Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunger Games: Christians and Culture

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Last weekend The Hunger Games hit the theaters, and I have been amused by the different articles I've seen about it online. Articles written by Christians. Have you noticed that every time a new pop-culture phenomenon comes around, everyone in the Christian community has something to say about it? The Matrix, Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. From strong censures to radical "spiritualizations" of the material, a swinging pendulum of opinions can be found wherever you look.

In light of my strong belief that art communicates, I thought it could be productive to take a look at a few examples of this that I found. For your reading and thinking pleasure, here is a little panorama of what's out there...

Christians and The Hunger Games- Strong Censure. I truly appreciated this author's perspective; he is gracious, a good writer, and trying to be Biblical. And while I could see his point (The Hunger Games are an elaborate set-up for situational ethics), I believe that a Christian reader can enjoy the story and be discerning, seeing Katniss not as a life role-model, but as a fallen sinner with many flaws. While reading the books I did not think, "Hmm... if I was in the Hunger Games, how would I kill my way to the top?" No, as Christians, if we were in a Hunger Games sort of situation, obviously we would obey God rather than man, and not kill. Ultimately I didn't agree with Douglas Wilson, but I think his review is worth the read because it will help you to be more aware of the subtle messages authors (and filmmakers) convey through their work.

Let The Hunger Games Begin- Over-Spiritualizing. As I read the first paragraph of Relevant Magazine's review, I was totally sucked in. The second paragraph had me even more hooked with its analysis of our current culture and its connection to The Hunger Games story. But when it turned into everyone's "hunger" for community, and then faith, it completely lost me. The author's closing statement that The Hunger Games "brings to mind the call to 'act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God,'" was a super-stretch for me. Really??? How did they come to this conclusion??? Because I didn't see this at all in the books.

The Hunger Games- Middle Ground. Christianity Today's review deals directly with the movie, not just the story. I found this to be much more thoughtful and accurate in its understanding of the story than the other two reviews. They boil the plot down to "loss of innocence" and are careful to build their case from the storyline. "Like many good sci-fi fables, Hunger Games says a lot about us: our voyeuristic culture, the tempering distraction of mindless entertainment, the balance of compassion and self-preservation, the interconnectivity of the haves and have-nots, hope and fear as controlling agents, and children's loss of innocence." Worth your reading!

These articles should give you a little flavor of the different ideas that can be drawn from one simple book (or movie). What I am trying to advocate for is discerning, careful reading that doesn't jump to extreme or irrelevant conclusions. It is so important for Christians to think carefully through issues presented in written and cinematic works; instead of 1) mindlessly absorbing them, or 2) quickly writing them off without taking the time to understand them.

Still anxious to see the movie as I haven't been able to escape the house long enough yet :).

Did you see the movie or read the books? What do you think the author was trying to communicate? How should we respond as Christians to the messages going forth in pop-culture? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

(And in case you missed it, my review of the Trilogy can be read here.)



2 comments:

  1. Rachel - thanks for the reviews- since I'm at home with my young boys all day, I love to read reviews on books because it helps me to think more on the topic - discussing online is also fun! I think it is always a challenge to respond to worldly culture with a Christian heart as we tend to first react with our worldly self. I would agree though that we have to take time, have open discussion where we can open up - even if our first response isn't the best so we can search our selves and grow our soul not the human sides. Thanks for the post

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    1. I agree, it is a challenge to know how to wisely respond! May God grant us wisdom and discernment, and a gracious tongue as we seek to sort through these things!

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