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The Things It Would Be A Crime To Forget

2012 April 6

This week I am reflecting on some of the difficult questions The Hunger Games trilogy raises for readers – today the focus is on the things we remember.

Today is a day of remembrance. We recall the Passover meal shared by Jesus and his disciples and their participation in remembering the story of their people’s release from bondage. And we remember the death of Jesus at the hands of the Romans. What the Romans intended as an intimidating example intended to quell any other messianic uprisings in this backwater land they occupied instead became the greatest symbol of hope for the world. A symbol that another way of life is possible, that the Kingdom of God is far greater than the empire of Rome, and that even death cannot contain this offer of hope.

The need to remember and tell the stories of the past to find hope or to mourn what has been lost is a necessary part of human development. Yet all too often we want to move on too quickly, hide from the painful moments in the past, or deny the embarrassing parts. We fail to remember well.

So for me, the idea of remembrance was one of the most poignant themes in The Hunger Games series. At the end of the third book, Katniss, who has repeatedly had to suppress the painful memory of what she has done and what she has lost, finally must embrace those memories and it is in that process that she finds healing. As I wrote in The Hunger Games and the Gospel -

Her healing is slow, and the comfort she finds doesn’t change the fact that horrible things have happened, but it makes living with the memory of those things more bearable. As part of that process of mourning and healing, she and Peeta start compiling a book to remember the things “it would be a crime to forget.” Stories of those who died, the memory of her father’s laugh, an image of her sister being licked by the cat. The entries go on and on, and they “seal the pages with salt water and promises to live well and make their deaths count.” … Katniss intuitively knew that telling the stories of what has been lost is a vital part of the process of mourning.

Yet it is not just the small stories that must be remembered. Allowing the human moments to not be forgotten and the sacrifice of individuals to be recognized is a vital part of that process of telling the story, but so is the act of telling the truth about the bigger things. About the sins of the past and the acts of oppression in the present. Naming the systems that cause pain and remembering the stories of those who have been hurt not only allows those people’s stories to be recognized and mourned, it holds the perpetrators accountable for their actions. There is a comfort in knowing that the people who have hurt you accept responsibility for your pain. There is even greater comfort when they humbly repent of their actions and start the process of reconciliation. But sometimes the best that those in pain can hope for is to ensure that things that it would be crime to forget are not forgotten. And that means telling the truthful although sometimes difficult and embarrassing stories of the past.”

There are things in our world which it would be a crime to forget. For people to be able to find hope in its fullest form that allows for mourning and reconciliation to occur, the painful actions of the past cannot be forgotten. Like the Passover meal that calls the Jews to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt but that God delivered them, the story of where we have come from must be remembered and wrestled with in order for hope and healing to be present now.

So the hard questions The Hunger Games left me with are –

What are the things it would be a crime for us to forget?

What must we force ourselves to remember if we truly care about healing and reconciliation in this world?

What are the stories of oppression, genocide, and slavery that must always be told?

When have we like the Capitol citizens forgotten that the people we use are human?

How can we tell those stories so that we too can be delivered from bondage?

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