Our tickets are purchased for next Friday morning at 12 midnight – the adventures of Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games. Everyone in the Knowlton clan except our youngest has read the book, and we’re fired up to silently salute Rue with two fingers on the lips. It should be quite a night.
If you haven’t read Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, there’s still time to get the first one under your belt before the movie. As for the second two, I read them, but as far as I’m concerned, they don’t compare. The first book was masterful, though – a delight. I read it when we went to Disney last year, and as much as I enjoyed the Magic Kingdom, I was almost tempted to stay home and read. I hope the movie doesn’t disappoint.
The story: Sometime in the distant future, a post-apocalyptic world has emerged in former North America, and the country of Panem remains. Within Panem, there are 12 districts, all ruled from a utopian like, technologically advanced city – Panem’s “Capitol.” As punishment for an uprising nearly 75 years earlier, the Capitol now requires each district to hold a lottery each year, selecting one boy and one girl between ages 12 and 18 (24 in all) to head to an undisclosed location for a gladiatorial contest, a fight to the death where only one will survive. And it’s all on television, yielding a combination of Ancient Rome and Survivor for your viewing pleasure (unless, of course, you’re a mom, dad, brother, sister, friend…or decent human being, for that matter).
Our heroine is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, whose father has died in a mining accident sometime in the recent past. She cares for her little sister Primrose (Prim), not to mention their mother who has never quite recovered from losing her husband. Katniss is a hunter, illegally going outside the walls of District 12 with her male friend Gale to bring home food for her family, and to sell in the open market.
When the lottery comes to pass, it just happens to be 12-year-old Prim’s first year of eligibility. What are the odds she will be chosen? And if she is, might just her sheltering older sister, the huntress, volunteer in her stead?
As I tried to think through what the book was saying (all books say something, even if the author herself is not clued in.) I thought to the comparisons with Ancient Rome. It’s a fair comparison, and not original with me; however, there is one big difference – there are no Christians here, in fact no religion per se anywhere. No mention of God or Supreme Being. Nada. John Lennon would be proud. And yet – here’s the rub – throughout the book you will find great sacrifice, heroism, and deep, deep love.
It’s funny, isn’t it? We live in a world that assumes we can have characters like Katniss, including all the benefits of Christianity, morality and virtue, yet without…Christianity. To be sure, the world Collins creates is predicated on a depth of great evil, but where does someone like self-sacrificing Katniss come from? You see, it is assumed by most people in our culture (our public school system, of which our son is a part, is a classic example) that we can have moral excellence without God. I almost wish that were true, but it’s definitely not. Such virtue may last for a while, while the vestiges of Christianity (including Christian teachers and the like) remain, but such goodness cannot last generation after generation. Dinesh D’Souza, in What’s So Great About Christianity, quotes a man who makes this point, and I for one, was surprised to hear it from him:
The life of the West, Nietzsche said, is based on Christianity. The values of the West are based on Christianity. Some of these values seem to have taken a life of their own, and this gives us the illusion that we can get rid of Christianity and keep the values. This, Nietzsche says, is an illusion. Our Western values are what Nietzsche terms “shadows of gods.” Remove the Christian foundation, and the values must go too.
So read the book, go see the movie, and rejoice in the picture of love and sacrifice you will see again and again. Yet know…and always remember, where such wonderful love ultimately comes from:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV)