If We Burn, You Burn With Us?
This week I am reflecting on some of the difficult questions The Hunger Games trilogy raises for readers – today the focus is on violence and oppression.
In reflecting on the events of Holy Week, I find it interesting that one of the common interpretations of why Judas handed over Jesus to the authorities is because Judas desired to push Jesus to assume the political role of the Messiah and lead a rebellion against the occupying Romans. Looking to the historical example of the Maccabees who purged Israel of the evil influence of the Greeks through violent rebellion and ethnic cleansing, perhaps Judas thought that when confronted with political arrest and trial Jesus would too come to the rescue of Israel and save them from the Romans. The other disciples’ tendency to carry weapons and their attack of the soldiers arresting Jesus hint that they too expected something more akin to violent rebellion. Jesus obviously had something different in mind – calling them to a way of life that did not use power to overcome but love to subvert and undo.
Yet the question has remained throughout history as to whether it is ever okay to respond to such oppression and occupation with acts of violent rebellion. It is the question that tormented Dietrich Bonhoeffer under the Third Reich with him eventually deciding that even though it was wrong to murder, he had no choice but to attempt to assassinate Hitler. And it is the hard question that The Hunger Games trilogy proposes as well. Panem is a country where a rich and luxurious Capitol rules the surrounding districts through oppressive and exploitative practices. The people in the districts live in dire poverty, exist on the brink of starvation, and have had all freedoms denied to them. They must labor to meet the insatiable demands of the Capitol and every year send two of their children as tribute to be sacrificed for the Capitol’s entertainment. It is no surprise that when Katniss, the girl of fire, provides the spark, the country erupts into violent rebellion in response to the injustices of the Capitol. But as the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that the Rebellion commits many of the same injustices as the Capitol once did and causes just as much emotional pain to the people of Panem.
So here’s the hard questions that I found The Hunger Games posing –