The Theology of the Hunger Games
As we approach the release of the second film in the Hunger Games series, you may hear people talk about how the dystopian world dreamed up by Suzanne Collins is too violent, how it's cruel and un-Christian, something good teenage girls should not be reading or watching. Don't listen to them.
We all have those books that strike us emotionally and spiritually at certain times in our lives. For me, they're the Hunger Games. I read the young adult trilogy during a heartbreaking time when my husband and I found out we were infertile and began the long process of adoption. One day I picked up a copy of the first book in the series and, like so many, couldn't put it down. I read the Hunger Games books everywhere—at work, walking my dog, sitting at red lights in the car. I stayed up late reading them. I lost sleep. It was like I was physically hungry for the story and couldn't get enough.
Unlike in most books and films today, the violence in Hunger Games serves a greater purpose than entertainment; there is no glory in it. Though the premise of the book is enough to make your stomach turn—main characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are forced along with 22 other kids to compete in a televised fight to the death—their story exposes political injustice, oppression, the depravity of human nature, and the frightening insensitivity to destruction that we see glimpses of in our culture today.
But more than anything, Hunger Games tells the story of Katniss' own heart—the story of a young girl who endures a traumatic event, who has every excuse to crumble inside, yet finds courage to do the right thing, and sacrifices everything she has for a cause that's greater than herself. It's the story that we are all in the middle of, the battle between good and evil, between the Creator and the Destroyer—the battle for souls. Christians are called to fight. But like Katniss, we will succeed not by our own strength or ingenuity, but by our weakness. As the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, "For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Katniss didn't want to be the "Mockingjay," a bird hybrid that became the symbol that rallied her people to fight for freedom. But she had no choice. The games, the physical pain, the psychological torture she had endured—all these things had shaped Katniss into the Mockingjay before the leaders of the revolution asked her to play the role. As readers learn in books two and three, the true story of the Hunger Games is not how Katniss and Peeta survive the arena, but how they handle the emotional and physical impact after the games are over. They suffer nightmares, humiliation, and isolation. Many times, Katniss ends up hiding somewhere, crying, an absolute mess. Yet she uses and redeems her painful experiences for good work.
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