Warning: minor spoilers included in the following post.
Last week, my wife and I concluded our recent annual November ritual of seeing the latest installment of The Hunger Games, rounding it out with the fourth and final part, Mockingjay – Part 2. I know a lot Christians believe you shouldn’t watch a film depicting children killing one another—which I understand, as a guy who hates violence (I often close my eyes during gruesome scenes in movies)—but after consuming the entire series I want to instead provide five reasons Christians should watch every minute of The Hunger Games story.
1. The Hunger Games perfectly depicts what a Godless society can lead to. I know almost nothing about Suzanne Collins, the author of the books the films are based on (other than that she’s an extremely wealthy woman), but I’m guessing she’s not a Christian. There was no mention of God in any of the four parts, nor did I notice any intentional Christian symbolism or thematic material.
BUT, that doesn’t mean the film conveyed nothing about God, even if unintentionally. If you think about the story, the characters, how their society is structured, etc., you’ll notice a couple things: one, they are not ruled by any apparent God; and two, they are ruled instead by a power-hungry oppressive government—one so brutal that it forces children to murder one another on live TV.
This could not happen in a society that knows the God of the Bible, where its citizens follow Jesus’ simple commands to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds and to love their neighbors as themselves (Matt 22:37-39). But in a society that recognizes no higher power, physical and political power ultimately end up consolidated in the hands of the few most ruthless enough to acquire them. They then get to determine right and wrong, based on their own corrupt standards, allowing them to justify any type of atrocity, including pitting innocent children against one another in a death battle.
Suzanne Collins may not be a Christian, but she wrote an incredibly powerful story about what is possible in a society ruled by humans (who are naturally corrupt) instead of God (who is naturally perfect). And in the process …
2. The Hunger Games condemns violence and the lust for power. You already know how I feel about violence. And though The Hunger Games is a violent—but not graphic—series, it actually uses that violence to condemn it. The hero wants nothing to do with killing anyone, despite having to do so herself at times; and the ones who do desire violence—other than as a necessary means to free themselves from brutal oppression—are depicted negatively, lusting after power, willing to do virtually anything to subdue and control society. By the end of the series, it even shares some similarities with the classic novel Animal Farm in which the “good guys” (or animals) in the beginning ultimately end up no different from the “bad guys,” all lusting after power and control.
Luke 4:5-8 shows Satan offering Jesus worldly power, if only he would worship Satan. Jesus, of course, throws it back in his face, saying, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” So, we learn from this passage that the lust for earthly power is connected with Satan—which follows my first bullet point perfectly, illustrating the root of the human desire to rule over others and the brutality it can lead to. The Hunger Games makes this same illustration quite effectively.
3. The Hunger Games is a powerful artistic achievement, conveying truth through a compelling story. Jesus did the same thing when he taught truth through stories—or parables. There’s a reason he chose fiction as one of his most common methods teaching—great stories connect with us in a personal way that straight preaching cannot, often causing us to rethink some of our basic beliefs about life and God, even if God is never mentioned.
I’m certainly not calling The Hunger Games a “parable” by any stretch or equating it to how Jesus taught, but it is one of those truly thought-provoking fictional stories Hollywood occasionally produces that can compel us to step back and consider much of our own society’s trends. With the obvious decline of God’s influence over America today, one can’t help asking where that will ultimately lead. Will our future share any similarities to the society depicted in The Hunger Games? With the increasing violence and fascination with “reality” shows, will we ever allow one on which people could kill one another? With the increasing consolidation of power among the few (mostly in Washington D.C.), will our citizens ever totally lose their voice and freedom to play any role in the political process? I certainly hope and pray not, but The Hunger Games raises these types of questions, and Christians—in fact, everyone—would be wise to at least think about them at some level.
4. All your friends are watching The Hunger Games. I’m not a conformist, so I’m not saying you should watch the series just because everyone else is. Instead, you should watch it because it’ll probably come up in conversations, and now you’ll be equipped to talk about it from a spiritual and cultural standpoint and possibly give your friends—especially the non-Christian ones—something to think about that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. It’s worth a shot, right?
Or—maybe as a storyteller myself, I take watching films further than most, and you don’t want anything to do with the first four points I made. If that’s the case, then I leave you with my final and simplest point.
5. The Hunger Games is wildly entertaining.