21 July 2014 - clay

What I learned from The Hunger Games

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Even if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, this should still make plenty of sense. No spoilers either, in case you’re worried. 

About a year or so back, I decided to watch the first Hunger Games movie. I was underwhelmed to say the least. The story seemed flat, the acting seemed wooden11. Except for Woody Harrelson. He was pretty fantastic., and the excitement of watching children murder other children was lost on me.

Last week at the library, I saw the first Hunger Games book on the shelf and thought I’d give it a shot. Maybe the movie left out so much of the book as to make it less interesting. So, I read it like I read all fiction: in one night.22. Actually, in four hours. Fiction is so much easier to read than nonfiction.

The book was more entertaining than the movie was. It filled in the gaps that the movie left wide open, and actually started a story that could be redeeming. After finishing the first one, I decided that I needed to finish out the series to see if the story completed. Back to the library to pick up the next book.33. Actually, a different library. The nice thing about big cities is multiple libraries on the same system. I ran through this one in about five hours. After I wrapped up that one it was back to the library44. Yet another one, and the only one on the shelves was a large print edition that I could read without my contacts. for the final one.

What did I learn from reading the whole series in four days? That The Hunger Games, in a squishy sort of way, expresses exactly how humanity knows that there are a set of moral absolutes and that we completely ignore them when it suits our purposes. Yes, the books are depressing and somber, but they also show how quickly and easily we can slide from our moral high ground, down the slippery slope into the same swamp that we see others mucking about in.

This doesn’t become apparent in the series until the very end of the final book. Once events have transpired which lead to a change in power, the same despicable acts that one side was fighting against became the very acts they began to embrace to accomplish their goal. What can we learn from this?

That we do the exact same thing in the church. We present happiness and sunshine to people because preaching Hell doesn’t put butts in seats. We sing songs that talk all about what we do for Christ but not that Christ did all that was necessary to bring us to Him. Instead of doing what Jesus commanded and “go into all the world” we put on a show and hope the world comes in to see us. Instead of embracing all that our faith holds and become true sacrificial disciples, we compare ourselves to those around us and convince ourselves that we’re getting along better than them so we’re OK.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12;2

When will we leave the actions of the world behind? When will we see that the ideas and actions of those who stand against our faith are not the same ideas and actions we should embrace? Are we not renewing our minds once we come to know Christ? As a church, are we failing to disciple those who commit to the faith?

The answers to these questions? In order: I don’t know; I still don’t know; no, most of us aren’t; yes, we are.

As a body we too often attempt to preserve our history and throw money at temporary things that improve or sustain our image instead of using that money to raise up disciples. Our budgets are full of music, lights, and performances. In the words of MacBeth they are

a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

MacBeth, Act 5, Scene 5

I’m not saying that all churches are that way. I know several pastors and churches that don’t operate this way. Their focus is squarely on the Gospel and on bringing people to a saving knowledge of Christ. Too many churches are this way however. It’s what makes finding a new church in a new town so difficult, especially once you’ve experienced a church that doesn’t operate that way.

Like the victors in The Hunger Games, we’ve tried to assimilate the methods of the world in order to combat the world. We need to step away from those methods and embrace what Christ taught. To love God first, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. 1. Except for Woody Harrelson. He was pretty fantastic.
2. 2. Actually, in four hours. Fiction is so much easier to read than nonfiction.
3. 3. Actually, a different library. The nice thing about big cities is multiple libraries on the same system.
4. 4. Yet another one, and the only one on the shelves was a large print edition that I could read without my contacts.

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