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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.

Is Mad Men a Religious Program?

Mad Men
Well… no, but it certainly makes for a good illustration of a very simple biblical principle – that of consequences. The laws of “sowing and reaping” or “cause and effect” are realities we cannot escape.

I loved Russell Moore’s post on this topic so much I wanted to pass it along here. So often our approach is to write off anything non-religious as being non-spiritually-valuable. I’m not saying (and neither is Dr. Moore) that watching Mad Men or any other television program will necessarily contribute to your spiritual growth. What I am saying is that sometimes divine realities are more understood and perhaps more effectively interpreted by the culture than by the church.

It’s tough sometimes for us to broach the subject of depravity and the results of sin, but often culture presents stark pictures of that depravity, reinforcing an inborn need in us for a connection with a Redeemer. And that would be Jesus.

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Why God’s Judgment Is Such a Tough Subject

Explosion

As Isaiah put it, God’s ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts. He is holy, transcendent, distinct, and set apart from us. And He is, as Noah put it, the “Judge of all the earth,” and He will “do right.”

But we often answer wrongly on His behalf. Let me say that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t always explain things well. As a Pastor, I always like to think I have an answer, which sometimes prevents me from being honest enough to say, “I don’t have a clue why God has decided this, but He is right.”

Here are some reasons why God’s judgment is such a tough subject…

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Preaching About Depravity

The soul that sins - it shall die.

Yesterday, I preached about depravity. We’re journeying through the entire Bible and I came to the passage where Moses comes down off the mountain and the people have made a golden calf. God prepared him with the information, but Moses was still utterly shocked at their rebellion. That’s how we approach the subject of depravity – we can hardly believe it. I mean, sure, people mess up, but totally wicked to the core from birth?

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The Rush of Summer

Isn’t summer supposed to be our vacation from the busyness of life? This summer, for the Cox family, is flying right by in a whirlwind of activity. We’ve traveled to see family in three different states (Missouri and Georgia for Angie, Kentucky for me). We’re getting ready to spend a week at church camp. And then, it will be time for Angie to return to work, for me to get busy with a new church year, and for Ella to begin Kindergarten.

In the midst of being busy in these bigger ways, I’ve also found ministry to families and needs to be rather pressing lately. My phones are ringing off the hook and I’ve done more “people work” in the last few weeks than ever before. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m very thankful to be needed, to be used in God’s hands, and to watch God at work in people’s lives. On the other hand, I hate what Satan is doing to the people around me that I love so dearly. It has certainly caused me to have an appreciative perspective on my own life. God has been so gracious and merciful to me, especially when I’ve least deserved it!

I will also say that the pressing nature of many of the issues I deal with drive me to my knees. I feel the continual need to remain constant in prayer so that my own spirit is not dragged down by the multitude of problems in the world. Depravity, and its results, can be draining on our frail emotions and if we aren’t careful, we’ll be tempted to despair. But then there is that verse in Romans 8:37, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” More than conquerors, winners, valiant victors in the war called life. And why? Because Jesus died and rose again!