Talking about The Hunger Games and the Gospel
Things have been a bit crazy around here with the release of my book The Hunger Games and the Gospel. I loved the books (and can’t wait to see the movie), so it’s been a blessing to be able to write about the ways this powerful story can help us better understand our faith. As I wrote in the book –
To explore the intersection of The Hunger Games and the Gospel is to discover echoes of the good news in the pages of these young adult science fiction books. The good news that Jesus taught of the Kingdom of God offered tangible ways for how a world full of injustice and oppression can be transformed into one of hope—which was a message of good news back when Jesus first preached it and still is for us today. And it’s a message that resonates all throughout the imaginative narrative of The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is not the Gospel, or even an allegory of the Gospel story, but it reflects the good news, helping to illuminate the path of Kingdom living for readers today.
I wanted to share here a few of the things I have posted elsewhere about The Hunger Games as well as some of the things others have been saying about it. And for all my readers here – thank you so much for your support!
From my article The Hunger Games: An Allegory of Christian Love – Huffington Post Religion (their title, not mine).
After first reading “The Hunger Games” series, I was surprised to encounter the “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” rivalry on many of the fansites. Maybe it is because I am not a teenage girl, but I was dismayed to see such a profound story reduced to the trivial level of Twilight’s love triangle. Yes, in this tale of young Katniss Everdeen’s struggle to survive in the dystopian world of Panem, her friends Peeta and Gale are presented as potential love interests. But “The Hunger Games” trilogy is not a mere love story; it is a story about Love.
While it might seem strange to say that a dystopian young adult novel about children killing each other for the entertainment of an indulgent privileged class is about love, as the trilogy unfolds love emerges as the theme holding the narrative together. This is not simply romantic love, but the kind of love that nurtures and sustains life. Those familiar with the teachings of Jesus would recognize it as the sort of love he requests of his followers. Love that sacrifices itself for the sake of others, that sees the hurt and pain in the world and offers healing, and that sees the hungry and feeds them.
From my article Life Under Empire – Sojourners April 2012
THE HOPE IN the face of oppression that Jesus offered is still good news for the world today. Defiant hope may be one reason Katniss’ story resonates with so many readers. We in the United States could be the new Roman Empire or the real Capitol. The districts that labor to meet our needs, often under harsh conditions and for little pay, are the countries of the developing world. Our wealth and power allow us to impose unfair trade laws and build unregulated factories in other countries so that we can live in relative opulence while others toil to provide our food, clothing, and electronics. And as in Panem, anyone who questions our supremacy may face dire consequences.
Praise for The Hunger Games and the Gospel
- “It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Julie Clawson finds everyday justice in the Hunger Games trilogy, but what may surprise and delight is that she reads the story so well and writes so beautifully about the lessons she finds there. Everyone who loves The Hunger Games should read this book.”
– Greg Garrett, author of Faithful Citizenship, One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter, and The Other Jesus
- “Are we living in the United States of Panem? The Hunger Games trilogy’s depiction of a wealthy, totalitarian regime that exploits its conquered neighbors is more than fiction. The series brings to life the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day and suggests a searing indictment of contemporary American imperialism. Using a framing structure of the Beatitudes, Julie Clawson powerfully explores Katniss’s suffering as a lens for understanding Jesus’ passion for loving our neighbors and building a better world.”
– Jana Riess, author of Flunking Sainthood and What Would Buffy Do?
Jana posted further comments at her blog as well.
- “What happens when the dystopic world of Panem, ancient biblical faith and contemporary life in a consumerist culture all meet? You get a book like “The Hunger Games and the Gospel.” And it all comes down to living under the oppressive power of empire. Suzanne Collins’ wonderful Hunger Games trilogy cries out for precisely this kind of Christian cultural engagement. Always honoring the integrity of Collins’ work, Julie Clawson plays with the resonances and analogies that can be drawn between the trilogy, the Bible and contemporary life in empire. Working from a breadth of biblical knowledge and taking the virtue ethic of Jesus (usually named the Beatitudes) as her starting point, Clawson offers us a reading rich in wisdom, prophetic insight and hope for living a subversive life in the face of empire. I am very excited about this book–and it is sending me back to the original trilogy for yet another read.”
– Brian J. Walsh, author of Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination and co-author of Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement
Brian also posted about the book at the Empire Remixed blog.
- “There is no questions that The Hunger Games Triology has touched something deep in the psyche of its millions of readers, stirring up the questions and uncertainties that we all foster about our future. With sharp clarity and stunning insight, Julie Clawson not only helps us understand our visceral response to the series, but does so by interweaving it with Jesus’ Beatitudes. The result points realistic a hope for today and for the future.”
-Jamie Arpin-Ricci, author The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom
- A great review from Marty Alan Michelson
- Rachel Held Evans writes –
“I admit I am usually skeptical about books that claim to offer a “Christian perspective” on popular culture. But I trust Julie Clawson. And she does not disappoint. Not unlike the Hunger Games series itself, I read The Hunger Games and the Gospel in one sitting. Clawson does a fantastic job of reminding readers that Collins’ world of occupation, oppression, excess, and poverty is not so far removed from our own, and that it is exactly the kind of world in which Jesus himself lived.”
- And mentions in the Desert News and the National Review.