5/21/2012

The Hunger Games: A Point of View

The following is a 'paper' I wrote for a few friends after a conversation we had concerning the Hunger Games.

This is the original paper without much editing of original content (except to make it look more comprehensible on the web) and it isn't very in-depth. Mostly it just deals with what our conversation got into and my original 'gut' feelings after reading the book.

I should place a 'NOTE' here to anyone who finds this who may not be a Christian: This paper is not necessarily aimed at you. The friends who I originally wrote this for are Bible believers, so the arguments I give would only make complete sense to those who hold to the Word of God. (or at least have an understanding of what it states)

Anyway, I hope you find this encouraging, instructive, or at least interesting. . .

* * *
(NOTE TO THE READER: Please read all Scripture verses and chapters in their entirety. This paper will do nothing but make the writer seem a biased, severe, and heartless critic without the full consideration of the Word of God)
(FURTHER NOTE: I read the first book of the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy only once, have not seen the movie, and do not plan to see the movie or read the other two books)


The most prominent argument I have heard given (by people I have actually had conversations with) to defend the ‘story’ and characters of the Hunger Games is that the books/movie are not 'promoting killing', but are in fact against it. (i.e. Katniss hates the hunger games, District 12 hates the hunger games, and Katniss wants to stop them etc., etc. . . . . .) Granted. I am not saying this ‘idea’ does not at least try to present itself; however, the ends - or desired ends - do not justify the means. From a Biblical/Christian perspective, these desires/goals should not condone the actions and attitudes of the characters and the story.
     Where am I going with this, you ask?
   Let us consider Philippians 4:8: ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ ESV (NOTE: NASB has ‘dwell on’ in place of ‘think about’)
   Now, I ask you: can anything in the ‘Hunger Games’ (book or movie) reach those categories by Biblical standards? The appropriate answer is thus: NO. Nothing that I read in the ‘Hunger Games’ comes even close to being God Glorifying or Christ Exalting. (Not to mention the fact that, as advertising points, the book had people like Stephen King -- a name I’m sure you recognize -- quoted as saying “Addictive…I could not stop reading.” And Stephenie Meyer -- Author of the Twilight series -- quoted as saying: “I was so obsessed with this book” . . . http://www.thehungergames.co.uk/videos). . .



   So, now that I have completely struck down any possibility for the argument that there is ‘nothing wrong’ with the Hunger Games by Biblical standards, allow me to be more specific and address the element of the story that most disturbed me -- and is probably the most argued point of the book/movie: Murder.
   Every death that was caused/brought about by one of the ‘Tributes’ falls under the classification of murder.
   How could I possibly come to that conclusion?
   First let’s look at references to murder in Scripture to make sure our understanding and context for the term is properly in place.
   Exodus 20:13(Deuteronomy 5:17): ‘You shall not murder.’ Is an obvious one, and “the Hebrew word also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence” (According to my ESV Study Bible).
   Numbers 35:9-34(Deuteronomy 19:1-13) . . . is an interesting passage in that verses 24-28 declare the severity of taking human life by stating that the ‘avenger of blood’ would not be ‘guilty of blood’ if he kills the ‘manslayer’ who is not actually guilty of murder because he did not intentionally take the life of the one he had ‘slain.’
   Genesis 9:5-6 . . . I think gives credence to my observation of the ‘manslayer’ and the ‘avenger of blood,’ and points out more drastically that we are to esteem human life (if for no other fact than God created it; which should actually be our primary reason for respecting it). . .
   Matthew 5:21-26 and 1 John 3:15 point out that murder -- by God’s standard -- is a matter of the heart/soul and not just a physical action (and Numbers 35:20-21 also suggests this). . . .
   So far, the Scriptures we have looked at have all pointed toward the probability that we are never allowed to take the life of another human being, except in the case of administering justice . . . and if we only went on to consider New Testament accounts (i.e. Matthew 26:51-54, Acts 7:54-60 (and all the other accounts of how the apostles were tortured/killed without offering resistance), Romans 13:8-10, 1 Peter 4:12-19, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Matthew 5:38-48 etc. etc. . . .) we would most likely come to the conclusion that the idea of ‘self-defense’ is not permitted in any form.
   However, there is Old Testament law that provides for special exceptions to this ‘rule of thumb’ where ‘self-defense’ is a definite violation of our duty as Christians to ‘love our enemy’ (Matthew 5:43-48, Romans 13:10, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). . .
   Nehemiah 4:14(as well as Exodus 21:12-14 & 22:2) could allow for the defense of our families and property/nation even taken in context of the preceding and proceeding verses. However, it is clear that these are only in the case of defending another from one who clearly intends to harm them ‘willfully’ and ‘by cunning.’ It must also be considered that these are under the context of rightful adherence to the Law . . . though, ultimately we must acknowledge that God is our ‘defense’: Psalm 27 (verse 1: ‘The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ ESV (Note: NASB has ‘defense’ in place of ‘stronghold’)
   This brings us to the concept of war . . . Going only off of the events covering war in Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, and the book of Judges; war was commanded by God to preserve His people, Israel, and to punish the evil of the Canaanites (and other nations) when the Israelites came to the Promised Land . . . Nowhere in any of these books do I find sufficient defense for the actions of Katniss -- or any of the other characters in the story -- because each time that a ‘judge of Israel’ (or Israel as a nation) killed, it was by the clear decree/command of God (to either punish the wicked, or preserve His people) . . . In fact, in 1 Samuel 4:1-11 it seems that the Israelites had not received any command from God to war against the Philistines; thus the Israelites were slaughtered and the ark of God was captured (not to mention that, after reading the preceding chapters of 1 Samuel, it seems that this is another case where Israel has turned away and is thus being punished). . .
   So, conclusion? We have no authority/right to take the life of another except in the case of judicial punishment or within the range of unmistakable boundaries in war (Yes, I am aware that ‘unmistakable boundaries in war’ is pretty ambiguous, however it would take another paper to cover the subject even remotely well, and I trust any who read this are capable of looking through the Scripture -- Deuteronomy 20 is most explicit in laying down actual law in the case -- to find answers to any questions they have on that particular subject. . .). Here I must clarify that I am not against Christians serving in a military capacity (or similar occupations clearly allowed in Scripture: i.e. law enforcement and protective services/bodyguard), so long as they understand their duty and obligation to God in that service. . .

   Let’s now look at the three times Katniss Everdeen was involved in the death of a ‘Tribute.’
   Katniss dropped a killer-bees' nest on someone’s head while they slept (going against the example displayed by David in 1 Samuel 24 (NOTE: this suggestion -- as well as the Nehemiah 4:14 observation -- comes from Kevin Swanson; the three links supplied at the end of this post are his observations of ‘The Hunger Games’) Now, this observation is open to debate, since the reason David refrained from killing Saul was because Saul was 'the LORD's anointed' - however, combined with the examples of the disciples, it warrants consideration.)
   She shot a young man through the neck in rage after seeing him strike Rue with a spear . . . Because this was the only act of violence that even approaches a proper act of defense in this story, the only thing I will bring against it is that she could have gotten away with merely wounding/incapacitating her victim. . .
   As a supposed ‘act of mercy,’ she shot the young man who was attacked by vicious ‘genetically-mutated’ wolf creatures -- no attempt at or consideration at all of rescuing him -- just before the ‘climax’ of the book . . . (The only ‘mercy killings’ in scripture -- that I could find -- were committed by/for wicked men: Abimelech in Judges 9:52-57, and Saul in 1 Samuel 31:3-5(1 Chronicles 10:4-5)). . .
   And finally, Katniss and Peeta were willing to commit suicide in an ‘act of defiance’ against the ‘Capitol.’ . . . Here I will say that (following in the footsteps of ‘Romeo and Juliet’) this is the biggest example of self-centeredness and self-glorification that I have come across in popular culture/literature: “I refuse to bow to any will outside my own. Therefore I will take/destroy my own life and by so doing declare myself the master of my own destiny.” That is pretty much the statement that Katniss and Peeta’s action makes; as Nihilistic (and possibly Marxist -- or even Darwinian -- depending on how you look at it) a thought as there ever was . . . It goes completely against the fact that our bodies do not belong to us, and we have no choice when it comes to the time or manner in which we will die . . . (1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Romans 12, Job 2:9-10, Job 38-42, Ecclesiastes 8:8, Ecclesiastes 9:1(and verse 12), Proverbs 16:1-9 -- read all of Proverbs and Psalms, they are rife with this concept -- and again I will bring up the way the apostles were martyred . . .). . .

   For those of you who may think this paper is not looking at the book/movie very closely, I will tell you that that is merely because this ‘paper’ would end up turning into a Book. But, just so you know I was paying close attention to many aspects of the story when I decided this book/movie/concept needed to be slammed (hard), here are the things this paper has ignored. . .
   The fact that our culture has fallen so far that this story, as chock-full of horrifyingly graphic violence as it is, is not only acceptable but ‘good’ entertainment among children ages 12 and older (let alone, adults) . . . Ignored (at least as far as secular culture goes; from the way I address Christians in this paper it could not have been said to ignore the lack of integrity/standards in Contemporary ‘Christian’ society). . .
   The fact that the characters committing the violent acts (without flinching, I might add) in this story are children . . . was ignored.
   This paper is ignoring the fact that even the main characters hold such a low opinion of human life that they consider killing a fellow human being no different than killing an animal (Gale suggests this concept to Katniss before she is taken to the Capitol, and she thinks along these lines several times in the book). . .
   This paper Ignored the fact that one of the main characters has no problem with killing someone, he just doesn’t want to be forced by someone else to do it (Peeta in the rooftop conversation with Katniss). . .
   In this paper I completely ignored the whole ‘cave’ piece of the book (and thus the corresponding ‘relationship’ between Peeta and Katniss -- which was actually my second biggest reason for disapproving of the book). . .
   This paper is Ignoring the fact that the writer of the Hunger Games puts forth a feministic viewpoint (the boys seen in the arena are either uncouth, mindless brutes, or cowardly weaklings, and the girls are all ruthless and dominating in personality or not mentioned for more than a sentence -- essentially ‘girls’ only by physical standards . . . the exceptions being Peeta -- only in as much as he at least shows a gentle side along with some backbone -- and Rue . . . Katniss is not an exception because she is merely a watered down version of the other girls, the only difference is that we’re supposed to like her so she at least shows a few feminine traits when it comes to Peeta and Gale and in her maternal instinct when dealing with Rue -- however flawed her personality and ‘situation/circumstances’ made that instinct) . . . Not to mention the fact that there were no men in District 12 (which supposedly hates the Hunger Games) who would take their duty as men seriously and stand between their sisters/daughters and the Tyranny that was ‘forcing’ their children to kill each other for sport. . . .
   My paper – until now – ignored all of these flaws (and more that I’m sure I could name if I read the book again). . . .

   So, what is my point?
   The ‘Hunger Games’ in no way presents anything that could even remotely be pointed at to honor, glorify, praise, or even acknowledge God, so why is it receiving commendation in supposedly ‘Christian’ circles?
   I do not want to condemn those who say they ‘enjoy’ or ‘like’ these books or the movie, however, I do think we all need some serious reproof for our complete lack of discernment in how we choose to ‘entertain’ ourselves.
   And I exhort all those who read this - and especially myself - to ‘examine yourselves’ (2 Corinthians 13:5) and be careful that everything you do and say, hear and see, brings honor and glory to our LORD and King Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Peter 4:11). That we love God and love what He loves (Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12-13, Joshua 22:5, Psalm 31:23, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27) and hate what God hates (Psalm 45:7, 97:10, Proverbs 8:13, 13:5, Amos 5:14-15). . . .

   In closing, I will say: Yes, I realize that the points I have made would eliminate practically 90% of movies and books from a Christian’s ‘acceptable entertainment’ list -- and that I risk displaying myself as an enormous hypocrite in pointing them out -- however, our Holy Savior and Almighty God deserves nothing less than all of our Time, Thoughts, Energy, and Focus, does He not?

   Matthew 6:33: ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. . . .’ ESV (last half of verse: ‘. . . and all these things will be added to you.’)

   Romans 12:1-2: ‘Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.’ NASB


~ J D White
4/17/2012


(NOTE: Here are a few Audio files from Kevin Swanson on his view of the ‘Hunger Games’, and his observations even go further to point out things that I was not attentive enough – or too desensitized – to catch. . .). . .


(And here are some links to other proper perspectives on the Hunger Games. . .). . .

And this link will take you to a lighter criticism, but no less a proper criticism.
For crying out loud there's even a more secular viewpoint HERE (WARNING: this link has some language) that looks at the story properly!

1 comment:

Kate said...

Hey J D,
This is so exciting!
Never give up, my friend. :)
~K
Isaiah 26:8

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