In case you have been living under a rock, this weekend is the world wide premiere of The Hunger Games. The hype and buildup for this movie is overwhelming. Every magazine, every episode of Entertainment Tonight, and every conversation among our students is about this movie. I am hoping that this trilogy out shines Twilight :) Because of all they hype and excitement, many Christians are trying to peer in to the depths of these books and movie to find some special touch-point we can use to connect this story to the gospel. And if we can't find some way to use this to translate towards the gospel, at least it should give us some amazing insight into the hearts and minds of our students.
In this story there are themes of love and survival, political oppression and exploitation. Many are pointing out that this movie continues to affirm the social awareness and activism among our students, and the abandonment they feel from our society at large. Our students are in total survival mode and only have themselves to depend on. And to tell you the truth, I was hoping that many of my peers were right in their high view of our students social and political passions, and their angst towards the oppressive and alienating culture of adults. But the more I have spent time talking with my students about these books and the upcoming movie, I have come to the reality that there is no there, there.
The Hunger Games is a great story:
The reason for the popularity of this series is not because of the social and political backdrop, or the identification of the desperate plight of their peers, but simply because it is a great story! The Hunger Games' main characters are teenagers and they are fighting for their lives in brutal and graphic fashion. As a teenager it is incredibly easy to identify with the characters and therefore join in for the emotional rollercoaster of this story.
As an adult and, truthfully, a late adopter to this mayhem, I really enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. It only took three days on vacation to consume the first volume. I found myself captivated by the story and rooting for Katniss to survive and kick butt. Upon reflection, I would have liked to have spent more time hating the backdrop culture and oppressive regime that uses the Hunger Games to keep their thumb on the districts. But the truth is I just enjoyed the story.
If I had to talk about the deeper issues for an english class it would make for great discussion. And I think the same is true for our students. If they had to think more deeply about it, they could identify the other themes and players in this story. But what has captivated them, what has caused them to read through all three books in no time at all, and what is making them eagerly anticipating the movie's premiere, is simply that it is an amazing story!
We need to tell better stories:
Instead of piggy backing on social phenomena like The Hunger Games in order to link the gospel to culture, maybe we just simply need to tell better stories ourselves. Most people, especially students, love good entertainment. Haven't you noticed that great music, movies, and books always rise to the top. And The Hunger Games is great entertainment. What is too bad, is that so little Christian entertainment and story telling rises to the level of excellent. We have the best story at our finger tips, a story full of sex, violence, social and political corruption, amazing heroics, and redemption for the hugest failures, and so much more.
I think it was a Young Life guy who said, "It is a sin to bore kids with the gospel." We have an opportunity to share with students the greatest drama the world has ever heard. And what is even more amazing, we have an opportunity to invite students to actually participate in the story.
I was blown away when I heard some of my students talking about joining Harry Potter's online school and they were anxiously anticipating what house they would be directed to. Students want great stories. Students want to be caught up in great stories, and many of our students live in false realities attempting to transfer these fictional stories into real life. (team Edward) Why not recommit to make the gospel story compelling enough to captivate our students, and to captivate them in such a way that they will long to be part of the story. And fun entertainment like The Hunger Games, gets to be just fun.
We are hitting the gospel story hard this week in youth group and Sunday School. And after church on sunday we are hitting the movie theater to catch The Hunger Games for the second time! Happy Hunting!