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One Christian’s Take on The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

When there is no freedom, no God, and no food, people go nuts.

My wife and I saw The Hunger Games last night. I don’t normally review movies, but as far as movies go, I thought it was good. My wife had recently read the book, so she explained that the violence of the movie was scaled back many times over, probably to achieve the PG rating.

Leading up to seeing the movie, I had read and heard quite a bit of chatter from the Christian community about the story – much of it negative. Katniss should have taken a stand and refused to participate. Instead she’s made the hero in a game of gratuitous violence. Granted, the value system of this futuristic society, and even of Katniss herself, is a bit warped. But sometimes Christians tend to view pop culture through the wrong lens.

If you evaluate The Hunger Games, or almost any other story, from the perspective of a Christian, using Scripture as the only infallible guide to right and wrong, it’s easy to pick out all the errors. We tend to assess the values portrayed by the characters as if Scripture is their guide too, and make our judgments accordingly. I think we may be missing an important point, however.

When Angie was reading the book, she continually reported on the story’s progress to me. The Hunger Games is set far in the future, in what was formerly America, now fallen in some kind of war and controlled by a dictatorial regime and divided into districts. Katniss’ district is located in the Appalachian region, reflecting the poverty of a coal-mining village with little food to spare. What is noticeably missing from the setting, however, is religion.

I grew up in Kentucky and am quite familiar with the history of the region, and if one institution is synonymous with it, it’s the church. Granted, some churches in Appalachia have represented a rare and unique, snake-handling, shouting, and foot-stomping brand of Christianity. But no church is to be found in Suzanne Collins’ depiction of District 12, or in any other for that matter, which leads to my own conclusion about the genius of the story.

Where there is no worship or recognition of God, there is no value of human life. In a society without the witness of the church to the Creator and Savior of humanity, people go nuts. The Tributes, or players in The Hunger Games, are pawns. The entire nation cheers as they are pitted against each other in a fight-to-the-death matchup. One lone victor is intended to emerge from the arena with 23 dead children left behind.

The story sounds eerily similar to the dark spot in the history of the Roman Empire when traitors, such as Christians who were falsely blamed for the burning of Rome under Nero, were pitted against one another and against lions and other wild animals in a coliseum while Rome’s upper class cheered on. This is the product of a society that has rejected the story, the love, and the redemption offered by its Creator. This is the story of a Christ-less people. And as Winston Churchill said, “It is Christ or chaos.”

Humanity is depraved and sinful. In The Hunger Games, the President, sick with power and cold to life, is pleased to continue this game along with most of the culture. Katniss, the hero, who demonstrates bravery, selflessness, and a willingness to put others before herself, is still willing to harm others to save her own skin in a desperate situation. She plays along, somewhat unwillingly, but participates in the madness in crucial moments. In other words, the good, bad, and ugly among us are all infected with the same disease – depravity, inherent sinfulness, which is the thing that separates us from God for eternity unless we embrace the truth of the Good News.

Sadly, the odds are not in our favor.

God has loved us, even in our depravity, so deeply that He gave His only Son Jesus to die on a cross as our volunteer, our stand-in, and our sacrifice. He alone was worthy to take the penalty of our transgressions agains our Creator and pay the ultimate price for our freedom. In Christ, we are truly free. And what is required of us in the story of redemption? Nothing. That’s the nature of grace. We need make no sacrifice of ourselves or pay any penance to earn the restored favor of God. It is undeserved. It is grace. And it is ours when we simply come to Jesus, trusting fully in Him as our only Savior and turning to Him from our sin.

I walked away from The Hunger Games glad for my God, and glad for a Savior who so valued humanity that He paid the ultimate price for us. If Collins’ story teaches us anything, it is the dark reality of what people do when God is removed from the equation. Simply put, to avoid becoming a world that consumes itself, we need Jesus Christ.

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  • P5harri

    I had a vague idea what the movie was about. However, what a great way to sum it all up about what happens when we remove God from our lives.

  • Chris Martin

    Great review, Brandon thanks. As current events have flowed in the last few decades and as someone who has lived from 1951 forward in the United States I have found that one of the basic premises of your article is abundantly true. There has been a progressive insanity that has evolved to what life is like today in our culture. Somehow, people have blindly accepted that this is the way it’s always been and it’s “normal” for our culture to be so brazenly uncivil, sarcastic, angry, violent, promiscuous, selfish, self-centered, murderous etc. It really doesn’t have to be this way. But still, it proves something out which is that where there is no Creator, no God, no Savior, no grace, no capital “T” Truth, no love, no faith or trust etc. ; People do go “nuts”… although I don’t like the word used in the Bible today since somehow it’s lost it’s original meaning, people’s minds have become essentially useless(biblical “reprobate”). They just lost the capability to think and reason and act essentially on animal instinct and self preservation(are these two synonymous?). Basically, sin is taking it’s toll. Kind of like in Judges where every man did what was right in his own eyes…

    I long for the days when it was different before it evolved into what our American culture is today. Alas, it won’t return to that … Yet, it can be better! Christ is here, alive and seeking out those whom will believe and be a light in a dark culture. I remember a counseling session I attended during my recovery days when he reminded me that I am a  minister of the gospel. That being said, I have stepped up to the line so to speak to be counted as those would do their part in the body of Christ to make our culture a different place through love for Christ, love for others and giving my life away in that way. I am convinced you are doing the same thing along with your wife.

    As you said in your article, Katniss, eventually participates in the goings-on for self-preservation and so it is with me as well, as it is with all Christians. I can only depend on the grace of God and keep being confessed up and prayed up since I long to grow, to be a reflection of His love and kindness to a broken generation.

    Great take on the movie. I had avoided the movie for the so called gratuitous violence and moral depravity. I think I’ll give it a look…..

    blessings, Chris Martin

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Thanks Chris, I think movies like this are a thermometer of culture rather than a thermostat. They don’t determine the spiritual temperature of a nation – they indicate it.