Truth in Darkness: The Hunger Games as an Unexpected Resource for Apologists
By Holly Ordway
The Hunger Games and its sequels are page-turners, fast-paced and engaging, with characters who are interesting and complex. It is easy to see why the books are popular and why the first book has been made into a film. What’s good news for Christians is that these books are also very useful material for literary apologetics—though perhaps in unexpected ways.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is set in a future United States after a catastrophic war. A totalitarian government (the Capitol) controls the twelve Districts through military power and psychological oppression. Every year the Districts are each required to send two children as tributes to fight to the death in the Hunger Games as a bloody reminder of the futility of rebellion. However, the Hunger Games are not just a cruel means of suppressing dissent: they are also a prime source of entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol. The story of The Hunger Games begins with a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss who volunteers to go to the Hunger Games (and face almost certain death) in place of her younger sister.
While The Hunger Games and its sequels do not affirm a Christian worldview,1 they are perhaps all the more valuable for apologetics as a result. The “watchful dragons”2 of skepticism are alive and well in the minds of many readers who will simply reject a story with overt Christian elements. One approach is for authors to circumvent those watchful dragons by subtle handling of Christian themes in their work, as C. S. Lewis did; a different approach is for apologists to get past modern dragons by using non-Christian stories to explore the truths of Christianity.
LOOKING FOR TRUTH IN DARKNESS
The Hunger Games is a dark series, filled with death, violence, betrayal, and mistrust. As a result, it is valuable to apologists for its unflinching look at the darker aspects of human nature. The truth is that people do sin and sin has terrible consequences, both individually and communally. Books that avoid or attempt to sugarcoat the problem of evil and suffering will ring false to readers, but a story that confronts the brokenness of the world provides an opportunity to discuss issues of evil that young people may not otherwise feel able to articulate.
The Hunger Games does not come to a Christian conclusion about the problem of evil, but it is still useful for apologetics because of the compelling way that it raises the issues. It is tempting to look for a book that jumps right to the presentation of the gospel, but readers need room to think through issues and engage with them on an
experiential and emotional level. The more fully someone has wrestled with the problems of evil, violence, and the absence of God, the more that reader will have a desire for the light of truth.
THE HUNGER GAMES AND VIOLENCE
One of the most immediately noticeable elements of The Hunger Games is its violence. However, as the story unfolds it becomes clear that Collins is in fact critiquing a number of disturbing elements in current culture…
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