Mockingjay, Part 1
I haven’t read the Hunger Games books and missed the first movie, but I dipped my toes into Suzanne Collins’s franchise when I saw Catching Fire. I liked it well enough to want to see Mockingjay, Part 1. Now I’m a fan, eager to see Part 2 and making plans to read the books.
My new-found excitement for Katniss and friends comes with the full knowledge that a number of writers consider the books to be poorly written. If that’s true, the movies, I’d say, are different. I think Mockingjay, Part 1 does a good job expanding the Hunger Game story.
The focus on beating out competitors in a life and death struggle shifted at the end of Catching Fire to resistance to the corrupt government that demanded the games and the leader who embodied the system. Mockingjay, Part 1 advances the story along these lines.
Katniss Everdeen brought down the Hunger Games and ignited resistance, but the government has superior weapons and technology; President Snow is committed to crushing the opposition once for all; and Peeta, the “victor” Katniss has fallen in love with, is a pawn in government hands, urging surrender and cooperation.
In the face of such hopelessness and pressure, the resistance leaders look to Katniss to rally people throughout the country to their cause. Without intending to, she has become the face of opposition to the corrupt government. If she urges people to fight, though it cost them their lives, they will fight.
From the beginning, however, Katniss got involved in the Games and the resulting events simply because she wanted to protect those she loves. But as her experiences bring her into contact with more and more people, and as she sees how they suffer under the tyrannical treatment of the corrupt leaders, she takes up the mantle as the Mockingjay—the symbol of resistance.
By far the greatest strength of the movie is the character of Katniss. She has inner strength but not a hero complex. She isn’t interested in exerting power over people. Rather she wants to protect those she loves, starting with her sister, her mother, the boy she loves, and her friends. But her circle is ever-expanding, which influences what she decides to do.
In short, Katniss is likeable and well-motivated. And now she has a greater purpose, though her desire to save Peeta still takes precedence over much else.
There are other characters to love as well—Katniss’s childhood friend Gale and her sister Prim for example. But clearly Katniss is the driving force in the story.
The movie also gives a person a lot to think about. One theme relates to mass market media. As the Games were televised and each competitor required to cater to the audience in order to gain necessary support, the Resistance now requires the same kind of audience manipulation. Hence, delivering lines with believable feeling is as important, if not more so, than truth.
The emphasis is on perception. When Peeta makes his appearance on the Capital-controlled television, urging Katniss and the other revolutionaries to put down their arms because they’re being manipulated to oppose President Snow, it’s clear there’s a certain level of truth to what he says. So whose version of the truth is the right one?
The question seems frighteningly relevant in light of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.
My main complaint about Mockingjay, Part 1 is the stylistic device used to open the movie. Opting for an in medias res approach, the director/screenplay writer show Katniss in a situation that clearly has her traumatized, but the audience has no way of knowing where she is, why she’s upset, who is calling her, and why she wants to be alone—in other words, in confusion.
This technique is soon followed by a jump cut that transports Katniss from the rubble of District 12 to the bunkers of District 13 without a word of explanation or preparation that this move is about to happen. And we’re still not done.
This device leads to another disorienting one in which Peeta is with Katniss . . . except he isn’t. As it turns out, rather than being a second jump cut, which would seem to be the most logical explanation, this event turns out to be a dream.
With these three “artsy” devices following one after the other, I experienced disorientation and outright confusion in the beginning of the movie, but once it settled down to a more approachable format, the story took over and moved along at a crisp pace.
After having read a review or two, I wonder now if this disorientation and confusion wasn’t intentional—a device to set up a key element in Part 2. But I’ll need to wait to make that assessment. As it stands, I found the opening of Mockingjay, Part 1 to be annoying and confusing.
There were points when I thought the rebels were making a mistake to keep Katniss hiding away in the bunker instead of out leading forays against the Capital. I’ve since learned that some reviewers see this as a fault of the story, not the mistake of the resistance leaders. Either way, Katniss was rendered somewhat passive—not something a writer wants to do when the story hangs so clearly on the reader/audience response to the protagonist.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mockingjay, Part 1 as a thought-provoking piece of dystopian fiction.
I don’t see any elements I’d say parallel Christian thought. Katniss wants to fight those who are hurting the people she loves. She wants to help those who are fighting their common enemy. She has no greater aim, no desire for personal power, but also no grandiose desire to “fix” society. She simply wants to rescue those she loves and stop those she hates. She’s not a complicated person, at least in this installment of the Hunger Games franchise.
The movie is certainly provocative, particularly when it comes to how mass media massages the truth to dramatize what those behind the lenses want people to believe. If nothing else, viewers of this movie should look a little more skeptically at their evening news from now on—and I have to believe that’s a good thing.
Could I ask you to tell me what you will take with you to eternity from this move?
Can’t answer about this film specifically because I haven’t seen it. (Somehow I’ve ended up not seeing a single Hunger Games film in theaters, only on Blu-ray.) But I have read the book series, and I can say personally that although I’m not a raving fan, I appreciated how God’s common grace allowed the author to explore the natural consequences of a world without him. There aren’t a lot of stories that show the “man is basically good” lie for what it is, while also avoiding sexually arousing material that could tempt most readers. The Hunger Games series is like Rom. 1 brought to life. Even has Rome parallels.
On a related note, I believe it’s not only popular culture’s results that will last for eternity, but popular culture itself because human culture-making is part of the cultural mandate — including popular culture. See Popular Culture Is An Eternal Gift of God.
Thank you for that answer Stephen. You and I already have one unfinished conversation going. I am NOT rushing you either.
Greg, ask yourself the same question about your favorite form of entertainment.
Mockingjay picked up where Catching Fire left off, that’s why the beginning was confusing. Becky, you totally need to read the books. The writing is amazing and you’ll get SO much more out of the movies. It’s violent, and there’s no mention of God or a higher power. So many of the characters have no hope. But it’s a fascinating world and the writing and character development will draw you in so quickly, you’ll think about Katniss and Peeta and the others for a long, long time.
Pam, I saw Catching Fire and was expecting Mockingjay to pick up from that point, but it started with a scene of her trying to hide and saying she needed just five minutes, just five minutes to herself. We viewers who did not read the books had no idea what was going on. About half way through the movie, or less, I’m not sure, we arrive at the place in the story where that scene fits. It was in medias res, an intentional technique starting in the middle of a scene. But the scene was also out of chronological order.
It’s supposed to be artsy, I guess. I call it confusing.
Still didn’t spoil the movie for me.
Just a sidenote,
The scene isn’t out of order. What they were trying to convey with that scene was the weeks Katniss spends recovering in the hospital post arena. The trauma she’s running away from is the trauma of the Games. Does that make more sense now? In spite of the confusion it caused for you and probably other people, I think it works better than having Katniss start in the destruction of District 12.
They have very little time to convey how mentally destroyed Katniss has been before they have to get on with showing the rebellion.
Leanna, I probably have the advantage of not having read the books in this regard because the only involvement I have with the story is the two movies I’ve seen. Mockingjay, Part 1 opens with Katness running in a room that made me think of a boiler room basement. She hears someone following her and ducks down behind something like a steel girder and says to herself, I just need five minutes. Five more minutes to myself. Someone calls to her and she says aloud, Just give me five minutes. Please. A head comes into view, and then maybe a hand and the scene cuts away.
As the movie progresses, we reach the events that led up to that opening scene–Katniss has already done one promo vid and has gone outside to do another. While they are talking and prepping her, someone says something that horrifies her. It’s like she gets this picture of how awful their circumstances are, and she runs back inside. The Woody Harelson character follows her, and it is his head that comes into view with Katniss hiding, asking for just five more minutes.
Clearly the opening scene is out of order and the screenwriter was using the in medias res technique. Which was confusing, so much so that apparently some people just overlooked it. I know the friend I saw the movie with did.
By the way, I’m editing this post to add a picture of that opening scene.
Becky, I agree that the opening sequence of scenes were confusing. I went back and reread the beginning of Mockingjay to see what was happening. Of course, they left out a lot, like the fact that Katniss was taking a lot drugs to deal with PTSD. But I think that is one of the main points of the stories: this type of situation, which is basically like throwing children into a war zone, causes trauma. So, in the movie, we repeatedly see Katniss reach a point where she “can’t take it.” In the beginning, when she wants 5 minutes alone; when she walks through District 12 and sees the skeletons; when she sees the wounded in the hospital and says, I can’t do anything to help them. She is broken because of what has happened. That’s why it is so inspiring when she gets the strength to fight back–at that point she is no longer a victim, but a leader and a protector of those who are being hurt.
The person at the beginning who interrupts her is a woman, one of the hospital personnel. The mantra she’s repeating to herself is one that her psychologist gave to her to help her piece her mind back together during her initial recovery. “My name is Katniss. etc.”
She runs back to the boiler room again later in the movie when Haymitch comes after her. It’s a second scene. I do wonder how many people were confused by that. In the book, it’s actually an art closet (not a boiler room or whatever) and she ends up in there a lot more than twice. 😛
And when she’s not in the closet, she’s sedated heavily in the hospital.
They spend a lot of the book catching Katniss up on the events that happen while she’s hiding or sedated or unconscious…
<strong>Pam Halter says: ” you’ll think about Katniss and Peeta and the others for a long, long time.”</strong>
Which is my exact point. When I go to God in prayer through the blood of Christ, what biblical reason would I give him for my doing this? This really is an honest question.
Here’s my personal take on that, Tiribulus… I have not read the second two Hunger Games books, but I’ve read the first one, and I have enjoyed all three films that have released so far. Personally I have found that – just due to the contrast – it has caused me to reflect a LOT about grace, and God’s mercy, and just the sheer wonder of Christ coming into the world. We sometimes forget that the world we live in IS dark, and would seem as hopeless as Panem – except that God has given us hope.
If God asked me, “Why did you spend time watching this and thinking about it?” I would be able to say that it enabled me to think about some of the problems in our culture more thoughtfully (the media manipulation, desensitization to violence, cruelty, blind delusions, etc.), and also to reflect on how merciful HE is, to send light and grace into a dark world like this, so that we DO not live as those who have no hope, like Katniss and many others in dystopian stories. The Hunger Games is also a great conversation-starter – I’m sure it could be an interesting springboard to talk about the gospel with other fans! I also agree with Stephen, above, when he points out that human nature is very well depicted in the story, which is important in our culture that likes to think everyone is good at the root.
CommentLuv has a link to my own recent blog post on the topic, if anyone is interested to see more of my reasoning.
I see these comments made to describe this movie in the Parents Guide at the IMDb movie review site in the “Frightening/Intense Scenes” section:
“Despite there are no “Games” in this instalment (which means no kids killing kids whatsoever), it is still the darkest, most adult and most intense Hunger Games movie, for now.”
“The mass bombings of citizens and executions may be disturbing to some viewers.”
“The death count is very high for this film.”
“The ending is very disturbing, intense and emotional.”
Given all of that, I know that this is not a movie that I have any interest in seeing. I do not know why I would want to deliberately fill my mind and heart with what sounds like a dark, intense, disturbing movie. And one that is described above by Pam Halter as a world that draws you in very quickly and leaves you thinking about the characters for a long time afterwards. It does not sound to me like this is the type of thing that we are scripturally encouraged to focus on.
I agree – this is not something we are to scripturally focus on. My point was that the author so masterfully developed the characters as to make them unforgettable. Most of my thoughts about them are that it’s sad there is no hope. No Jesus to get them through a heinous world and leaders. Many countries in this world right now are just as bad – some even worse – than this fictional world. The difference is we have great hope in Christ.
If you are an author and want to develop unforgettable characters, read the novels. But don’t expect light and hope in them.
Well, this is based on the third book of a dystopian series with a moderate level of violence and mature themes to start with. The reasons for the content is due to the fact that they finally are engaging on open warfare to take district 13 down, and the film is more morally ambiguous than the first, with Katniss’s allies having their own agendas. If you’ve read or followed the series, you’ll know what happens. If not, rent the first movie and see if it’s to your liking.
I don’t agree with Pam about it being as memorable, but then I’m used to dystopian themes in books.
Cherylu, I read that review, too, when I was preparing my post. I understand what they’re saying, but I think the reviewer also mentioned that none of these deaths are shown. They are implied. There isn’t the level of violence that hand to hand combat gave in the first one I saw. But when you see a town all in rubble, you get the picture that people who lived there have died. So it’s violent without showing violence, if that tells you anything.
And the end was not what I’d call disturbing. I think Unbroken, the movie that is coming out about part of Louis Zamporini’s true life will be much more disturbing. But sometimes out of great suffering comes great triumph!
I know that doesn’t happen in the Hunger Games series, and that is the reason I’d decided I didn’t want to read the books or watch the movie. But now I want to see for myself what the stories might or might not be saying about life and culture.
I had a friend point out what a friend of hers thinks is Christian symbolism–specifically, Peeta’s name, meaning bread. And in this last movie, the song of triumph Katniss sang about the hanging tree–a symbol this other person says is a symbol of the cross. So I want to see what I think. Apparently Suzanne Collins is a Catholic, so it’s quite possible she was suggesting something more than the horror of war and corrupt leadership.
I’ll let you know in a year, when Part 2 comes out. 😉
I take it back, Cherylu, I hadn’t looked at the page you indicated. I’d read Unplugged’s review which I think puts the movie in perspective. If you didn’t know, it’s rated PG-13—in other words, NOT for children. It’s dealing with mature themes: war and government corruption and and media manipulation of the masses. I don’t really know how you would write a book or make a movie about war without showing some of the effects of it. Yet here’s in part what Unplugged’s reviewer said:
As an adult I’m not “disturbed” as that other site says, by the fact that war is horrible. I’ve learned that from real life. When in the movie government forces executed prisoners, I thought immediately of the ISIS executions which were real. It’s not the movie that is “disturbing.” It’s that sinful man left to himself is disturbing.
Yes, these are not the things I’d want children to have to think about—in the same way that I wouldn’t want them to have to think about being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists or sold into sex slavery or escaping from their home to stay alive. But no matter what we wish, there are children who have not only thought about such things, they have lived them.
A movie like this can actually serve as a sort of prophetic voice—this is the path we’re on and the way the world could go unless we do something different from what we’re doing right now. Whether or not that was the author’s intent, I don’t know. I do know, when a movie provokes thought, even though the subject may be distasteful, it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
This movie, this series, has something to say, and I am not sure yet what that is because there’s more to the story. As I watch the movie, I’m looking for the ways in which the ideas that surface either square with Scripture or contradict it. I could say a lot about that, but that’s not the point here. What sites like the one you linked to, Cherylu, seem to ignore is that a movie, a book too, can be greater than the sum of its parts. This one clearly is.
One thing I think is helpful to remember when reading reviews intended for parents … they are intended for parents. As Becky said, there are some things to which children should not be exposed. But there is a subtle idea among some Christians that if it’s not suitable for children, then it’s not suitable (or best) for anyone. I disagree with this idea. Scripture is clear that as people mature they ought to be able to engage with and discern culture, including popular culture, and including false ideas. The Bible certainly approves childlike faith, but not childlike naivete. When our movie reviews are only for children, this may reinforce childlike naivete, rather than reinforcing the mission of Christian grown-ups.
Stephen, are you aware that these books were written for children? To be age appropriate materials to teach children about the horrors of war and dictatorship? Do you know that Scholastic has them listed as of interest to grades 7-9?
Now, I will wholeheartedly agree that to read something in a book does not necessarily have the same impact as watching it in living color and full action on a big screen.
But I really have to question the idea that any of this material is age appropriate for middle school children.
Where have we gone as a people, as a culture, to promote these books as age appropriate for children?
And none of that changess my concerns about the issue of Christians watching this and not thinking that they are going to be affected by it. We as adults already know that war is horrible. We already know that dictatorship is horrible. If we believe the Bible to be true, we alreday know that the world is a depraved and very dark place. And our nightly news will convince us if we already do not know that.
I honestly just do not see why we feel the need as Christians to watch something like this.
Cherylu, once again I appreciate your concerns, but I’m confused by this:
It sounds like you’re saying, on the one hand, that these books are inappropriate for children of the 7–9 grade range. We might agree on that. But instead I want to call attention to your switch from talking about children to talking about adults. This seems to be what I mentioned earlier: “a subtle idea … that if it’s not suitable for children, then it’s not suitable (or best) for anyone.”
It sounds like you are saying, “Well, that’s not for me. I couldn’t get anything out of that.” Okay, that’s more than fair. There are many stories and songs that I also do not care about, if nothing else than because of the time involved. But “I don’t see the need” isn’t a firm biblical foundation to reject a thing for someone else.
I’m curious what you mean by “affected.” Honest question here: if “affected by it” doesn’t refer to the possibility of that person sinning, there’s no concern here. In other words, if I’m watching a Hunger Games film and feel uncomfortable by the subject matter, that’s no sin. If I come away thinking that children-killing-children or any violence is a fine idea and we should all try it, that’s a sin.
Okay … but this sounds like you are objecting to the concept that fiction is a unique way that humans engage with their world. You seem to be saying, “Nonfiction does a fine enough job, so we do not need fiction.” But in that case you would be objecting to fiction as a thing altogether, rather than simply objecting to The Hunger Games books or films as stories.
Again, I’m not talking about younger children, or even middle-schoolers (though I actually believe that middle-school-age is the best time for parents who shepherd their children to begin challenging them with stories such as this, provided the child can thereby grow and not be tempted). At this point I’m only talking about Christian grown-ups. Fiction is an excellent way for us to explore such themes in an exaggerated and therefore more potent way. A story, song, or poem awakens us to truths and beauties, and contrasting lies and uglinesses, more so than any form of nonfiction. That alone is why we “need” such things.
Hi Stephen, I see your reply and will get back to you soon I hope. I simply do not have time right now. But I will say I can see why you were confused. I did not express myself at all clearly there. That was my fault for sure.
No “fault” at play at all! I always appreciate the change for conversation and the ability to seek clarity and clarify my own ideas as well.
I hope I can do a bit better job of expressing myself this a.m. 🙂
First of all, I was not trying to say that because this is not good for children, it is not good for adults. My transition from one thought to the next there was not at all clear.
What I was trying to say was that knowing this was written for the purpose of teaching about the horrors of war and dictatorship does not change my mind about anyone, adults included, watching this movie.
It is one thing to read about such things in our history books, it is one thing to learn about them from folks that have been there. But to deliberately watch it onscreen in full living color and action often affects our minds and hearts in a different way. It burns the images into our minds. It can be very desensitizing to violence. It can fill our minds and hearts with images that get in the way of our communion with the Lord. It can focus our thoughts on quite the opposite of the commandment we receive in Philippians 4:8-9. And that, Stephen, becomes a sin for us.
Scripturally? There’s a great amount of self-sacrifice and love in all of the books and movies. Katniss is a heroic character, willing to die in her sister’s place in the first installment. Like Christ. She befriends and protects the weak, in every installment. Like Christ. She’s human, and frail in her own way, afraid to love because she doesn’t want children, because children can be sent to the Hunger Games. But despite this, she does love, and she does not give in to carnal desires. She’s an admirable character. To me, one good character in a fallen world is enough to give me hope and to make me want to see a movie or read a book.
Thank you, Merrie – you’ve captured my thoughts entirely.
Pam, *hugs* Yes, I was trying to support your comments, but somehow my post ended up about 6 million miles away. LOL.
Sometimes I think it’s all a bit different when you’re trying to write for the general market. You have to be able to tell (and read) things that more subtle. Even Christ told parables that were “veiled” for certain people.
I’ll never forget when I worked at Focus on the Family and the editor of Citizen magazine was standing at the copy machine in front of me. He told me not to look at what he was copying. He said that as the editor of his magazine, he was called to view and comment on things that might be hard for other Christians to see. I don’t remember or know what the content was at the time, only that he was protecting me, and at the same time, standing in the gap.
I think some Christian writers are called, yes called, to stand in the gap and view what is going on in the world and then report back their findings. Just like Becky did in this review. (Very good review, Becky!)
I see much in the general market that is good, although I know it might be distasteful for my brothers and sisters. I don’t tell them what to read or watch. I only make my comments, let them know where I see glimmers of truth and the presence of the Holy Spirit and symbols of Christ.
Although The Hunger Games had difficult content, I believe that the author told her difficult story in a respectful and beautiful and thought-provoking manner. I love that series and the characters she created.
Ugh, they are splitting it into two parts? That sucks. I didn’t really like the third book. My joke was that it felt like Buttercup the cat had more freedom to act than Katniss did, and one thing happened that totally was unnecessary. I was hoping they would have taken some liberties with the plot.
Yea, sorry, David. I’ve heard Mockingjay the book had problems, too. I’ll be interested to see how the movie handles the second part.
After you all are done rationalizing the use of the barbaric butchery of children by other children as a godly teaching tool with groovy symbols, we’ll compare notes on the profound biblical lessons you purport to have learned and see if you know them any better than I do. I expect full glorious silence there too.
And to Bethany? You seem like a nice young lady, but I promise you. I do NOT EVER forget how dark the world we live in is. Ever. I need no reminders from the godless degenerate pagans in Hollywood.
Please tell me the last time you told ANYbody about Jesus because you saw a movie. When oh when oh when will we stop trying to justify carnality with imaginary evangelism.?
Not everything is reducible to that level. If I go out to eat at McDonalds, there is no scriptural lesson being taught me nor am I leading someone to Jesus by my refusal to eat fast food. Jesus is our Lord, but He isn’t a monomanical one, crowding into every aspect of our life and demanding us to make them all about Him.
McDonalds has no moral content friend. Indeed, food itself has no moral content. That’s the actual point of all the liberty passages. Food enters the body and leaves with no moral impact beyond what we imagine it to have. That is not in any way analogous to submitting one’s heart and mind to the moral manipulations of the most powerful communication tool in all of history in the hands of God’s enemies.
There is not one single example in all the bible of God’s people being positively instructed in morality or worship or evangelism by the world’s wisdom. We are told to observe from a moral distance and rescue with the word of God. I’ve heard every painful, embarrassing, wince inducing argument that attempts to demonstrate otherwise.
It would be a lot more credible if people just admitted they love this crap, instead of always going through all this mental pseudo Christian contortion in order to convince themselves God approves. There is NO way that Moses, the prophets, Jesus or the apostles would advance the subjecting of one’s eyes and heart to the use of sick, bloodthirsty pagan entrainment as a teaching tool. No matter WHAT the lesson.
This Hunger Games franchise is one of the greatest examples of the ensnaring, addictive, polluting power of Hollywood. Crack cocaine is mild by comparison. Even those who one would REALLY think should know better have this hook in their nose. All that said, I’m still not saying that seeing a movie is necessarily sinful. I have just had it up to here with watching the devil not even earn his victories anymore.
Like I say. We’ll compare notes. I have a question up at Christianity Today’s (a very appropriately named organ of apostasy) for about a year now, asking for somebody to tell me what they’ve learned from a movie that the godly minds of the church haven’t known for like centuries. It’s still sitting there without an answer. I did get one single like though. It is absolutely no wonder this country is dying with a church that gorges herself on the same necrofying media carnality the world does.
“It would be a lot more credible if people just admitted they love this crap, instead of always going through all this mental pseudo Christian contortion in order to convince themselves God approves.”
Okay, I’ll admit I love this crap. I love spec fiction. I love other worlds and the possibilities. I can’t assume I know Suzanne Collins’s intention for the books. I have no idea if she’s a Christian who has hidden Christian symbolism in her stories. But she has built a fascinating world with memorable characters – are they nice and tidy? Nope. Would I want to live there? Nope. Do they teach lessons? Maybe. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the most obvious one – Katniss’s decision to volunteer for her little sister. She took Prim’s place, totally believing she would die. Was that done purposefully by Suzanne Collins to reflect the sacrifice of Jesus? I don’t know. What I know is that people seem to be drawn to the self sacrifice of others. I think they like feeling they could possibly do it themselves. It makes them think noble thoughts. Of course, I can’t say this for sure – it’s just my opinion.
I also think Christians see Christ-like symbols in everything whether the author has intended it or not. I know I do. I see God in the midst of so many dark things in the real world. So, it stands to reason I would see Him in a made up world. It’s my worldview. How can I do otherwise?
Pam, I am sorry, but first you told me that you agreed that this was not something that we are to scripturally focus on. That being the case, why are you loving it so much and soaking it in, reading these books and watching these movies? And telling Becky that she needs to read the books? That seems to me to be a rather large contradiction. I guess I do not understand how that can work.
I see what you mean. Hmmmmmmm …. well, I guess reading and enjoying the books don’t necessarily mean I focus on them in the way you might think. I do think the characters and the story are memorable. But I think that about lots of other books I’ve read, too, both in Christian publishing and the general market. There are parts that I can think about that are worth thinking about. But I don’t consider that soaking it all in. I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover more than once, and there are parts even there I don’t focus on. That might sound controversial, so please don’t freak out. I believe the Bible to be God’s Holy Word. But there are some very dark passages in it, especially in the Old Testament. I don’t pick and choose what I like from the Bible, but I don’t focus on the murders and wars, etc.
Does that make sense?
And as a Christian spec author, I do read books like The Hunger Games to see what has so entirely captivated so many people. Why don’t Christian books do that more often? The last series of Christian novels to do so was the Left Behind series.
I honestly do not know how you can read or watch The Hunger Games and not focus on the violence when that is the very thing that these movies and books are noted for. When it is there, “in your face” to one degree or another pretty much all of the time, how do you NOT focus on it? Could the violence be removed and the story still stand?
Cheryl, I don’t focus on the violence because there’s so much more in the story – at least to me. I see the violence there, yes, but also on my local news. Does that mean I don’t watch the news? Of course not. I use the news to help me pray for our world.
In The Hunger Games, I also see self sacrifice, as I mentioned before. And I see Katniss come to know the truth about herself. How many of us ignore the ugly side of ourselves? What I would have liked to see is Katniss make a change for the better when she realized the truth, but being this is not a Christian book series, that didn’t happen.
I see people banning together to throw off their oppressors.
I see a great love between sisters.
I see the resilience of the human race.
I see the unconditional love Peeta has for Katniss.
I think we can find demons, horror, violence, and ugliness everywhere if we look for it. I choose to search for the hidden treasure, and I see that in The Hunger Games. I choose not to focus on the violence. It could be that you can’t understand that because the violence affects you deeply. I get that. And I wish I had a better answer for you.
The violence was much more pronounced in the movies. In the books, it was completely told from Katniss’s perspective and she was not ruthless or a killer. She was running and in survival mode. AND in the midst of it, she was trying to save a younger, more vulnerable girl. I’m sorry, but many Christian thrillers and suspense novels, which graphically depict murder and violence, are stronger in tone than The Hunger Games. I would say fear was a more apt emotion in The Hunger Games than reaction to violence. Katniss’s story was more about knowing how to survive in the wilderness (because that was what she did at home), how to hunt, how to climb trees, knowing which plants were safe and which ones weren’t, etc. And overshadowing all of this was the remembrance that the danger she was in was because she had taken the place of her younger, much more innocent, sister. Did Christ not take sin upon Himself, He who was without spot or blemish, to spare us? What were those hours upon the cross like? We may never know, but I can promise you, they would not have been depicted in a G or PG rated movie.
I will give you credit for admitting fascination with death and sickness and bloodthirsty brutality. That’s right where today’s church is. Promoting stories that produce in the people who consume them the very things they allege to condemn. Desensitization and a hardness of heart and a tolerance, no, not tolerance, but a TASTE for blood and violence.
I cannot WAIT for the persecution that is purifying Christ’s church around the world to come to this continent. We’ll see how fascinating all this barbarity is when it’s off the safety of a TV or movie screen and it’s your own family being butchered before your eyes. I must wonder how “fascinated” the victims in Syria and Iran would be with movies and books like this?
Maybe somebody should go over there with a microphone and ask them how excited they are about the next movie release as they wait to die after watching their real children die first. Do you think they would find any lessons or entertainment or fascination in watching children kill other children? Do you think they would ooh and ahh over the profundity of it all?
We are sicker than “ISIS”, entertaining ourselves with this perversion.
“I cannot WAIT for the persecution that is purifying Christ’s church around the world to come to this continent. We’ll see how fascinating all this barbarity is when it’s off the safety of a TV or movie screen and it’s your own family being butchered before your eyes.”
Yes, let’s all pause and pray that your apostate brothers and sisters, along with their little ones, be put to the sword as soon as possible. That’ll learn ’em.
Good grief, man, do you ever listen to yourself? May God have mercy on us all, because you certainly won’t.
Not surprisingly, you missed my point entirely.
Yeah, I tuned you out after the family butchery part. Which was *my* point. Desiring real-life bloody retribution on your neighbors destroyed the credibility of your argument against violence. It’s usually helpful to avoid the vice you’re preaching against.
Stepping in here for a quick comment.
Cherylu, I concede I am sometimes perplexed by the fandom of The Hunger Games. The books are certainly well-written and the world is vivid, the good-versus-evil-versus-compromise themes timeless, and the people often uncomfortably remind us of real-life people. So that may be it.
But unlike the worlds of Star Wars, Narnia, Middle-earth, or Hogwarts, or even the Twilight world where hot monsters crush on teen female placeholders, you wouldn’t want to live there. Maybe that’s the reason: it’s something different, something safely “other” in a world that does not actually draw you in too much, and with plenty of teen angst that is actually justifiable — about the fate of a nation and peoples, not just a couple.
All that being said, I think our confusion over others’ fandom ought to be limited to just that: confusion. I don’t believe we can make negative spiritual judgments — or even raise our eabout why someone else is getting deeper into things like this. That’s a task best left for the person’s immediate family and friends, and optimally his/her local church in which biblical members are organically friends discipling one another, and challenging anyone (child or adult) who seems to be sinfully abusing their cultural pursuits.
(But of course, I recognize this doesn’t often happen in local churches. It happens on the internet and in parachurch-ministry efforts. Ultimately those should only supplement … and I suppose they’re better than nothing.)
Over at Christ and Pop Culture is an article (mine) that suggests three ways Christians can relate to stories such as The Hunger Games, based solely on their biblical discernment about what draws them to God and what draws them away. A sequel article could focus on the truth that we do not relate to God and these things in a vacuum; there are also people around us and we ought to challenge them and be sensitive to them. But this’ll do for now.
Read more at 3 Simple Rules for Christians Relating to Movies and Other Popular Culture.
“All that being said, I think our confusion over others’ fandom ought to be limited to just that: confusion. I don’t believe we can make negative spiritual judgments — or even raise our eabout why someone else is getting deeper into things like this. That’s a task best left for the person’s immediate family and friends, and optimally his/her local church in which biblical members are organically friends discipling one another, and challenging anyone (child or adult) who seems to be sinfully abusing their cultural pursuits.
(But of course, I recognize this doesn’t often happen in local churches. It happens on the internet and in parachurch-ministry efforts. Ultimately those should only supplement … and I suppose they’re better than nothing.)”
Stephen, what you have said there would make perfect sence in a world where our influence went no further then our local family, friends, and church. But in the world we live in today where a comment we make, a veiw or understanding that we promote, may have profound influence on people all over the world that may happen to read it, it is no longer realistic to think that can only be done on a local level.
What is promoted in a totally public venue has every right to be questioned in that same totally public venue.
For clarity: Absolutely I believe we ought to challenge each other in public venues. That’s partly what SpecFaith exists to do: to challenge all fans of fantastical stories to see them increasingly in light of Scripture. What I’m saying is that we should stop short of making negative value judgments of why someone enjoys or appreciates a story. If they say, “I like it because X,” I think it’s uncharitable to say (or even think), “Yeah, but I think he actually likes it because Y.” That’s a deeper level of judgment that should occur on on the local and personal level. And it’s even worse to call something, say, “perversion” apart from how Scripture actually defines perversion: actually participating in perverse thoughts or behavior.
I’ve seen more people damaged by hysterical overreaction to corruption by the world than by the world itself. Yes, there is diabolical art and there is Christian art, but there is also human art, and we unfairly demonize it when all it does is reflect the good parts of being human.
Like there’s no plot of Satan to corrupt you by watching a movie about someone taking the place of someone doomed to an unjust thing, and then working to fight against that injustice even in the middle of despair. Or about the dangers of vengeance. What I really dislike about this particular strain of Christian priggery is that it assigns these horrific qualities to things like movies, and then you go and actually watch them and find them inoffensive or even bland.
Like if you go on and on about evil Hollywood and how it’s so bad to watch the Hunger Games, what’s going to happen is that some day someone will actually watch the movies and find out you’re talking a lot of crap on it. That has reverberations beyond just that; it affects your authority on the Gospel, and makes people doubt the wisdom of those supposed to teach them.
If you haven’t read The Hunger Games, that’s okay. You can still get something right about it. I will not say, “If you’ve not read it, you’re not qualified to enter the discussion.” You only need to repeat something right about it.
But this isn’t it. You have — as many Christians do — reduced the story to the sum of only some of its parts. It has violence in it! So story means nothing.
This happens to be just what pagans do when they say the Bible is full of “barbaric butchery of children.” Christians either sputter and choke, or sputter and defend, “You need to look at the context. Things were really bad. God had run out of patience and His wrath-timer had run out. He made His covenant people the catalyst for His judgment, etc., etc.” And all that is accurate. Now physician, heal thyself. The Hunger Games is not Scripture. But the principle carries over: a storyteller can present descriptions of violence to call attention to its evils.
I read The Hunger Games series and was not tempted to sin. You might could do the same. If someone read the series and was tempted to this violence, they should stop. But it’s their problem. Greater holiness does not result in “moral distance.” This is an anti-biblical concept. Greater holiness can get closer to sin, yet be without sin. Reminder: Jesus Christ, the holiness Person ever, sees the most sin.
Please tell me you don’t actually believe the chief end of man is only “telling people about Jesus,” rather than seeing the Great Commission as a means to the Greatest Commission: glorifying God by enjoying Him forever, in all the things we do.
Brother, I think you’re once again reduced to effectively calling a whole host of people who disagree with you plain liars — or else getting uncomfortably close to doing this. 😛 You are saying, “There is NO WAY to use/enjoy/engage this content for the glory of God.” Others say, “Actually I can, and just did.” Either re-evaluate your original claim or just go ahead and call everybody liars. There’s no middle ground. Re-re-re-re-re-re-repeating biblical warnings (or supposed warnings) about holiness or “moral distance”(?!) speaks nothing into the discussion.
Also I’m aware we have an ongoing discussion … still similar to this one. Delays due to books, career, churches, holidays, shopping, and SpecFaith work.
Again, the real issue here is that you do not grasp the actual biblical reasons God has given humans the ability to make culture and popular culture. I do not speak for everyone here, but I do not believe popular culture is “just entertainment” or something to be “used” for mere moral improvement or evangelism. These are simply worldly pragmatism, or at best confusions of the ends for the means. Instead I say: Popular culture can be part of the things God has given people that are good, yet must be made holy (for we are so far only declared-holy) through intentional mind-renewing discernment (Rom. 12:1-2), faith (Rom. 14:23), and by intentional thanksgiving while using God’s written word and prayer (1 Tim. 4:1-5).
And yet we ourselves do have “moral content.” Remember 1 Tim. 4, in which Paul said that everything created by God is good to be enjoyed, yet becomes holy for us — not merely “neutral” — through the word and through prayer. One of the best sermons on this topic was John Piper’s from the 2013 Desiring God conference about the life and work of C.S. Lewis. I would encourage you to download these sermons and messages and learn a little bit more where your SpecFaith friends(?) are coming from. I think this will help alleviate some of the confusion — and it might mitigate your impulses to compare what’s here to the beliefs derived from “worldly compromisers.” This seems to be your only point of comparison, repeatedly, and I think this often blinds you to what is actually said. But it’s wrong.
For more on this topic of intentional thanksgiving to God through his word and through prayer for His gift of popular culture — that is, this is a gift He gives because culture-making is part of His image — see the below-linked article.
As I have already said, the book Popologetics by Ted Turnau — published by P&R (Presbysterian and Reformed) Books — is perhaps the best print resource on this.
Finally, Syndrome, when everything is an “organ of apostasy,” nothing is. 😛
It seems to me that the Apostle Paul disagress with you. He says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I Corinithins 10:31
Greg, why do you think the people who answered you are “rationalizing”? Do you really think they, or the movie itself, condones children killing children? It’s barbaric, and there isn’t anything in the movie I saw (Catching Fire) that indicates the games are anything but horrific, as much or more so as the Roman games in the coliseum two thousand years ago.
Do you think we should avoid reading history because it includes “barbaric butchery”? Assuming you’ll say, no, reading history teaches us something, then I’ll tell you, reading fiction or watching it on the screen also teaches. I won’t try to convince you because clearly you’ve made up your mind, though I can’t tell if you’re against all fiction or just movies or certain kinds of movies or what.
Sadly you don’t see that it’s important to interact with the ideas of our culture. I think this is so much bigger and more important than Stephen’s thoughts about pop culture. But I don’t think you can even see the difference between his position and mine because you’re fixated on externals. Think bigger, Greg.
I’m not a simpleton Rebecca. I completely get that these movies purport to not be glorifying violence and are in fact attempting to preach the diametric opposite. I also get that the message and maybe even the politics are things I might agree with. Someone of your ability in the scriptures is not going to be deceived like this by a hack n slash Friday the 13th package. The delivery system is just as much an abomination though and probably worse.
Yes, I also absolutely understand the difference between your position and Stephens. Apparently, I give you far more credit than you give me. In the end it doesn’t matter.
Here’s wait I see in today’s Christendom:
Catholics – Protestants
Calvinists – Arminians
two kingdom – reconstructionists
Confessional – Non Denominational
ORTHODOX AND EMERGENT
Pick as many more as you want. The one thing they ALLLL have in common and fall into each other’s arms about is media entertainment. Satan’s greatest success in all of history. The most crippling and corrosive force EVER, bar none. What DID the church do for all those centuries without the world’s reprehensible entertainment to teach her?
Let me ask you then to please tell me what you’ve learned from a movie that the godly minds of the church haven’t known for like centuries. That was my still unanswered question at Christianity Today’s site.
Rebecca says: “I can’t tell if you’re against all fiction or just movies or certain kinds of movies or what.
This will now be the third time I’m linking you to the first 8 comments of this >>>–> http://tiribulus.net/wordpress/?p=429 page. Remember I told you before that I had read a few dozen of your articles and except for this set of topics, had enjoyed them? I then asked you for 10 -15 minutes of your time so you could better understand my mindset on art and movies etc? I’m asking you again. What is on that page IS historic reformed orthodoxy on interaction with the world as set worth in standards like the Westminster Confession and catechisms.
Rebecca quotes me as asking
Could I ask you to tell me what you will take with you to eternity from this move?
And then responds with:
Greg, ask yourself the same question about your favorite form of entertainment.
Please read the link I provided at your leisure before I answer this and before I address your fatally faulty analogy to real history .
Also, just to a be a bit proactive about the inevitable from somebody insistence that biblical content means we should consume visual pagan entertainment. I quoted Tim Challies destroying Brian Godawa’s empty argument in that regard in one of the other threads.
Could you also please show me where pagan works are heralded as “prophetic voices” in scripture please? Prophecy in secular works? We really have fallen THIS far?
Greg, how can you know such a thing when you haven’t seen them?
It’s the internet age Rebecca. One can find out anything they want to know about anything. I don’t have a television, but if I never stepped foot in another theater for the rest of my natural life, there is more actually godly information and research material at my fingertips that I could put before my eyes if I live to be one thousand years old.
It’s a bit disheaetening that I can’t get a few minutes of your time. You ask me a question and I have already typed out the answers to most everything along those lines that you could ask me, but you refuse to simply click and read? I have to do it all over again here? Or you just don’t care to see what I say? That’s ok. I say again. I am not your Daddy, your husband or your pastor. You owe me nothing. I was just offering to answer your question.
I’ve seen way too many critics pull this, and their opinions have no value. When I grew up in the eighties, the “media artifacts are of the devil” opinion was in full swing, with things like Mystery Mark of the New Age or Turmoil in the Toybox telling us that things like comic books or He-man were traps that lead us to the devil. The real lesson they gave us was that you couldn’t trust Christians who had no idea of what they were criticizing to be able to teach you.
The Christian church literally killed its witness doing this. A lot of the old apologetics against things like rock music or dungeons and dragons when read now are laughable, and people overreacting about something they don’t even consume and don’t even understand set the church back among a generation of kids.
And it’s stupid anyways. The kind of Christianity that says you can’t watch a single movie for fear of corruption is not one people will follow long.
None of your points are in any way applicable. Only biblical truth is applicable. There is not a single biblical principle for tailoring the gospel to “a generation of kids”.
It is the worldly culture worshipers who have killed the church’s witness, by disguising Jesus as one of them . It’s not our job to get results Dutcher. It’s our job to be FAITHFUL. That’s the arrogance of the worldlings who think God needs their innovation to make His word “relevant”.
Greg, if you want to have a dialogue here, it would work better if you answered questions rather than giving links to things you wrote to other people involving other situations. I’m afraid I don’t have the impetus to track down your opinions on the matter. If you don’t want to tell us, that’s fine, but please consider next time whether or not you should comment. You either want to discuss or you don’t. Your choice.
“rather than giving links to things you wrote to other people involving other situations.”
It’s not an “other” situation Rebecca. It’s the same situation as here. I read your blog all the time. I never have to track you down. You don’t have to track anything down either. “Click” and read the first eight comments is all. That is biblical truth with centuries of reformed testimony behind it. It actually really is.
They are “other” because they aren’t addressing Mockingjay, Part 1. That’s what this post is about. If you want to discuss movies in general, then I don’t think this is the thread to do so.
This isn’t necessary, because no one here is saying that “pagan works” (e.g., stories or songs created by non-Christians) are “prophetic” in any way. This is absolutely an overcorrection by some others, who try to hold such things nearly “sacramental.” Ted Turnau rebukes this “art as sacrament” view in Popologetics.
Becky rightly focuses on the need for Christians to engage with today’s culture because this is a biblical pattern that Paul and other saints established. They did this even while encouraging personal holiness. They did not call “perversion” the act of merely witnessing fictitious or even real-life examples of sin. (This is a definition of “perversion” that you you clearly feel is necessary to correct the wayward church, but when is such legalism ever a biblical cure?)
Becky rightly says that I go a little further than she does when I also point to what I believe Scripture says about the reason God gave humans the ability to make culture and the purposes culture will have in eternity. But the fact is that this is actually a bonus purpose for popular culture; the case she and I make together stands just as firm even if you do believe popular culture is only temporal. Seeing as how this approach falls upon deaf ears anyway, I will join her in pointing you first to the plainly biblical fact that Scripture does not have nearly so dim a view of popular culture even in this age now as you have. It’s not all light and roses, that’s for sure. But neither is it a sewage vat. And when you call it that, many sincere and godly Christians recognize the old un-biblical rhetoric and dismiss it out of hand, without also regarding the rightful cautions that are mixed up in your statements.
No, popular culture is not the cause of all evil. Sinful humans cause evil because of their sinful hearts. No, violent media is not the reason churches have compromised with sin. Sinful people are the reason churches have compromise with sin. So what happens if we say “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch?” The apostle Paul not only says that these fail to make us holy. He says these worsen the problem:
You are on the same side as Christians who are concerned about compromise and false teaching, avoiding things in the world that tempt us, and pursuing holiness in Christ. But it’s clear we have (so far) had very, very different views on what to do about those who have mere cosmetic resemblances to Compromisers.
Rebecca said above: “A movie like this can actually serve as a sort of prophetic voice”
Stephen, you have consistently failed to establish this biblical pattern of yours. Where is it? Your continued misuse of the “do not touch” etc principle is getting old too. How many times do these have to be refuted before your eyes, by how many people before you see them as the self interested contrivances that they are?
Nobody in Jesus name before the last half of the 20th backslidden century lapped up the carnality of the world like today’s whoring dead church does in the name of “cultural engagement”. For the 5000th time. This is BRAND new with modern western “Christianity”.
The notion of learning God’s truth from the blasphemous, bloody and debauched products of the pagan culture would have gotten you instant excommunication when the reformed church actually still had a conscience. It TEARS my heart out seeing the theological children of Dort, Heidelberg and Westminster forsaking the morality of their fathers, stripping off their spiritual clothes and leaping into bed with the world. 🙁
Maybe I should have bitten my tongue and just waited for your answer to my last comment from a couple months ago.
This is logical or “church history” reasoning, and/or argumentum ad outrageum — doesn’t address the Scriptures or the other citations I’ve cited. Brother, you are a brother, but I think as long as you continue to see yourself as one of the few brave souls standing apart the spiritual ramparts, one of the few great heroes in the epic clash of True Believers Versus Compromisers, this can go nowhere.
I have already cited the non-compromisers who share this view, books where you can explore it, and more importantly Scriptures that back it up. Becky has similarly and kindly challenged you. But there is no cure for your utter lack of curiosity. Until you can at least be curious, we do need to wrap this up for good.
Alright, forget this for now. I do mean it when I say take your time still, but I’d rather see your answer to my other question anyway. I really AM interested in your view on that. http://www.speculativefaith.lorehaven.com/2014/09/26/christian-parents-please-stop-practicing-white-magic/#comment-143153
Excellent comment, Stephen. The verse you quoted from Colossians certainly puts the brakes on the notion that we can work our way to righteousness by adhering to a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts.
I will say, I used the term “prophetic” about the Hunger Games movies in one of my comments, suggesting that perhaps this was what Collins intends–a kind of, wake up call. But I did not think I needed to explain I wasn’t equating it with Biblical prophecy.
A couple more things, then I think I’ll bow out of this discussion: the apostle Paul does in fact quote from pagan Greek poets when he was in Athens. There are other Biblical passages that include lines found in pagan literature (my pastor pointed these out, but I don’t recall now the specifics). At any rate, it’s a mistake to think God can’t use pagan literature. He used pagan people to do His will all the time. See 2 Chronicles 35, for example when the Egyptian king was sent by God to go up against another country. Think about Assyria punishing Israel for their disobedience by taking them into exile, or Babylon doing the same with Judah.
It’s kind of prideful, I think, for us to tell God what He can and can’t do with pagan literature.
Lastly, in our fallen state we are mortal, temporal, physical beings. As such, we need to sleep and eat. We need to sharpen our minds and we need to do things for our emotional well-being. The latter includes entertainment (and the former, too, in my way of thinking). It’s good for us to laugh, Scripture says. Watching a football game is no more glorifying to God than taking out the trash is. But the former is fun, the latter not so much. 😆
At the same time, my relationship with Christ cannot/ought not be compartmentalized. I’m not a Christian on Sunday morning and a “regular person” the rest of the week. My Biblical view of the way the world works informs my ideas and attitudes, but not to the degree they should. I still see through that dark glass, and that’s the way it will be until the day I see Christ face to face.
But as things stand, God has convicted me that I need to use discernment in what I view. He hasn’t convicted me that I should condemn all stories created by non-Christians. If that’s someone else’s conviction, it’s legalism to impose that on others because that standard simply is not in the Bible.
Anyway, thanks for your clear, concise comment, Stephen. I think it sweeps away a lot of the rhetoric and reduces the discussion to the core points.
Rebecca says: “The verse you quoted from Colossians certainly puts the brakes on the notion that we can work our way to righteousness by adhering to a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts.”
Did you really just say this? I have said nothig that could even be accidentally interpreetd as works righteousness Rebecca.
And here we go with Acts 17 again . Voddie Bachum recently obliterated that misuse of that passage. I can link it if you like. It’s the sermon Pastor Way posted on his Facebook page Stephen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COPZrKskSZA
Actually teaches the exact opposite of how it’s forced into service today.
I’m gonna hang on to my next comment until I can pray and think a little more. It’s almost a given I’ll be banned from this site, but I must make sure it’s for the right reasons.
BEFORE anyone posts many more comments, let’s just step back and consider what this argument is about–whether or not it is wrong to watch the Hunger Games because it contains violence.
Some people clearly do not see it as a sin and feel they may gain wisdom from it. That is their position between them and God.
Some people clearly feel it is a dishonor to God. That is their position between them and God.
Council and extortion is all well and good, but too often these arguments turn into a duel of proving oneself right, without a care for their fellow brother and sister in the Lord.
I have a theory–popular movies and books have biblical themes at their core, whether viewers, readers, or even the authors realize it or not. Some of this has been touched on but let me mention a few in, not just this particular movie, but the entire series. First is the title, The Hunger Games. It’s symbolic (as I said, whether intentional or not) of a hungering beyond mere bodily appetite. The people in the richest districts hunger for more and more thrills while watching the games. Also consider the hunger of the president for more power–the power he wields by controlling the country’s “appetites” for actual food in the poorer districts and for entertainment in the wealthier districts.
The rich hunger to fill the void in their lives by emphasizing physical beauty, stylish clothes, entertainment, and, yes, even food, instead of on God who is the only one who can fill that void. (And, no, God is not mentioned.)
Is it a Christian story? Ultimately, the sacrifices in The Hunger Games, while reminiscent of sacrifices of early Christian martyrs, does not offer any long-term joy, and, thus, falls short. However, while it may not be Christian literature, Christian themes can be discerned. Whether intentional or not is debatable.
For example– The first thing that struck me was the name “Peeta.” Immediately, the apostle Peter came to mind. And, isn’t it significant Peeta is a baker’s son (Christ, of course, is the bread of life) who offers Katniss bread? Katniss even calls Peeta “a rock” at one point. (See Matthew 16.)
We could take it one step further. “Peeta” could actually symbolize Christ. Peeta lay at death’s door in the cave for how many days? Yes, three.
And what of the “pearl”? Instead of coal being transformed into a diamond, it is transformed into a “pearl.” Why? Could it be because pearls are symbolic of the treasure of God’s word? Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. ~Matthew 13:45-46
I have been chided for seeing Christian symbolism in stories, even from authors who are decidedly not Christian. However, God can work through the unholiest of people if he so chooses.
Pam you said, “I think we can find demons, horror, violence, and ugliness everywhere if we look for it. I choose to search for the hidden treasure, and I see that in The Hunger Games. I choose not to focus on the violence. It could be that you can’t understand that because the violence affects you deeply. I get that. And I wish I had a better answer for you.”
The point is Pam, there IS a huge amount of violence in that movie by all accounts. You do NOT have to look for it at all. If you choose to focus on it or not, you are seeing it. And what we see DOES have an effect on us. Often much more then we realize. Why should we choose to put ourself in that position when it is a totally unnecessary thing for us to do?
I know some here are likely to disagree with me, but I simply do NOT see why it is necessary as a Christian to watch movies such as this one in order to glean some bits of “treasure” as you call it. 🙂 Surely there are other ways to put “treasure” into our lives that do not involve subjecting ourselves to the effects of watching so much violence.
If the violence is your main concern, you should probably not watch the news. Or learn from history. Or read about what crucifixion does to a human body. I don’t just watch movies that are violent. I enjoy all sorts of films and books and music. If your only argument is the violence, I’m baffled, because you can get a load of violence just by reading the Bible. And Christians are urged to read God’s Word, right?
As for putting treasure into my life, I do that in many ways, as well. I’m only talking about The Hunger Games because that’s the topic of this post.
I think the difference between you and I on this particular subject is perhaps our personalities? Or maybe our life experiences? We don’t know each other, so it’s hard to tell.
Have you seen the movie or read the books? Or are you going by the reviews? Just curious.
Hi again Pam,
I have not watched these movies or read the books nor do I intend to. The information I received about them from others has been quite sufficient to convince me that they are not something that I should see/watch.
Much of what you are saying here I have answered in my comment above to Stephen. http://www.speculativefaith.lorehaven.com/2014/12/01/mockingjay-part-1/#comment-144961
I spoke there about the difference that reading or hearing about something has on us and the effect that watching violence in living color may have. I think that is something that folks very often do not take into account.
And that, in my opinion, may very well include watching the news on a daily basis. Too much of that can become very depressing. Again, it can become quite the opposite of what we are commanded to “think on” in those Philippains verses I mentioned earlier. When we do not obey that commandment, we do it to our own detriment.
Pam, I see that the link to my earlier comment to Stephen did not work. Here is what I said in that comment that is pertinent to our conversation here and I believe addresses what you have said to me:
It is one thing to read about such things in our history books, it is one thing to learn about them from folks that have been there. But to deliberately watch it onscreen in full living color and action often affects our minds and hearts in a different way. It burns the images into our minds. It can be very desensitizing to violence. It can fill our minds and hearts with images that get in the way of our communion with the Lord. It can focus our thoughts on quite the opposite of the commandment we receive in Philippians 4:8-9. And that, Stephen, becomes a sin for us.
I understand what you’re saying, Cheryl. But we also have to keep in mind that God calls different people to different tasks. You said in your comment to Stephen: It can focus our thoughts on quite the opposite of the commandment we receive in Philippians 4:8-9. And that, Stephen, becomes a sin for us.
What about the people who are called to serve in violent, Christian hating nations? They are immersed in violence every minute. Would you tell them to leave so the images are not burned into their minds? Or do you believe they can live in the midst of violence and yet still see the hope God gives the believer?
I believe there is a difference between violence in movies for no good reason and violence for the sake of right. In The Hunger Games, the people rise up against oppression. They fight for their rights. It’s not so different than the Civil War. That war was the most horrific war in history, and yet it freed the slaves. And people still take part in reenactments. Why do they do that? To remember. To never forget the reason for the violence.
Because you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, it makes sense to me that you can’t see the beauty in The Hunger Games. I prefer the books to the movies because you get so much more of the history of the country and the games. You learn about the oppression. You feel the fierce love Katniss has for her sister. You see her struggle with being in the games. She didn’t want to take part. She only wanted to save her sister. You understand the people have come to the end of their collective ropes – they want their slavery to end. And in the second book, she’s forced into the games again, (in fact, all the players are forced into the games for a second time), they do what they can to try and stop the games. The end of the book is the start of the revolution. That’s what I remember when I think of the books and the movies. I see the violence, I know it’s there, but I focus on the good.
God is convicting you to not read the books or see the movies. However, He is not convicting me. I have other things He is dealing with me about. I think this is what we need to remember when we see a brother or sister doing something different from ourselves. I’ve enjoyed the dialog, though. Good dialog always helps us see more clearly, and I appreciate our conversation hasn’t turned ugly. Thanks!
Do you believe that God has called you to watch Speculative Fiction dystopian movies? That is a serious question and it bears directly on your last reply to me.
I also appreciate that our conversation has not turned ugly. Thank you too.
I suppose I do believe that. I watch this kind of movie and read this kind of book since I’m a Christian Spec. Fiction author. I need to see what’s out there. It helps me write things that will engage not only a believer, but hopefully, a nonbeliever as well. It enables me to have conversations with nonbelievers on their level, but allows me to try to lift them up to see how God can work in such an ugly situation. If He can do that, He can work in their lives.
But that’s not my only calling. I’ve been ministering to my neighborhood for years. I live on a dark and sometimes violent street. There are drugs, prostitution, and the occasional stabbing on my street, which is in a mostly white, suburban township. The fact that I’m familiar with secular entertainment has allowed me to talk with and pray for people I would never have been able to because all they know about me is that I go to church. At least, until we talk. I couldn’t do that if I focused on the violence. If that’s all I saw. But I don’t. I look beyond.
The funny thing, though, is that it often starts with the cookies or bread I bake and bring over to them. So, it’s actually not ALL about the movies. There are other factors, too. For example, one man who lives two doors down and has lost his faith in God, opened up and talked to me about faith after my cat was killed. We had a fine conversation over the backyard fence.
Personal evangelism starts with getting to know people for who they are, where they live, what they do, and how they think. Once they know you’re not going to hit them over the head with the Bible, it’s amazing how they open up and listen. But not everyone is called to do this in the same way. That’s my point. God calls us to different tasks.
I don’t know. Keep in mind this is PG-13, so there’s only so much violence they put on the screen and the blurb your protesting was relative to the first films. Honestly no one is saying you have to watch this though, and if you don’t like movies with dark or violent subject matter you don’t need to. That’s a valid reason.
I am not sure if you are speaking to me here or to someone else? If it is me you are talking to, the review I quoted from above was referring directly to “The Mockingjay, Part 1” and not to the earlier movies.
Yeah I mean you, no I mean in general. I mean you don’t want to watch it, that’s fine. It’s just it gets annoying when the weaker brother conscience-wise assumes everyone is a weaker brother and that they get affected by violence in media in the same way. You don’t want to watch the Hunger Games, sure. But you know, this post is more a commentary for people actually interested in the series, and who see it as having acceptable levels of violence.
dmdutcher, I would be interested in knowing how you personally square the commandment in Phil 4:8 with watching these movies?
Can you honestly say that they are, “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise?” Does the violcence depicted in all or any of them fit those categories? Does the rest of the subject matter of the movies fit those categories?
In other words, do you truly believe that they fit the criteria that God has gvien for the things that we are to be thinking about?
I noticed that Pam at one point in this conversation did not seem to think that they did. And from what I can tell from what I have been told about them, neither do I. That is not a matter at all of being a weaker brother with a weak conscience. That is determining before God if watching these movies makes us obedient or disobedient to His Word.
Cherylu, I agree with you that the “weaker brother” argument isn’t really a part of this discussion. Eating meat offered to idols had already been ruled on by the church leaders, with prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The answer was NO, don’t eat. But some people, in an attempt to be certain they didn’t disobey this command, added another layer of law—they determined not to eat meat at all and when they went to someone else’s house, they felt it necessary to investigate (and by the way, was that steak you’re about to serve, offered to an idol?)
I don’t see the issue of violence in stories comparable to this situation. For one thing, the Bible does not give a direct command about viewing violence. We aren’t to murder and we aren’t to hate our brother. We aren’t to seek vengeance, but nowhere is there a command not to watch a violent act, whether in real life or in our mind’s eye through story. In fact, one of Jesus’s stories, the parable of the Good Samaritan, has a scene of violence.
So this is not an issue of a weaker brother or a stronger brother or anything related to “gray areas.” Rather, it should be a matter of a person’s own conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And no one can pass judgment on whether someone else is properly following his conscience or the conviction of the Holy Spirit–not when there is no clear command from Scripture.
There’s more to be said on this, I realize, but this comment is already long enough! 😉
That verse has been abused by people who really don’t like any kind of art to shut down people who do. The context of it was a parting exhortation to one of the churches Paul wrote to among other exhortations; I don’t think he was creating a whole theory of media consumption when he did.
All believers have their own conscience to guide them when determining whether or not certain works lead them to sin. If you aren’t comfortable with fictional violence, again, that’s cool. But some of us don’t have a problem with it when used in stories because it is fictional, and it gets old to see the “mommy Christianity” crowd who wants everything super-nice and sanitized to berate us for that.
Pam is effectively writing my comments for me, which always help. Thank you sister! And my thanks to you both for reasons similar to what Cherylu said: having an internet discussion that challenges but also treats one another with respect, building up and not tearing down. I can only hope that my contributions can do the same.
I think there is a tendency to presume that our own struggles, say about “densitization,” are common to all Christians. Or that even “densitization” counts as a sin. I don’t see that it does. If I’m a medical professional, missionary, or a soldier in a war-torn country as Pam said, you bet I’m going to want to be “desensitized” long enough to get the job done and love my neighbor. In many ways being “sensitive” to settings or images of violence or suffering is not a spiritual virtue; it’s actually a luxury. I think that alone proves this is not inevitably a sin.
I think I spied another equivocation here:
This jumps from “[emphasis on violence] can focus our thoughts” (a possibility) to “becomes a sin” (an inevitability). Yes, I agree that hazard is there. In fact, in this short article I’ve written about the lie of focusing only on grim “realism” (“DARK! NESS! NO PARENTS!”).
But that does not mean that this possibility of “too much darkness” for some becomes an inevitability for all. Scripture does not say that.
Finally, I also suggest that Phil. 4:8 is often misused. A friend writes:
Amen, Stephen – thanks! And yes, this is a great discussion.
I felt it necessary to write a quick comment — but with a lengthier quote — to address the broader notion that seeking and recognizing reflections of beauty and truth (and their opposites) in the world and its cultures, including popular cultures, is brand-new to the Church and thus suspect to charges of novelty or being motivated only by worldly or appeasement-based compromise. It is not. Among Reformed Christianity alone there is a long and glorious tradition of classical education, which prizes not only faithful adherence to Scripture but grammar, logic, and rhetoric — including exposure, based on maturity, to cultures and ideas that include anti-Christian elements.
Guess who overtly endorsed this approach. His quote is sent to me by a coauthor.
This is only one example of how orthodox Christian scholars in church history thought about how God sustains human cultures — including science, philosophy, and the arts — thanks to His common grace (which Calvin refers to as “special gift[s] of God” and “natural endowments”). Calvin was not a compromiser, a worldling, nor a raving justifier of debauchery in the church. Those who hold similar views about why God gives us common grace in culture are thinking according to this tradition.
Unbelievable Stephen 🙁
Tiribulus principles of online debate number 7:
“7. Be very careful and deliberate in hearing my opponent’s representations of his position/propositions and answer only after I’m sure I understand. OR, ask him to explain in more detail so as not to carelessly misrepresent him and/or convey a dismissive or disrespectful attitude. (that needs work sometimes.)” http://tiribulus.net/dox/debate.pdf
You continue to fail to practice this principle. Rather than fail myself and unduly assume upon your intentions , I am now asking you to give me a concise outline of points taken from Calvin above in his institutes, that you feel refute arguments I’ve been making. Please summarize how he and I disagree.
In the meantime, here is a quote from someone bearing a striking resemblance to myself and wearing my sox from the page that dear Rebecca simply refuses to read.
“The arts are from God, and man as bearer of His image and likeness is naturally inclined to creativity. God is blessed and glorified when we take after Him in this regard. I often say that “race” and ethnicity is God’s beautiful artwork for instance. My problem is with the grotesque elevation of the “arts” to a level of prominence in the modern church that is utterly unheard of in the scriptures. Artistic evangelism, or art for arts sake in general is a human contrivance until you or somebody else can show me either one in the bible, which will never happen.”
Here’s a couple more from several years ago. The first in response to a Young man telling me how unbelievers are perfectly capable of discovering truth and appreciating beauty.
“Of course they are. I have very good reasons for believing this. Man has throughout his history, by virtue of the remaining though sinfully broken image of God, been so absolutely RIGHT about so very much of what he’s observed and published. While, due to this brokenness in sin, being so absolutely WRONG about how and why he’s right about it. This has led him to utterly corrupt and perverse conclusions even from the things he’s right about.”
One more to conclude for now and I’ll wait for your list:
“It’s not that unbelievers do not advance true knowledge and hence contribute much good to the world. Of course they do, but they do it in spite of and not because of their own foundational beliefs. It’s only because my foundational beliefs are true that anything they do bears fruit. They hate that. They hate God. They are His enemies. Same as I was. That’s why Paul told us in Romans 1 that they “suppress” or as the Greek has it, they “hold under” His truth in their unrighteousness.”
Dour chastisement is neither helpful nor necessary.
There has been plenty of misunderstanding in this discussion to go around; if you’re right, it was only a matter of time before I myself joined in that part of it!
Regardless, my point was a general one and not specifically directed against you. (Thus my placement of it down here, rather than in reply above.) I have previously heard the charge that when Christians are trying to apply this same perspective — that God in his common grace has given popular-culture-makers the ability to reflect truth — that this is nothing more than pragmatic compromise with the world.
I am very glad to hear that you accept the biblical fact that nonbelievers, with their sinful corruption of God’s image, benefit from the Spirit’s common-grace “natural endowments” in knowledge, literature, and even wisdom. And I will certainly keep this mind, and urge others to do the same, as any conversation continues (that is, conversation that is specific to the topic of Mockingjay the film and/or book).
But in this case it is utterly confusing why you place popular culture such as The Hunger Games outside this. (Elsewhere you have also declared C.S. Lewis a heretic, apparently missing the point that Lewis aligned with many of Calvin’s and other church leaders’ views that the Spirit gives even pagan poets, secular philosophers, and non-Christian scientists His gifts.)
I think further discussion either needs to wrap up, or else avoid generalities and (as Becky said above) specifically focus on Mockingjay the film and/or book, the original topic of this post. You have specifically refused to accept that either the storytellers (book or film) were actually intending to show the consquences of a world wracked by sin, corruption, and violence. You have also ignored or overruled the statements by Christians here that (regardless of the storytellers’ intent), they are indeed able to appreciate the story as this kind of exploration, without falling into sinful imitation. In your mind you know the real reason and have come to expose this self-deception: we’re all just more of the same worldly compromisers and must listen to Reason.
So: 1) How do you know this for sure about your friendly opponents? 2) From where comes this Secret Knowledge that The Hunger Games actually endorses violence and that anyone who denies this is not just disagreeable but actively courting false belief?
I have been doing ose thinking on this subject and I think this comment will probably be my final thoughts on it at this time. The longer this conversation and other similar ones have continued, the more obvious it has become to me that we are operating from some very fundamenally different ideas here. Dare I even say, some fundamentally different ideas of what it means to live as a Christian in this world, specifically in the way that we relate to the culture of the world around us.
I have had this verse ringing in my ears for most of my Christian life, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” II Corinthians 5:17 That reality is to govern all of our life. If it does not, we are missing something somewhere.
The reality of that fact of being a “new creation” sets us quite apart and distinct from the world in many ways. We do not have the same likes and dislikes that we did before or as the world around us without Christ does. When we come to Christ, all things are indeed made new. That surely includes our desires and entertainment tastes. That has great implications for watching violence in movies. (Also of course for such things as profanity, nudity, and sexual content in movies and other forms of entertainment.)
For me, the types of movies that Christians often watch and promote, and from what I have been told, specifically “The Mockingjay” (and the whole “Hunger Games franchise), they simply do not fall into the area of what those tastes and desires of that new creation comprise.
I apologize for my dumb typos. It seems that no matter how hard I try or how much I edit, I often still find some.
Cheryl, my friend, the fact I am a new creation is what enables me to see past the violence and oppression in The Hunger Games and find the beauty there. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It’s to be like Christ to see past the worldly and find what is redemptive.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I am not sure whether our views are all that different.
So far, I’ve read only redeemed-Christian, mind-and-heart-transformed perspectives about Mockingjay‘s story here in this discussion. By contrast, if someone arrived saying “I’m a Christian, but who cares about beauty and truth, I just want to be entertained,” I think the conversation would be very different!
So like Pam, I’m confused about how verses like this one:
… And with this very truthful application:
… Contradict what the Christian Hunger Games viewers/readers here have said. They have said, “I am looking at this story as a Christian. I am trying to discern and engage with popular culture in ways that reflect the truth that I am a new creation.”
I think the only difference is that this looks different sometimes, between Christians. And it looks very different — it may even look like “compromise” — to folks who have been taught all their lives that heart-and-mind transformation or discernment will only ever mean that someone shuns things that happen to have bad reputation among one’s immediate circles. But outside those circles, other discerning and thoughtful Christians either don’t have such stigmas, or don’t struggle with such temptations.
As we wrap this up(? yet I could continue if anyone wishes), in case there is lingering disagreement about the basics, I recommend the above quote from John Calvin. It’s one of many examples of biblical theologians who believe that it’s not only okay for a Christian to praise God for what’s good in culture, but could be harmful not to do that.
I grew up with people who thought that way, and in a church that did too. The problem really is that it in practice was a cover for people who disliked and distrusted any kind of art to use on those that did. It really felt like food; people are all worried about eating too much and eating unhealthy, but instead of balance or moderation, it felt like the “new creation” crowd felt like we should be happy to eat bread and drink water.
I mean, yeah, Christ changes us when we become saved. But I think sometimes the “new creation” crowd things that the change is to make us virginal. That like being Christian means only consuming content that would be safe for children. I don’t think many people can be happy with that except people who don’t really care about consuming content at all.
And it’s sort of ironic if you care about the faith and read it’s history. Like I read Foxe’s book of Martyrs as a teen during the time when I devoured every book the Christian bookstores sold. If anything, something like The Hunger Games simply couldn’t bother me at all compared to that. I know HG is fiction, but Foxe’s isn’t, and always affected me greater than anything else. Cures you of persecution porn for life.
I have been strangled in other things and Stephen and I have conversed a bit offline. Trust me folks. Calvin IS NOT your ally here. Yes, I can absolutely prove that. No, not now.
None of the reformers or puritan scholastics whose works constitute historic reformed orthodoxy, can, even with the most extreme violence to their thought, be made to support something like this movie or 98% of any others for Christians under any circumstances.
Once again. This is brand new in the modern worldly morally compromised western church with NO precedent in even protestant orthodoxy in general. Historic Arminians (methodists, for instance) would have also been utterly appalled. This is just as new as practicing gay Christians and egalitarianism. The world influencing the church and not the other way around.
I think I’m done here. Stephen and I will pursue this maybe in emails for now.