The Skinny on the Hunger Games

 

Even though I had never heard of the movie or the book, a few months ago, I took my wife to see the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  A few weeks later, while on a mission trip in Haiti, I overheard a missionary tell a friend that she was completely fascinated by the book.  Then, while at a Christian Writer’s Conference, The Hunger Games was praised by several of the guest lecturers as the ultimate example of contemporary quality fiction.  Finally, after a pastor friend of mine shared with me about his extreme interest in the book, I was intrigued enough to read it for myself.

A Brief Summary of The Hunger Games

16-year-old Katniss lives with her mother and little sister in district twelve of Panem, the remains of futuristic North America.  Years earlier, the twelve districts waged war on the wealthy Capitol and were soundly defeated.  As a reminder of the follies of rebellion, each district is required to send two tributes, one boy and one girl, to participate in the Hunger Games, an annual televised event.  Each year, the setting for this ultimate Survivor type show may change, but there is one constant:  It is an all out fight to the death between all twenty-four tributes.  When her sister Prim is selected by lottery, Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

 

The Violence Issue

Because of the violence within the book (and movie), one might think that Suzanne Collins is glorifying violence. In fact, the opposite is true. Throughout the story, she raises serious questions about our culture’s obsession with violence and death and what that obsession has done to the hearts and minds of our society.A popular movie (VHS Rental) when I was in high school was called Faces of Death. It was released in 1978 and guided viewers through explicit scenes depicting a variety of ways to die.  Even though it was banned in some areas, it was successful enough to produce at least three sequels.

1,000 Ways to Die

It’s not all that different from Spike TV’s 1000 Ways To Die, a contemporary spoof show which shows people making stupid decisions which causes their ultimate demise. Here’s an excerpt from an online review of the show:

Amidst a number of shows which try so hard to be cerebral and generally expose themselves as fraudulent, 1000 Ways to Die is an odd breath of sincerity; sincerely stupid and ridiculous, but refreshing. Each show is a collection of ‘shorts’ wherein someone dies, usually in an unusual way. The acting is atrocious. The special effects are mediocre. The narration is often funny. And each scene concludes with a ‘title’ for that death, which is usually a pun. In my opinion, it’s the funniest bit of the show, and you’ll probably find yourself trying to guess what the death will be ‘called’ before it appears on screen.

What have we become?  What sort of culture uses violence as a form of amusement? Although she uses violence to make her point against our obsession with violence (sort of like naked people boycotting pornography), Collins makes her point when all is said and done.

Click on the link below to watch a brief interview segment of Suzanne Collins discussing violence desensitization:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYlNiKoGM7o

In the end, The Hunger Games should help us examine how we view violence and death. Is it simply entertainment to us? Have we lost touch with reality by watching Kenny die at the end of every episode of Southpark? I’m not sure. I suppose that one could argue the same about the Bible. It is filled with violence. But those of us who have a relationship with God know that God’s character is not one of violence.  Psalm 11:5 states that The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the Lord to hate me.

So, if you’re on the same journey as I in trying to make sense of our culture’s obsession with violence, pray for me and I’ll pray for you.  Oh yes, and may the odds be forever in your favor.

How I Beat The ABATE Motorcycle Group

“They’ve taken over,” I said to Brice, my college buddy and fellow summer missionary.

We looked across the softball field.  It was covered with leather and chain clad bikers and about thirty Harleys.  Many of them had the word ABATE written across their jackets.  Most days, I would have just walked by while trying to keep from making eye contact.  However, this was not going to be most days.  You see, Brice and I had the responsibility of leading a softball game every afternoon at four.

I looked at my watch.  It was 3:57.

“Maybe nobody else will show up to play,” he whispered to me.

Almost on cue, we noticed three families walking toward the field carrying ball gloves.

“No such luck,” I repeated.

“Let’s go talk to them,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Why not?  What’s the worst that could happen.”

“They could take our bats and club us with them.”

“Come on,” he said.

Slowly, we walked onto the field, looking like two college dweebs compared to these guys.  I noticed one of the bikers rolling his eyes.  Another cracked his knuckles.  Nobody was smiling.

“Hi,” I said weakly.  “How’s it going?”

“It’s hot,” said one of the bikers, wiping his sweat with a bandanna.

“Yeah,” said Brice.  “It sure is.”

The same biker, he must have been the spokesman for the group, looked at our badges with a frown.

“Something we can do for you fellas?” he asked.

Timidly, I responded, “Well, uh, yeah.  You see, everyday at four, we, uh, lead a softball game right here.”

For a moment, the bikers just looked at us in silence.

I continued.  “You see, it’s uh, almost four, uh, right now.”

“Yeah?” said one of the bikers.  “What about it?”

Brice smiled and asked, “Do you guys want to play?  We’ve got plenty of extra gloves.”

The members of ABATE once again stared at us and then at each other.

Finally, one of the members smiled and said, “Nothing else to do in this heat.  Sounds like fun.  Come on, guys.  Let’s get these bikes off the field.”

Within a few minutes, we had chosen up teams (we made two bikers the team captains) and were playing ball.  Many of the members of ABATE could really hit the ball hard, but their jeans, leather, and chains kept them from running very fast.  Some of the bikers even had their lady friends run the bases for them.

By the end of the game, however, we weren’t summer missionaries, park staff, campers, and bike members.  We were all just people playing a game, having fun.

I learned a big lesson from Brice that day.  When people seemingly place themselves between you and your goals, sometimes the best solution is to involve them in your process.

By the way, my team won the game that day.  That’s how I beat the ABATE Motorcycle group.  Well, at least half of them.  The other half of them were on my team.

Additional Note:

Years after the above event happened, my friend Brice shared with me that the word abate actually means to reduce in amount, degree, intensity, etc.; lessen; diminish. Despite that connotation, I’ve learned that ABATE stands for American Bikers Active Toward Education. In addition to riding, they participate in motorcycle safety education as well as other charitable and humanitarian activities.