Admittedly, I have yet to read the books (calling to me from my Kindle). After seeing the movie, it is understandable how this story has become challenging to many in the faith community. The oppressive regime of the capitol, the despair of poverty juxtaposed to wealth and opulence, and young people being “forced” to kill their peers is, well, disturbing. Those who believe we are in a “culture war” are “justified” in sheltering their families from such violence and “value-less” stories. For them, there are no lessons to be learned. This tale only confirms that evil exists in the world and we must steer as far clear from it as possible.
There is another way of looking at it, however. Dystopian settings, for a huge part of the global population is not fiction, but reality. For them, poverty is not a fear, but an identity. Survival is not a story, but a way of life. Bloodshed is not fiction, but fact, and a haunting memory. Theologically, redemption is not a steering clear, but a driving through. The Gospel is not good news for the “good” and “safe,” but for the oppressed and hopeless. And, Christian education is not meant to shelter, but to educate, a word whose Latin etymology means to “lead out” or “bring out” into the open. God so loved the world, and did not run away from it, but embraced it.
I have observed that the ever so popular phrase, “in the world but not of it” (from passages like John 17, Romans 12, and 1 John 2) has been collapsed into itself, meaning that we are so afraid of not being “of” the world, we have made “of” and “in” synonymous, and thus, we are neither. Perhaps it is best to describe the conservative Christian approach as living “at” the world, in full contradiction, the standard of Christian holiness.
It is to Jesus, then, we must turn for an understanding of this relationship and that phraseology. It is to books like Julie Clawson’s The Hunger Games and the Gospel, that helps illumine a “third way” of engagement. And like its predecessors Harry Potter and Twighlight, The Hunger Games is simply another installment of “culture” that illuminates our hearts, our attitudes, our fears, our hopes, and our faith.
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