Monday, 9 December 2013

Hunger is not a Game

Spoiler Alert: Hunger Games Books 1-3

Catching Fire, the second installment of the Hunger Games movies, has appeared on screen
now for fanatic audiences. With the story fresh in our minds, let’s turn for a moment to the application and implications that this popular story has on our lives as Christians in Canada and the Western world.

Suzanne Collins in her wildly popular trilogy, The Hunger Games, dissects and exposes the grotesque excesses of life in an affluent land. Collins politely distances the reader from the parody by setting the story in a post-apocalyptic North America, now a country called Panem, all the while painting a thinly veiled allegory of current affairs. There are 12 districts all cruelly oppressed by the Capitol. Stripped of their autonomy and their resources, they are also stripped of their ability to defend themselves and their children. In memory of a failed uprising a hundred years before, the districts are punished by an annual levy in the form of a draw; two randomly selected children aged 12-18 are taken from each district and put into an arena in the capitol to fight to the death, for the entertainment of the Capitol’s citizens.

We are the citizens of the Capitol.

Collins pictures us as fashion-crazed flaky individuals with no understanding of life outside our walls and no comprehension of anything that matters. Self-centered, mindless consumerists, we exploit all others. Some citizens do this out of malice, some out of ambition, some out of pure greed, but it is telling that most of them do this unwittingly, almost innocently, simply because they have never known another way to live.

We as Christians know another way to live.

Jesus outlines this alternative lifestyle many times over in each gospel. Love of God and love of others, there is nothing greater than these. Justice, Equality and Grace: the keys to life in the Kingdom. Sadly, these are not the hallmarks of our lives at all. Too often people see us as Gandhi did: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” 

As citizens of the Capitol, we Christians of the Western world cannot just sit and wait for a global revolution to set the world to rights, for District 13 to finally overthrow us. It was never our mission to wait. We must relearn what it means to be in the world but not of the world

We must learn to live in the Capitol, but cease to endorse the Games. 

As readers of The Hunger Games have visually proven by attending opening showings of the second movie in the past weeks dressed in tunics with a single long braid of hair down their backs, people strongly identify with the main character, a teenaged girl named Katniss Everdeen. Katniss becomes a tribute in the Games when she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place, and this puts her on a path of undermining the Capitol’s control as she fights through two sets of Hunger Games and a revolutionary war. People have a tendency toward seeing themselves as victims, and therefore derive enjoyment from a story where an oppressed hero or heroine manages to throw off his or her oppressors and change the status quo.

It is the classic popularity of the underdog narrative. 

What raving fans are loathe to acknowledge is that we citizens of the developed Western world are not the Katniss Everdeens of the story. 

It is true that the story is about us, but we are the privileged oppressors.

In Julie Clawson’s book, The Hunger Games and the Gospel, she focuses on the actions of the main characters that do everything they can, no matter the cost, to bring into existence a new order of justice and equality. Katniss’ sacrifices, Peeta’s kindness, Gale’s fiery need to set things right, Prim’s sweetness and determination: all of these characters lead the rebellion to victory over the Capitol oppressors. Their roles in the fight for justice are disjointed in their application to our lives as Western Christians though. 

We cannot become the rebellious kids from District 12; sitting on our plush chesterfields drinking warm beverages while reading novels about oppression does not actually transform us into the oppressed. In many ways, if we do not learn from our true character parallels in these books, then we have proven everything Collins wrote about us. If we can read an allegory of our brutal oppression of the masses, enjoy it, and change nothing, how are we different from the voyeuristic Capitol spectators glued to their screens watching the annual Hunger Games aired in Prime Time? How can we cheer for Katniss and the rebels in their fight against the Capitol when it is: 

“our consumptive lifestyle [that] similarly comes at the expense of suffering people around the world?” (Clawson 18).

For those of us who have grown up having food available whenever we are hungry, and even when we are not hungry, but perhaps just bored. For us who have flipped through cases of DVDs scanning titles and then sat back and bemoaned the fact that there is nothing good to watch. For those who want a bigger closet so they can see all their clothes at the same time. For those who get upset when they sit down on the couch and then realize the remote is out of reach. For all of us, it is time to realize and accept that we can never be a Katniss character and, taking into consideration the limitations our luxurious lifestyles put on us, discover the possible roles open to us. 

Katniss’ three prep staff who prepare her for public appearances by doing her hair, makeup, hair removal and the like, are supposed to be a sample of Capitol citizens. The prep team does the work of her makeover when Katniss arrives in the Capitol. They finish with her and one of them exclaims, “You look almost like a human being now!” (1Collins 62). The implications of this line being that not only did she not look human before, but even with all of the beautification work they have done on her, she still does not seem fully human to them. Despite this insult Katniss finds that, “It’s hard to hate my prep team. They’re such total idiots. And yet, in an odd way, I know they’re sincerely trying to help me” (1Collins 63). She admits later though, “To keep from hating the prep team, I effectively tune out most of what they are saying” (1Collins 354). 

The content of their conversations with each other baffles Katniss as it reveals their shallow existences and the triviality of their most distressing problems. “My prep team launches into a whole lot of stuff about their incomprehensibly silly lives. Who said what about someone I’ve never heard of and what sort of shoes they just bought and a long story from Octavia about what a mistake it was to have everyone wear feathers to her birthday party.” However, it is this exposure to the three members of her prep team that allows Katniss to begin to see shallow Capitol citizens as people. When those same ridiculous people treat Katniss’ mother with respect and kindness, Katniss is shamed by her judgement of them. “I feel bad about how I go around feeling so superior to them. Who knows who I would be or what I would talk about if I’d been raised in the Capitol? Maybe my biggest regret would be having feathered costumes at my birthday party, too” (2Collins 37). 

Bothering to get to know people whose lives are “incomprehensible” to us is the first step to seeing them as fully formed, equally entitled and important human beings.

“We break our sinful stereotypes in Christianity the same way we break them in the world – we get to know people we’re prejudiced toward.” Beth Moore

The first Capitol citizen introduced in the books is Effie Trinket. When Effie, sponsor of District 12 Hunger Games tributes, first appears Katniss describes her as being “Fresh from the Capitol with her scary white grin, pinkish hair, and spring green suit” (1Collins 17-18). She is a schedule driven organizer who places a great deal of importance on manners. Effie is a well-meaning lady who tries to do her best for Katniss and Peeta, but in her every action and discussion, she insults and demeans them. She tells them that she has been talking them up to potential sponsors, saying that they have “both successfully struggled to over-come the barbarism of… [their] district.” Katniss cannot help but find it ridiculous and she thinks, “Barbarism? That’s ironic coming from a woman helping to prepare us for slaughter” (1Collins 74). 

Like others Katniss encounters among the Capitol citizens, Effie thinks about events in terms of what it means for her as an individual.

The night before Katniss and Peeta enter the arena, Effie’s farewell is heartfelt. “And then, because it’s Effie and she’s apparently required by law to say something awful, she adds ‘I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I finally get promoted to a decent district next year!’ Then she kisses us each on the cheek and hurries out, overcome with either the emotional parting or the possible improvement of her fortunes” (1Collins 138). While Katniss begins to see her prep team as people when she spends time with them and gets to witness how they act in different situations, the citizens of the Capitol struggle to see life in terms of anything other than Self.

The other prominent Capitol character in the books is Katniss’ brilliant stylist, Cinna. When Katniss meets him she is struck by his choice not to succumb to all of the wild Capitol fashions that other citizens love. She is sure she has seen it all with the unnaturally puffy lips, tattooed breasts, skin dyed magenta with gems implanted in it, decorative patterns cut into faces, curved talons, and cat’s whiskers, which she says she “saw all these things and more on people in the Capitol” (2Collins 49). But Cinna is remarkably unaltered by his proximity to the inner circle of Capitol fashions. Katniss notes that, “Most of the stylists they interview on television are so dyed, stenciled, and surgically altered they’re grotesque. But Cinna’s close-cropped hair appears to be its natural shade of brown. He’s in a simple black shirt and pants” (1Collins 63).

Cinna’s refrainment from Capitol behaviours does not end with his abstinence from their fashions. He is also much more attuned to the oppressive reality in which the people of Panem live. During their first meeting, Katniss is overwhelmed by the food-ordering device in the room:
What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment? I look up and find Cinna’s eyes trained on mine.
‘How despicable we must seem to you,’ he says… He’s right… The whole rotten lot of them is despicable. (1Collins 65).
While it may seem like a simple observation to make, that Katniss probably finds the Capitol lifestyle despicable, Cinna is the first and only Capitol citizen to voice such an opinion throughout the books. Other Capitol people join the rebellion, but they never voice the sentiment that they themselves might seem despicable. 

Cinna is the only character who dares to make the accusation point also to himself by choosing the word “we.”

Cinna stands out amongst the population of the Capitol in his acknowledgement of a problem, while the others are unable or unwilling to acknowledge anything apart from themselves and their own “needs.” There are food shortages, even in the Capitol, during the war of rebellion. In the districts, food is distributed among the people according to different systems, but in the Capitol people store up food for themselves in their private homes. In conversation between a former Capitol citizen turned rebel and the other rebels while they are hiding out in a Capitol apartment, the differing understandings of the world come out:
“‘In the Capitol… even before… people were stocking up on scarce supplies.’
‘While others went without,’ says Leeg 1.
‘Right,’ says Messalla. ‘That’s how it works here.’” (3Collins 292).
This selfish distain for the hardships of others, this care for the protection of your own luxuries and safety above all else, this is everyday life in the Capitol for almost all of its citizens.

            Selfishness is also shown in refusing physical safety to other Capitol citizens when they are fleeing for their lives. When the rebels attack the Capitol and are taking it block by block, refugees from the suburbs and fringe areas of the city flock to the city center to seek safe haven from the invading army. These are Capitol citizens seeking protection amongst other Capitol citizens. But Katniss witnesses that “Many are still out on the street, trying to find shelter for the night. Those who live in the choice apartments of the inner city have not flung open their doors to house the displaced. On the contrary, most of them bolted their locks, drew their shutters, and pretended to be out” (3Collins 333). Even a problem of such closeness and intimacy as their actual, physical neighbours freezing as temperatures drop for the night outside their own houses, and the Capitol citizens bar their doors and hearts in favour of protecting their own interests. 

            If these pampered people are blind and uncaring to those in need among them, then they are ruthless and heartless in their behaviour toward the Districts. 

Katniss struggles to rationalize what she knows of her prep team, their childishness and simpleminded lives, with the actions and behaviours that they engage in and condone, which are atrocities.

At a party she mentions to her prep team that she wishes she could eat more, but she is full. They laugh at her and direct her to a table with little glasses. The liquid in them makes the party-goers vomit, emptying their stomachs, so more food can be consumed. “All I can think of is the emaciated bodies of the children… as my mother prescribes what the parents can’t give. More food… And here in the Capitol they’re vomiting for the pleasure of filling their bodies again and again. Not from some illness of body or mind, not from spoiled food. It’s what everyone does at a party. Expected. Part of the fun” (2Collins 80). The excess does not register with the preps; they explain it to Katniss as they would to a child. Octavia, one of the team, asks rhetorically, assuming there is no answer, “How else would you have any fun at a feast?” (2Collins 79). It is a question that can only be posed by a person who assumes their culture is universal: that there can be no alternative way of living, no life beyond the structures of their own awareness. A statement like Cinna’s has no place in this closed-minded culture of assumed universalism. “How despicable we must seem to you.” It is not an observation that crosses the minds of the feasting, vomiting partiers.

Not all of the behaviours and concerns of the Capitol populace are inflated parodies of our Western society.
Some of their (and our) concerns are directly transferable.

While we may not vomit for fun at parties or watch children decapitated on live television on a regular basis, there are concerns just as alien to the Districts that mesh perfectly with our own understandings of life. When the rebels are infiltrating the Capitol city, Katniss’ group has some former Capitol citizens in it. They enter one of the apartments to get into the sewer system and, “Messalla frowns at the wide circular cover, for a moment returning to his own fussy world. ‘It’s why no one ever wants the center unit. Workmen coming and going whenever and no second bath. But the rent’s considerably cheaper.’ Then he notices Finnick’s amused expression and adds, ‘Never mind’” (3Collins 298). To the District rebels, such concerns are laughable. Finnick is a former victor of the Hunger Games, a boy from District 4 who after winning his Games was prostituted by the President, his body sold to Capitol citizens, and threatened with his girlfriend’s torture and death if he failed to comply. Whether there is a second bathroom in his apartment has never been a problem in his life worth mentioning. Like the prep team member’s big problem of having had feathered costumes at her birthday party, such trivialities, especially when presented as actual problems, are impossible for the people from the Districts to understand.

These problems of a trivial existence have been made popular on a website called, “First World Problems. It is a collection of pictures and phrases that people can post for the edification of all viewers; there you can find an assortment of heart wrenching problems faced by those of us in the developed world. Pictures are usually of people in various poses of abject depression and sorrow. Captions read:
I poured my cereal into the bowl without checking to see if we still had milk. We didn’t.
My laptop is dying. But my charger is all the way upstairs.
I put a bandaid on my thumb and now I can only text with one hand.
I tried to spread cold butter on my toast. And the bread ripped.
I don’t have enough dip for my chips. But if I open another container, I won’t have enough chips for my dip.

It is these sorts of non-problems that Collins brings to light with her parody of us as the Capitol citizens. Many of the things that plague our lives, occupy our time, incite fights in our homes – people struggling to survive, the people from the districts, look at and wonder at our “incomprehensibly silly lives.” 

But they cannot dismiss us, even in our silliness, because of the consequences of our actions.

That food that the partier in the Capitol vomits up, it is food taken from the districts for which children starve. So we cannot be ignored in our ignorance. We cannot be pitied or dismissed or indulged. Those we oppress do not have the luxury of any of these reactions.

Delly Cartwright, a schoolmate of Katniss’ from District 12, when faced with the selfish machinations of their oppressors exclaims, “‘I’ll never understand the Capitol’... ‘Better not to, maybe,’ I tell her” (3Collins 187). Katniss suspects that it is better not to understand how people could make such gruesome choices, how people could be so desensitized to suffering. Not understanding how it is possible to become like that means, she suspects, that you yourself are not on the same path.
Since they cannot understand us, and they cannot ignore us, do we actually find it surprising when people like Katniss and Gale, oppressed and hungry and angry at our consumptive lives of wasteful excess, seek our destruction? 

“The fundamental problem portrayed in the story is that of human suffering caused by injustice. In particular, it is the suffering of those who are relatively powerless at the hands of an oppressive regime” (Middleton and Walsh 90, Truth is Stranger Than it Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age).

Since we are the people of the oppressive regime, it throws a curve in our love of the underdog narrative. The problem in the story is the suffering of the Districts at the unjust hands of the oppressive Capitol. The problem in real life is the suffering of the Nations at the hands of the unjust Consumptive Western world. If we are the problem, and we cheer Katniss and Gale onward, then we cheer, in effect, for our own removal and the destruction of our way of life. 

For many people, they cheer only until they realize that victory would require them to change.

In a conversation about their roles in the upcoming war against the Capitol, Gale says to Katniss, “If I could hit a button and kill every living soul working for the Capitol, I would do it. Without hesitation” (3Collins 31). Having read the books and knowing what their lives have been like, what they have suffered, and what their loved ones suffer still at the hands of the Capitol, such a destructive response seems justified. What is different between Gale’s desire to blow everyone in the Capitol into oblivion, and the impoverished middle-eastern civilians cheering and firing celebratory shots in refugee camps during the aftermath on September 11th? Is the only difference that we do not see how we have wronged them? We are unable to grasp how our affluence has had a hand in their oppression. Effie Trinket would not see the connection either, nor would Katniss’ prep team, Capitol party-goers, or simple Capitol citizens preoccupied with their cheaper rental unit and its lack of a second bathroom. Collins shows the destructive influence such violent attitudes have on the lives of the rebels, but the sentiments Gale voices are common among the Districts and among the oppressed of our world. 

We need not be surprised that these sentiments exist.

The answer to stemming violent reactions is not in silencing these violent reactionary voices. Just because those voices call for our destruction does not mean their complaints are invalid or unimportant. Are our lives and comforts worth more than theirs? Is our right to be heard stronger than their right to also have a voice? I am not suggesting that we condone or accept violent propositions; though setting up Hunger Games in Pakistan with tribute children from Western countries would seem like a fair solution to many who have suffered. Because “working for an end to oppression does not mean adopting the same violent strategies as one’s oppressors” (2Clawson 72), we must allow for dissenting voices to be heard, for complaints to be validated and recognized, in order for healing and change to be had without it being enacted violently. 

As Christians, we are charged with a responsibility, not to not silence such voices of anger and retribution against us, but to listen and try to understand them. 

“Any humanly constructed order that is a covenantal response to the gift of this order of justice and righteousness must be equally concerned with the complaint of those in pain” (Middleton and Walsh 164-165). 

People do not seek retribution and the violent overthrow of oppressive regimes if they are not in pain; it may be physical or emotional pain, the pain of abuse or watching a loved one starve to death, the pain of war or of endless labour for the profit of someone else. We must ready ourselves to listen to those who hate us, try to understand, and change ourselves.

In the context of The Hunger Games, the Capitol and the oppressive system by which they control the districts is an allegory of the affluence in which we currently live. Some people have stockpiles of resources which they refuse to share, while other people have nothing – no food, no freedom, no voice, and their oppressors are not even aware of their oppressive power. At the end of the final book, the war is over, the Hunger Games are no more, and a tenuous, new Republic has been created by the victorious rebels. Now the people must somehow rebuild “home” in the ashes (physical and emotional) of war. 

After the war is over and she is free to leave the army and the Capitol, Katniss is told that it is time to go home. “Home? What’s he talking about? My home’s gone. And even if it were possible to go to this imaginary place, I am too weak to move” (3Collins 378). This response is both literal (her home of District 12 has been firebombed and is now an ashy field of the dead) and metaphorical. She has lost her ability to be ‘at home’ anywhere.

To be… a Christian is to forsake the idea of being at home in your old home. To be citizens of a Kingdom not yet come to Earth is to find ourselves “ultimately homeless” (Middleton and Walsh 58). This is true insofar as the definition of home is a place of comfort and complacency.

Katniss finds that she can never be complacent again; she is too plagued by nightmares and memories; she will never forget and never seeks to forget all that has happened. Since she can never find the safety of “home” as it was previously she is, in a sense, ultimately homeless. But she does rebuild home.
The idea of “home” within a culture of rebuilding seems to be constructed along lines of tribal identities and associations; however, not in the traditional tribal sense. These tribal identities are not exclusive, exclusionary or limiting. They overlap and weave together.

1.      Katniss’ post-war identity is built along familial lines. She marries Peeta and eventually they have two children. This is a step of homebuilding and it gives her the identity of being a Mellark (their family name), a mother and a wife.
2.      She is also a victor of the Hunger Games. This is a piece of her identity that is unshakable and only other victors of the Games know what life is like for other victors. It is such a shaping experience that they band together and become another kind of family to each other throughout the books. Haymitch, the only victor from District 12 other than Katniss and Peeta, becomes family to them in a way that Katniss’ own mother never will be. He understands their nightmares, inner darkness and brokenness.
3.      Katniss also has an identity as a citizen of District 12. Her people know her and community is re-formed as people come back to clean up the destruction. The ashes from the fires get plowed into the ground and crops are sown. She is a part of this rejuvenation among the community, this joined effort to rebuild and plant a new life, together.

Tribal identities are often portrayed as being negative, probably because they are assumed to be synonymous with exclusionary behaviours, but the multiphrenic tribal associations of rebuilding fulfill a deep need for multifarious, interdependent social connections. When these connections are successful, according to Robert D. Putnam, famed political scientist, we as humans have our best shot at happiness. Putnam writes that:

 …the very large international literature… suggests that social capital may actually be more important to human well-being than material goods… happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one's social connections (Putnam 8).  

We cannot truly exist as individuals; we must rid ourselves of that deeply rooted cultural weed, the idea of the autonomous man, and accept community once more: community in the deep and multifarious complexity of tribal associations.

Katniss and Peeta struggle with the memories of what has happened to them, but in community with each other and Haymitch, they create a book of the people they have lost. They record in the book “all the details it would be a crime to forget” (3Collins 387). They use photographs when they have them and Peeta draws or paints in the rest. Katniss records the words. Haymitch gives them the details of all the tributes he has mentored from District 12 over his twenty-three years as a victor. They had all died in the arena. As they fill in the pages, Katniss writes, “We seal the pages with salt water and promises to live well and make their deaths count” (3Collins 387). In other words, they collect the fragments that the death of their old lives has left them with and there, in their rebuilding, they put the fragments back together into a book. Their rebuilding is defined by putting back together, remembering. Katniss wonders later how she will “tell them [her children] about that world [of their past] without frightening them to death” (3Collins 389). But Peeta reassures her by saying, “We have each other. And the book. We can make them understand in a way that will make them braver” (3Collins 398). 

The emphasis is on retelling the story, the importance of knowing the story of the past to which your present belongs.

We are not living in this world of Katniss and Peeta’s; this scarred hopeful place being birthed out of the ashes. Our oppressive sinful world has not yet burned. We are in a state of flux. We ourselves cannot continue to be wealthy citizens of a hyperreal Capitol of oppression, but neither can we be citizens of a new home which has not yet come into existence. What we cannot do is passively wait for things to change. 

What we must do is bridge the gap between the Capitol and the Districts.

We see that this is possible in the bridging character of Cinna the stylist: member of the inner circle of the Capitol fashion hyperreal world, but somehow not consumed by it. Cinna has done it: he is in their world, but not of their world. “He works from within as an agent of change” (2Clawson 74). 

In order to navigate this world of excessive consumption, in which nothing is real or valuable, in light of our knowledge that our decisions in this hyperreality have real and destructive consequences on those who the system forces to pay for our lives of luxury, we must become aliens to our home.
We must disown our lives as we knew them and accept that we are not entitled to any of what we think of as “necessary,” “essential,” or “mine” if it comes at the expense of another human’s dignity.

After seeing ourselves as citizens of the Capitol, we should discover that:

"Our… dreams have become nightmares… leaving us as homeless nomads… exiled from the only home we have known. It is precisely when we experience ourselves as exiles, displaced and uprooted, that the biblical story can speak most eloquently to us of being at home in a secure creation." (Middleton and Walsh 155).

This exile is of our own choosing, and if we are not careful, the world with its fast-paced entertainment and trivial problems will creep up on us and distract us from our purpose. 

We do not want to be at home in a palace that is built on the backs of slaves.

“Those who truly love their neighbour cannot abide their suffering and therefore chose to live in ways that subvert injustice and uplift the oppressed. They don’t resign themselves to a “that’s just the way the world is” attitude” (2Clawson 77, Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices).

Jesus calls us to lay down the ways of the world and listen to the voices of the oppressed. The Hunger Games story has helped us to hear the voices of the oppressed, but now we must return to the beginning of that command and lay down the ways of the world: our profligate lifestyles of oppression.
  It is a difficult path, this refusal to be sucked in, but equal refusal to retreat from culture and become obsolete. Jesus did not find himself a hermitage in which to wait and be holy. Cinna the stylist does not run away from the Capitol to express his disgust with their systems of terror and violence. While he is working to bring down the Capitol from the inside, he does not exempt himself from reproach in his conversation with Katniss. Despicable, he calls himself and his culture. But in every scene when he appears throughout the book, he is gentle and kind to those around him – the people he knows live despicable lives of luxury. 

He works for change, but he does not inflict punishment or pass judgement on individuals.

Phyllis Trible speaks of this openness to self-assessment, but slowness to condemn others when she writes, “We must ‘direct our hearts to that most uncompromising of all biblical commands, speaking the word not to others but to ourselves: Repent. Repent’” (Middleton and Walsh 184).

Repentance, “a word that literally means to stop in our tracks, turn around, and choose a different way. It means being brave enough to apologise. Humble enough to try to make amends. And loving enough to accept how difficult that path will be” (2Clawson 31). Repentance is necessary to subvert the system of oppression in which we live. This is not a spiritual repentance of going forward in church and asking for forgiveness, though that may be a step you would like to take, this is a “turning around” of your lifestyle. Julie Clawson describes how we can take control of our actions and refuse to continue condoning oppression in our lives:

Living justly means understanding the impact of our decisions. It involves not only an awareness of the needs of others but also choosing to love others in a way that cares for their needs. It forces us to take a hard look at how our everyday choices (what we wear, what we eat, what we drive, etc.) affect others...We will still need to be consumers, but instead of being complicit in injustice, we can promote ethical consumption. Ethical consumption implies that we will apply our moral values and ethical standards to our consumer habits. We don't opt out of a necessary system, but we attempt to redeem it as we live by a more consistent ethic. (1Clawson 26)

            Like Katniss and Peeta with their book of things “it would be a crime to forget,” we as Christians must be inseparable from our book, the story to which we and all of creation belong. “Christians need to indwell the biblical drama by serious, passionate study of the Scriptures” (Middleton and Walsh 183). We do not have something like the Hunger Games played out before us constantly reminding us of the injustices we condone by our silence. Even if we did have such viewing material, we would undoubtedly grow desensitized to it as the people in the Capitol do, as we do to nightly news clips and to charitable infomercials with emaciated children. We must be constantly rooting ourselves in Scripture because our story, God’s story, it is also a crime to forget. And the world and its endless distractions insists that we forget it.

            We do not live in the newly rebirthed world in which Katniss and Peeta are raising their children and rebuilding home from the ashes. We are oppressors throwing off our old identities and setting ourselves adrift from the culture in which we live.
We are the voluntary homeless.

We may not live to see our oppressive Western society twitch its final death throes and a new global hegemony take center stage, and it does not matter. A different global power and worldview will have new problems all its own; we just don’t know them yet. Living out our Christian lives separate from the oppression of our culture though, is something we can all strive for. “Being aware of others enough to notice their needs is the first step to righteous living” (2Clawson 49) and now we know there is a problem. The steps to address the problem begin with each of our small choices every day. 

Our right to enjoy every little thing life has to offer has become so important to us that we can’t imagine living any differently. The idea of living sacrificially for the sake of others, or even not having access to the things we enjoy, becomes so unacceptable in our eyes that there is no danger of choosing to live in ways that are even marginally counter-cultural… we often are not willing to make the sacrifice (2Clawson 80).

Let’s be willing to imagine living differently. Let’s refrain from purchasing sweat-shop clothing,
electronics made by over-worked factory workers, and bananas and chocolate grown by abused and underage labourers. Let’s avoid stores that use pornographic advertising, companies who have poor environmental protection policies, and food from factory farmed animals. 

Let us begin to care that we are citizens of the Capitol and that the Capitol culture is despicable. 

Let us remember what it was a crime to forget.

Christians of the Western world, remember our story. We once fought lions in an arena, thrown to die rather than renounce the Truth of Christ. Now we forget ourselves and allow others to die in arenas of abuse, starvation, oppression, and slavery to make our luxuries possible. We were not forced to renounce Christ; we have willingly forgotten Him. We have laid him down choosing instead to worship at the altar of self-indulgence. 

We live in the Capitol, 
but it is time to remember that hunger is not a game.

*This article has been revised from a paper entitled “Postmodernity and the Christian Worldview: Hunger is not a Game. KWagner.” 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment