The Hunger Games & The Cross

Since the release of “The Hunger Games”last March, much buzz has surrounded both film and book. As views and revenues have increased, blogs seeking to crack the mystery of the franchise’s popularity have spiked. Like Katniss with respect to Capitol officials, the series has caught unprecedented fire, leaving an upbeat impression on most, including myself; however, as a disclaimer, my reactionary process will be honed, several cuts above par in comparison to that of teenage weenies everywhere. Unlike the virtual norm, this note will compare the heart of "The Hunger Games" to something other than politics and contemporary society. And as much as I would love to elaborate on my notion that "The Hunger Games" is a three-way cross being ancient Rome, "The Truman Show" and "Lord of the Flies", I will instead turn direction to a place seldom referenced to when discussing all things "Hunger Games". After all, it is Passion Week, and the greatest story of all time did not take place at Panem; it happened at the wonderful cross.

Before I perform this theological dive, let me capture some additional thoughts on this entertaining craze sweeping the nation. A great movie, like "The Hunger Games", allows the audience to associate screenplay to reality. For instance, many Americans can relate to the citizens of Panem. Life is tough, the government is rough and the future is most uncertain. Such was the case for Katniss and the world she knew. Among her peers, she learned how to survive in a hopeless environment, maturing as a humble fighter with a fervor for justice. Not only did she demonstrate courage and integrity, but her sacrificial love shined in bright contrast to the dark motives of her opposition. As observers, many of us can connect to the spirit and world of Katniss. For some, location bears significance. For others, family upbringing is the closest link. Regardless of the reason, the movie's ability to capture fiction in a real, non-fictional way stirs people to examine their place and purpose in turbulent times. As we know, the world is full of District 10's, 11's and 12's. And as we also know, in most places, the oppression of fear dominates the delicacy of hope, as inspired by the words of President Snow.

At the core of “The Hunger Games”, we find sacrifice, veiled into two disparate corners: on one end, the purity of Katniss; on the other, a praetorian Capitol bent on mass manipulation. For the powerful elite, atonement came through one victor and 23 tributes. Yet, Katniss conquered cultural definitions by courage, timely submission and steadfast character. Despite death lurking around every corner, she would not bow down to a corrupt civilization for the sake of “at-one-ment”. Thus, extrinsic and intrinsic evidence not only parallel modern veracity, but also appeals to our own sense of fear and hope. Ultimately, the summation of perseverance, relatability and sacrificial love provides a potent hook that elevates captivation.

As the case with Suzanne Collin's piquant volume, the author of Hebrews captures sacrificial love in transcending fashion. In Hebrews 9-10, the cross is revealed as the cornerstone of Christianity - a symbol of salvation sealed with a new covenant, inked by innocent blood. To redeem mankind from eternal separation from God, Christ gave his life as ransom, so that all people could worship Him:

"Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant." ~ Hebrews 9:13-15

Indeed, the pure power of the Resurrection story anchors itself to the most selfless love. Perhaps such higher love is the inspirational trigger that peaks interest in a story like "The Hunger Games". Beyond the "Hunger Games" survival strategies, there existed a desire, among the rising generation, to restore righteousness into the balance of living. The ministry of Christ takes this several steps further, by proclaiming the good news that we, as a redeemed and unified people, do not have to survive to live. We have already been given life! That is the whole point of why Easter is commemorated.

Katniss understood sacrifice as habit - how in order to save a life, one must be willing to surrender it. All four Gospels highlighted this truth (Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, John 12:25), and we, as believers, should act comparatively, with Christ our prized standard. No other sacrifice comes close to that of Jesus - a "once-for-all" act of sanctification. Christ gave his blood so that we wouldn't have to shed our own as penance. In other words, He was and is our tribute!

"Then he says, 'I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.' And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place." ~ Hebrews 10:17-20

So as others share opinions on why "The Hunger Games" is such a fad, take time to explore the connectors between Scripture and creative works that hold redemptive qualities, mirroring the message of the Gospel. In addition, begin expressing thanksgiving to God for His grace and mercy, for all the ways He has restored and renewed life for you. Furthermore, pray for those who are locked into exacting circumstances, who need the miracle of hope desperately. May God open eyes and hearts this Easter to see the beauty of reconciliation through every outlet He deems fitting, even an experience like “The Hunger Games”.

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