Convictions & Comforts

Why I Will Not Read The Hunger Games

I’m an avid reader (obviously) and fantasy/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic dystopian type YA novels are some of my favourites. Such as Incarceron. So it usually surprises my friends and acquaintances when they recommend The Hunger Games and I refuse to pick up the books, or watch the films. I was asked a while back by the ever challenging Timotheous for the reason why, and I have finally prepared my answer.

I did post all this through statuses and messages on Facebook, but I want to compile everything in one large post for the sake of future referrals.

Firstly, I can’t stand the hype. I did get through the Twilight series despite the sensation, but in my defence, I started reading those before there was a cult following, and they were so ridiculous and unintentionally hilarious that I whipped through them in no time. I didn’t have to deal with the posters and memorabilia being flung at my face until a bit later.

The main problem I have with the series is its ultimate message. The moral is subtle; it’s not like it jumps out at you and screams, “A society that murders its children is totally fine!!” but I honestly don’t think people see the big picture when they read/watch The Hunger Games, because if they did, there wouldn’t be such a following. Those without any religious convictions may not agree with my assessment, or even understand my stance, but I hope that at least fellow Christians will get a clearer picture of my total distaste for the series.

Let’s go back some two thousand years.

During the rule of ancient Roman emperors, Christians were slaughtered because they would not let the governing tyrants dictate their faith, charity, and witness. When forced into the arena, rather than murder their fellow man for sport, or burn incense to pagan gods or emperors, Christians refused, and were put to the sword, burned at the stake, fed to wild beasts, stoned, torn apart, martyred. It is for their testimony and courage under the most gruesome of trials that I cannot read, watch, and certainly not enjoy The Hunger Games.

To me there is such a simple solution. “Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.'”1 For a Christian, the answer should be clear: No. I will not offer tribute to a tyrannical government. I will not sacrifice my children to Moloch. I will not murder for the government’s sport. I will not give my money to a system that murders, brainwashes, and constantly strives against God and His Son. If I am killed for that, so be it. But no man, none can dictate to you or me to act against our consciences.

But the current regime is already implementing taxes and laws that undermine Christian values, and people are having to make the choice every single day whether to cave under the pressure and live against the Bible’s standards, or boldly take a stance and risk civil persecution for the sake of their principles. It’s not a “Game.” It’s not tolerable. To me, The Hunger Games only shows what could actually come to pass if Christians are too cowardly to refuse a tyrannical government it’s “tribute.”

And this is largely where I disagree with other Christians who enjoy The Hunger Games. I’ve heard some say that the protagonist is a brave and heroic figure. That she makes the sacrifice for her sister, beats the evil government, and remains pure.

I call bullcrap. (Pardon the expression.)

I do not feel at all that Katniss is a good role model. She still offers herself as tribute to the games. She makes that statement. “I offer myself as tribute…” as if the ruling oppressors are to be obeyed.  She manipulates the system, she doesn’t defy it. If she was really courageous, she would have said no at the beginning, just like those who died in ancient Rome for refusing point blank to deny their Savior or pick up a sword to murder for sport. The whole town should have said, “No, we’re not giving you our children,” and probably would have been killed in a massacre. But they would have died doing the right thing; protecting their children from killing each other for entertainment. If the majority laid down their lives for the cause and just refused to be a part of it AT ALL, the martyrs would be enjoying eternal bliss, and the wicked could go on screwing up the world until death brought them to the pit of hell. But no one did the right thing. No one was willing to make the real sacrifice, and risk losing their own lives for the sake of their souls and to leave a good testimony for their children.

This disturbs me as much as the only scene I ever saw in the movie where a kid got his neck snapped by another kid for not guarding supplies properly. It hits too close to home. People today are becoming like this. They look at Katniss, and the new Batman, and weak characters who lie, manipulate, and cave under pressure as their heroes and role models.

When the Christian mother, Perpetua was imprisoned and tortured, she did not offer to burn incense to the Roman gods, or denounce her Savior to preserve her own life or that of her child’s. Rather, she held fast to Jesus’ words that it profits a man nothing to gain the whole world if he loses his own soul. Hers is the pattern of courage to follow.

Stephen, Peter, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and countless others did not let the people of their day believe in the lies of false gods and doctrines in order for them to “have their heroes” for a time. (I hate The Dark Knight so much.) Instead, they told the truth. They preached against sin. They refused to participate in the evils of the day, and they were killed by a tyrannical government because of it. They are the true heroes of our faith. You are not opposing evil if you are catering to it in any way, shape or form. You are supporting it. Katniss joins the game, and thereby supports it.

The perception that Katniss is a hero is exactly the kind of mindset that allows the current government to get away with so much. “Well, we were forced into it. The guys on top said we have to, so we do.” No, you don’t. You have a duty to obey God, and when the government tells you to do otherwise, you fight them on it with every fibre of your being. Hopefully not with violence, but if it comes to that, I’d rather die a thousand times for Christ than only once while at peace with the world. I realize I can say that while living in a relatively free society, but I do mean it.

I’m not going to condemn anyone who reads/watches the series. I’m sure a lot of Christians haven’t thought about it at length like I have, or perhaps they feel it serves a purpose as a warning. But to me, it’s not worth my time when there’s such a clear solution to the problem and the books offer no real heroes since everyone gives in to the pressures of evil. I’m not at all saying it’s easy to do the right thing when it means torment or death, but that’s why a martyr’s reward is the surest and best.

Christians, please remember; tyrants may rule for a time, but God’s kingdom is forever. It is Him we will ultimately stand before when he judges both the living and the dead. In the end, it is never worth it to compromise our faith and values.

-x-

1 Acts 5:29

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3 thoughts on “Why I Will Not Read The Hunger Games

  1. *looooong comment ahead*
    I did read The Hunger Games and I liked it very much. Usually I purposefully avoid hypes too, but I finally caved in shortly before the movie and bought the first one. Well, then I couldn’t stop before I’d read all three. :)
    I won’t try to convince you to read it, because people are always trying to convince me to read Twilight and being shocked when I absolutely and totally refuse to read it. I’d just like to point a few things out.
    – Katniss as a hero: I don’t like it when people call her a hero either. “Hero” in terms of “the protagonist of the story” can go, but “hero” as in “heroism”, no. I’m very adamant that she is not a hero. Katniss is a survivor, that’s all she’s ever been. She’s weak and flawed and aware of it; she doesn’t think of herself as a hero.
    – Katniss does defy the system. It takes her a while, but she gets there. And even then raises more questions of morality and I didn’t fully approve of her, but I was also stuck in the position of “Would I have acted any different?” Katniss and the other characters do get in the position where they are prepared to die rather than live with this system and many of them do pay with their lives.
    – And on that same note, I think it’s a bit unfair to compare this hypothetical dystopian society to the martyrs of the ancient world, because the two societies are completely different. It’s the classic “apples vs pears” example. The ancient martyrs had something to fight for. Religion makes people fight and resist. The Hunger Games has nothing, no religion, no leaders, nothing to fight for and to make them resist. Heck, maybe all the people who were prepared to die as martyrs had already been murdered and this society consists only of those that were left over. To say that these people should have resisted is unrealistic, because that is not what beaten down societies do. A truly beaten down society will not rise up, because they have nothing to die for and this is what THG is about. The second and third books are about instilling people with resistance to evil and giving them something to stand up for.

    Wow, this was a blog post in itself. I just wanted to make those points as a Christian who enjoys THG and I’d be happy to discuss this further with you. I like (polite) literary discussions. :)

    1. Just a head’s up, I do plan on replying in full to your comments, ladies. I really appreciate this open discussion and I want to do my replies justice. :) I’m just really swamped right now and can’t do that, but thank you for the comments! I agree with many of the things you both said, but I want to delve further, so please bear with me and my delays!

  2. I have several thoughts about this post. First of all, hype is a non-issue; what matters is whether the story is worthwhile. If a bazillion people appreciate a work of art – wonderful; if only one person discovers its value, that fact does not detract from its intrinsic quality (or lack thereof). If you like Justin Bieber, it doesn’t make me hate you just because you’re one of tens of millions of other girls who do. When I went to see my favorite band in concert, there were literally 30 people there at the most. I can’t say that they’re better than Justin Bieber (although to me they are) just because there’s no “hype” over them.

    You compare Katniss and the other characters to the Christian martyrs and are upset because the former do not live up to the ideals of the latter, and I think you miss the point. Martyrs are operating on the level of grace – God has broken through the “rules” and given them the means to transcend their current situation by dying for love. Katniss and the rest of Panem are still on the level of nature – they do not have God’s grace to work their way out of the system, but they do have a natural sense of right and wrong and thus realize that the Hunger Games are evil. The power of the stories is that they can reawaken people on a natural level. I imagine everyone who leaves that theater is against the President. That is a great first step, because we have fallen too far as a society to jump right into stories about grace and martyrdom. We need to reawaken our natural sense of right and wrong first before we can embrace the spiritual life for which we are destined. I also think that how you’re using the term martyr is different than the actual meaning. To me, a martyr is someone who dies for something worth dying for. If all the districts were killed by the Capital (which is almost what happens at the end of the third book), what good does it do? I understand that they’d be making a point, but it would actually be better for the Capital because then they’d have less people to worry about. Also, because a martyr dies for Christ, and there is no mention of Christianity or even religion in any of the books, they would simply be dying for nothing and would not be accepted into heaven.

    The books are a portrayal of a post-Christian culture where entertainment – such as the games – has become the norm and an accepted part of life. The fact that not even the heroes/heroines make virtuous choices only accentuates the corrupting influence of the Capital’s society. What I actually enjoyed was that all the characters (at least in the first book) had moral problems. They had been sucked into the evil that was the Capital and were fighting within its system to overthrow it; an effort that ultimately will end in futility for the very fact that they play by the others’ rules. We get a hint that those rules can be overthrown when Katniss and Peta refuse to kill each other at the end of the first book. That scene is actually very powerful and one of my favorites in the entire series.

    As it stands, I appreciate the story because it demonstrates where a society can (will?) go without God. Some may argue that we should not read stories where no one is virtuous, but I disagree. If I, as a Christian, were to refuse to read books that accept the fact that children are being killed, then that pretty much cuts out an entire genre of books for me. All books that include a “futuristic world” generally include governments that couldn’t care less about killing people for no reason. One of my favorite books is The Giver and in it the government “releases” people and kills them whenever they feel like it. If I couldn’t read that book I’d pretty much curl up in a ball and cry forever… Every Christian should at least appreciate such stories (provided that they are demonstrating something worthwhile, such as the debasement of an entertainment culture) even if they do not want to read it themselves. Sure, I’ll admit that I don’t like Katniss and Peta at times when they do immoral things with a sense of the “ends justify the means.” Someone not grounded in virtue could walk away with a confused message about what is proper action. However, so long as someone realizes that danger, I think the first book at least is a great read with a worthwhile moral message.

    In the end, it’s simply a story. I don’t find anything more morally wrong with the Hunger Games series than with other books with a similar message (which I think is more along the lines of don’t let the government control you rather than it’s ok to kill children). I feel like the Hunger Games is as morally wrong as Harry Potter, and I am definitely a Potterhead. I do in fact refuse to read the Twilight series. From what I’ve read about it, the vampire Carlisle believes that there is an afterlife and that possibly vampires aren’t damned, while Edward is a bit more skeptical. He thinks that vampires will be punished for what they are, and he does not want that to happen to Bella. In becoming a vampire she would lose her soul and heaven. She isn’t dying a martyr at all. She’s dying for a stupid cause. I find it more morally wrong to freely damn yourself over your love of a man than to be part of a corrupted society – that you have little control over – where killing children is considered ok.

    Ok, I’m done. I’d also be willing to discuss further, if you’d like :)

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