The dystopian world of The Hunger Games, in which children kill other children for the amusement of a decadent elite, provides an ideal opportunity for Christians to engage with culture for apologetics and evangelism — but we have to be willing to challenge ourselves as well.
The Hunger Games has at heart an anti-war / anti-violence message, but author Suzanne Collins also critiques the way that consumers of media are complicit in the cycle of exploitation of violence for entertainment. In the books and the film, the violence of the Games is both a means of controlling the poorer Districts, and entertainment for the jaded, decadent people of the Capitol. Though the people of the Districts fear and hate the Games, they still watch the games on television. And we, the readers and viewers, are put in the position of being complicit in the violence and decadence we deplore.
Our emotions and our imagination cannot be extinguished; if they are ignored, or fed only junk, they will become unhealthy. Yet when the imagination is fed nourishing stories and images and cultivated properly, it flowers into part of a vibrant, full Christian life. The same root that can lead to voyeurism can become empathy; the root that could become violence can become a passion for justice and protecting the weak.
The Hunger Games is an atheist’s dream in some respects: the characters strive to live good lives in a world without any recognition of a transcendent God. The result is a bleak, meaningless world that exposes the bankruptcy of the atheist worldview. Yet if we try to offer Jesus as the solution too quickly, we may miss an important opportunity. The world of The Hunger Games allows Christians to enter into the worldview of those who are struggling to create their own meaning in a world that they perceive as hostile and meaningless. The questions and objections and fears that unbelievers have may not be what Christians expect.
- As Christian readers and viewers, how are we complicit in the distortions of media?
- How can we provide ways to guide and transform our culture toward the good?
- As Christians, are we willing to listen to atheists and seekers and answer their real questions?
Holly Ordway holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an M.A. in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University. She is the author of Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith (Moody, 2010) and speaks and writes regularly on literature and literary apologetics. Holly will appear on the Bible Answer Man Broadcast in April (listen to the show live at 6PM ET at www.equip.org) to discuss her cover article on The Hunger Games in the new issue of the Christian Research Journal. To read the full article by Holly Ordway, please subscribe to the Journal (6 issues for $39.50).