteous. The writers just can’t find a good man or woman of faith in history to tie the conversion of the Vikings to. Instead, they are painting a myopic view of the times, selecting and highlighting the worst of one group, while baptizing the other’s actions, views and evil deeds.

When is the History Channel going to show the conversion of the Vikings to Christ? Have you seen the flags of that region of the world? There’s a cross in them. That’s true history and it happened for more reasons than trade deals, powerful rulers and geo-political maneuvers. It happened because we were not created to drink blood out of our enemy’s skulls.

The skulls of their enemies, not indeed of all, but of those whom they most detest, they treat as follows. Having sawn off the portion below the eyebrows, and cleaned out the inside, they cover the outside with leather. When a man is poor, this is all that he does; but if he is rich, he also lines the inside with gold: in either case the skull is used as a drinking-cup.-5th century BC Greek historian Herodotus, in Book 4 of his Histories

Raping, pillaging and murderous campaigns are the fruit of a people being swallowed up in darkness, not the meaningful witness of human flourishing. It concerns me that popular shows struggle to teach us the philosophical, theological and moral truth about history that all meaningful minds and hearts agree upon. Instead there’s an overt romanticizing about lawlessness that no one in their right minds would wish on their families, spouses or community.

‘Kill or be killed’ isn’t the height of western civilizations accomplishments, it’s the dark age we have been seeking to escape and rise above.

Unfortunately at the heart of so much of this entertainment is a lie that’s hollow and dangerous, it flows out of an empty narcissistic fantasy that exalts self-interest as the highest self-realization. The cultural mantra of “You can have anything you want in life.” is fueling a toxic culture of violence, crime, addiction epidemics, cultural value erosion, relational isolation, historical revisionism and moral ambiguity. When a culture starts feeding on itself, it’s long past time to challenge the roots that are bearing such fruit. But it seems today, we have little ability to examine the sources of our ills. We are like a people suffering from Diabetes unwilling to connect it with our own dietary habits. We rage against the crimes we are committing against one another but refuse to see the causes and remedies. We want right living without right values or laws.

Too many generations have bought the lie that taking something from someone else against their will, be it property or sexual pleasure, will never truly satisfy. The current exposure of sexual harassment and assault, is a perfect example of the dead end of this value system. Morality and truth matter, especially in community. This is tragically highlighted in the biblical story of the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:1-2,10-17

Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Amnon, her half brother, fell desperately in love with her. Amnon became so obsessed with Tamar that he became ill. She was a virgin, and Amnon thought he could never have her…Then he said to Tamar, “Now bring the food into my bedroom and feed it to me here.” So Tamar took his favorite dish to him. But as she was feeding him, he grabbed her and demanded, “Come to bed with me, my darling sister.” “No, my brother!” she cried. “Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel. Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me.” But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her. “No, no!” Tamar cried. “Sending me away now is worse than what you’ve already done to me.” But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her. He shouted for his servant and demanded, “Throw this woman out, and lock the door behind her!”

Lust of any kind, doesn’t lead to love, but actually turns in on itself and then lashes out towards the very thing or person, one thought taking, would satisfy.

The Bible speaks to this all throughout it’s writings:

“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.” -1 Peter 1:18

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? -Romans 6:20

The gospel of Christ conquering the Vikings was connected to many things, but denying the spiritual triumph of the words and the works of the gospel world view on their culture is pure historical and ideological whitewash.

7th Century, St BedeThe present life man, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter amid your officers and ministers, with a good fire in the midst whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and immediately out another, whilst he is within is safe from the wintry but after a short space of fair weather he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he has emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space but of what went before or what is to follow we are ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.” -St Bede. He is widely regarded as the greatest of all the Anglo-Saxon scholars. He wrote around 40 books mainly dealing with theology and history.

“…it seems justly to deserve to be followed.”

He’s exactly right and that’s exactly what huge numbers of them did. The education that followed required pulling up the root of meaningless violence based on unjust reasons and the empty well of self-satisfaction and lust.

Proverbs 3:29-31 Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm. Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.”

Psalms 11:5  The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.”

But the question still remains, “Why are we drawn to these stories now?”

I think Friedrich Nietzsche captures some of the underlying reasons in his piece ‘The Hyperboreans’:

The Hyperboreans,

at the back of the North Wind,

of which it is said:

“Neither by ship nor yet by land

shall one find the wondrous road

to the gathering place

of the Hyperboreans.”

 

The Hyperboreans,

at the back of the North Wind,

of which it is said:

“Neither by ship nor yet by land

shall one find the wondrous road

to the gathering place

of the Hyperboreans.”

 

“Let us face ourselves.

We are Hyperboreans;

we know very well how far off we live.

‘Neither by land nor by sea will you find the way to the Hyperboreans’

Pindar already knew this about us.

Beyond the north, ice, and death—our life, our happiness.

 

We have discovered happiness,

we know the way,

we have found the exit out of the labyrinth of thousands of years.

Who else has found it?

Modern man perhaps?

‘I have got lost; I am everything that has got lost,’ sighs modern man.

This modernity was our sickness:

lazy peace,

cowardly compromise,

the whole virtuous uncleanliness of the modern Yes and No…

 

Rather live in the ice than among modern virtues and other south winds!

We were intrepid enough,

we spared neither ourselves nor others;

but for a long time we did not know where to turn with our intrepidity.

 

We became gloomy, we were called fatalists.

Our fatum—abundance, tension, the damming of strength.

We thirsted for lightning and deeds

and were most remote from the happiness of the weakling, ‘resignation.’

In our atmosphere was a thunderstorm;

the nature we are became dark—for we saw no way.

Formula for our happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal.”

 

Somehow we need to face the emptiness that has settled in on us either through the dried up breast of capitalistic idolatry, the exhaustion of unbridled hedonism or the hypocritical practice of religion that cloaks inward wickedness with outward righteousness.

People today are longing for something more than the skin of truth stuffed with a lie. They long for truth and freedom but have not been able to find it in the sanitized sanctuaries of hipsteranity or the dead mausoleum of modernity’s American civil religion. Yes, there are plenty of people that just simply rebel against the moral realities in Christianity, they are infatuated with a Adonis or Aphrodite mirage and false illusion. And there are those disillusioned seekers who have found that the game of removing all the pieces off religious Mr. Potato head that might be offensive or not politically correct, just leaves a shell of faith that can’t satisfy the demands of a rigorous mind and heart or the realities of human experience.

But there are others, who find themselves on a search for something ancient and real. They have a deep Tolkienesque knowing that in the old stories, in the old ways, lay something that the modern man has forgotten or buried. This internal homing sense is pushing them to hold what at times seems to be contradictory beliefs: ‘concrete, clinical materialism’ and at the same time a profound ache for the ‘numinous, metaphysical and sacred’.

There is also a distinct drawing power to the sword, because it often encapsulates the existential confusion and angst the postmodern mind and heart suffer from. Are we helpless puppets in some Divine, cosmic, predetermined charade, at the mercy of powers and possibilities that we have no control over? Are we shackled to archaic systems of control and containment that promise freedom but only offer empty mundanity? Has man and woman no part to play? No battle to fight? How do postmodern people exert themselves against the evils or nightmares of our times? In many ways the evangelical world has over sold the gospel of wealth and happiness and the disenfranchised have moved on to a world of exploration with all it’s unknown dragons, devils and dangers.

My hope is that the writers of these shows might discover there are far greater narratives worth exploring in these stories. But if that is a pipe dream, I hope to provoke other scribes and seers to speak out about the vanities and emptiness of these dead end illusions and point people to their Creator.  

For in Christ, all the shadows of religions and rituals find their fullest meaning and lead one to truth, peace, goodwill and beauty in the One, who offers Himself as the true blood to be drank and eternal food to be eaten.

 

 

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About the Author

Eric Blauer I am barbarian, sage, saint, bard, husband and father. Bow my knee to only One, serve all, ruled by none.

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