What You Should Know About The Hunger Games

This is for everyone out  there who is thinking about the movie, but haven’t seen it or hasn’t read the book. More precisely, for those of you are thinking about letting your kids go. Before you get any further I am not about to tell you it is evil and wrong and shouldn’t be watched by anyone. In fact, I think the movie is pretty good and the books are even better.

What I will tell you is that if you are young person, this is one of those films that can change your view of the world. Even though it is a fictional story set in a distant future, it touches on some very deep, important, and disturbing ideas. These are ideas that at one point or another every child needs to consider and ponder before they can truly be ready for adulthood. But the ideas of this movie are very, very intense and can deliver to children who aren’t ready, a jaw dropping earth shaking set of ideas that could really bother them for some time.

So what are the basic themes of The Hunger Games? If you are going or letting your kids go you should know. Plus it would also be good to be able to hold some sort of an intelligent conversation about the thing everyone will be talking about for the next three months. Well here is one…

The central theme and the idea that literally drives 100% of the plot is about a world where children are violently murdering each other. Whether you are looking at it from the point of a girl’s struggle to protect her family, to how will these two young people will overcome impossible odds (really… only one is allowed to live) to the world they live in to the giant dude who has quite literally been waiting his whole life to kill the cute little kids. This entire plot is centered around a gladitorial match pitting young people against each other to the death, and not “Ha! I sunk your battleship! Now you’re dead!” No. More like arrow to heart, sword to the neck dead. And don’t kid yourself, these scenes are graphic enough that you get the point. There are scenes where children are slicing each other up, breaking each other’s necks and throwing spears at one another’s chests. It isn’t an “idea” of killing. It is some deep heavy stuff. Did I mention it’s kids doing the killing? Cause that’s important. It’s freaky.

I think I made my point on that. If it bothers you that Joker kind of killed people in a funny ways in Batman, than this is not something that you should let kids into. But here is something that you should consider: What value this does offer society is that it can help children understand some very important ideas, provided they have strong adults to guide them through it. The first is the concept of evil. Most children have a view of evil is that bad guy in the mask or the terrorist or someone so very dissimilar from them that they are instantly recognizable. Children automatically know that the slimy monster with two heads is evil. They know that Darth Vader as evil. They automatically know a Jihadist with an AK-47 is evil. What they don’t yet know is that evil is something that anyone is capable of doing. They don’t understand that even we, that is you and I and the children reading the books, are all capable of great and terrible deeds when put in difficult places.

Another story that captures this mentality and shares this theme is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The Lottery’s themes so closely match the story that one has to wonder if was an inspiration for The Hunger Games. The Lottery involves a town meeting where an annual lottery takes place. The people all scurry and talk and gripe about lottery and how annoying it is and how recent it was since the last one. They discuss how long it’s been going on and how other towns aren’t even doing one. They argue about tradition and meaning without the reader knowing what really is going on in the lottery. One woman is staunch supporter of the lottery and its meaning. In the end the men of the town draw for each of their family members and they then have a big unavailing. The woman from before, the one who was one of the advocates for the lottery, is the one chosen. She is unwilling and cries out about how now it isn’t fair. The townspeople then tell her to take her fair share like everyone else before… and then the townspeople, children first, stone her to death.

Both these stories touch on the idea that with no rational reason, every day people, our neighbors, friends and relatives are capable of unspeakable evil. This may sound far fetched, but it isn’t far from the truth. I was a Marine who served in Iraq. I have seen what can happen when people lose their rationality. When we see other humans as less than human and as evil, without truly understanding what has brought us to this point. History has also shown us this. What I am talking about is the numerous acts of world decimation that happen when good people unspeakable evil, because they lose their rationality. To see what I am talking about follow these links, but remember this, they are real, and did happen. Auschwitz, Rwandan Genocide, The Great Leap Forward. There are many, many more, but these three help serve my point best. They each are events that can still be remembered by many of good people doing what to them seemed right at the time, but which history will never ever forgive them for. Most still look back without ever thinking they actually did anything wrong. I note the fact that the commandant of Auschwitz, when interviewed, was quoted as seeming proud and unapologetic, because to him he had done a fine a job and had help Germany produce what was one of the most advanced industrial manufacturing super complexes in the world. This is what happens when people lose their rationality.

But you might know that something like a kids book can get that deep. Or that one should take it that far. But I did. And I think you should too. I think that it is important to use books like The Hunger Games and stories like The Lottery to introduce the real concept of evil. Not the kind of evil like the bad guy that the good guy throws into jail and starts again in the next episode, but the kind of evil of a starving person, or of someone who is truly scared, or the kind of evil of someone who follows a very influencial leader without ever questioning what is really going on. It speaks out that within our nature we are all good people, but we are capable of doing such very very hurtful, dangerous and deadly things if we think our life, or our way of life or even our convenience is put at stake.

So what do you do with all of this heaviness? I think it is important to ask yourself, or your kids, what they thought about it. Did it bother them (you should be worried if it didn’t) and what bothered them. Why? You should tell them about how people can be. That the story is real in many more ways than it is fictitious. And perhaps you should take the opportunity to teach them many of the ugly things that happened before they were born. It is my belief that you have to at some point wake kids up to the reality of the world in that sense. They have to learn and they have to think about, because someday these kids will be leaders and if they don’t understand what can happen, it will happen again. If you don’t teach kids about things like Auschwitz then future historians will be talking about some event in the future where thousands died in Ardmore, Oklahoma, or the millions who lost their lives in Bedford, Indiana, or of the holocaust at Auburn, Alabama.

So my point is, use the movie. In all honesty, it is pretty good. The actors do a good job, in my opinion of conveying some real emotion, namely terror. The filming was great and in all honesty, some of the most gore filled scenes were done in such delicate ways to not send the whole audience into shock. So visually it won’t freak you out as much as when the kids leave the theater. But all and all it is a good movie. Watch it with your kids. Think about these concepts and decide an age when you think it is appropriate for your kids to start tackling these difficult subjects. For instance, my wife works at a local elementary school. She told me that there about one in four kids is reading the book.  I feel that this is too young and that the books were meant for a much older audience, seventh and eighth graders perhaps. You might decide that your kids are ready.

The one thing I hope you take away from this article is this: This is not an ordinary movie. It is not an ordinary book and you need to understand it before your kids see stuff they can’t forget.

-Jon

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The Youth of the Church; The Future of the Nation

I am writing this article to address a few trends that seem to be affecting the church, specifically those in the youth about to be adults most like Tanner. Tanner, while achieving much for his age, is young and has a future ahead of him and now is entering the phase of life where he and those like him will be making the most important decisions of their lives. I feel the church, for the most part, has directed them toward a path where they can’t succeed in the modern world and can’t fully take part in shaping and guiding it anymore. This is part of why so many are steering away from the church and why the church is steering so far from the rest of American culture, bad and good. I wrote this article to try and focus on the direction being given to these young people and perhaps direct readers of Tanner’s and my blog in how they should encourage their youth in the future.

So have you ever said to yourself something to the effect of “Politicians can’t be trusted?” Have you ever said that “All businessmen are greedy and corrupt?” Have you ever wondered why? Because they aren’t Christian anymore. For the most part, Christians have stayed away from the business and political scene for the better part of three generations. But why? Let me put it this way…

Have you ever said any of these things… around your kids?

I know it is something most of us don’t think about often, but ask yourself, what careers am I pushing my kids toward? For many of Tanner’s younger readers, ask what careers where you pushed to? I think though, we should also consider, what are you pushing from?

Many are raised with the idea that ideal Christian careers involve hard work such as construction. Carpentry seems to be popular among Christians (wonder why?) Other career paths include careers that involve some sort of service like the medical field, doctors and nurses (but not gynecologists, that is for the sinners of medicine), and education to become teachers.  Another career path widely encouraged in church circles is the military. I was a Marine and I am still a little baffled at why so many in my church were so proud of me for doing a job that on a good day killed people… But they did. My wife says it has much to do with the service and sacrifice aspect of the job, which I understand. I  still think they just haven’t really thought about it much though.

But what about big business? What is the first thing you think about me when I say I would one day like to own the next Chase bank or be the next Bill Gates? What if I said I would like to one day be a successful venture capitalist? Would you think I was greedy? What if I said I wanted to be a successful politician? That I wanted to be a Senator and work on Capitol Hill? Would you think my goals are to be corrupt, filling my pockets with kickbacks before I become a lobbyist, making millions to influence others while manipulating the democratic system? You may not think that about me in general, but if you were to meet someone on the street with these goals, you wouldn’t think very well of career business people and career politicians.

Why is that? Over the course of history some of the most important people in American history filled these roles. Politicians were once also viewed as a noble profession, public servants, stewards of the community. Businessmen once were viewed as the fiercely independent founders of the American wealth and prosperity. John Pierpont Morgan was one of the most influential business leaders in America. He built massive companies in his day. He also engineered programs and deals that helped to prevent two massive American breakdowns in the American economic system.  He was also a lifelong member of his church and one of it’s most influential leaders. His grandfather was a preacher and influenced him greatly. He could be found alone often in silent prayer for hours at his local church.

The founding fathers were also religious men as well as politicians. Benjamin Franklin is quoted to saying

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshiped…As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see.”

Seems pretty straight forward. What about Thomas Jefferson, the supposed atheist of the founders?

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?”

So it is possible to have moral leadership, both in business and politics. Then why is it that these two fields of achievement are so shrouded in the belief that they are corrupt, Godless and without morals?

Because good Christians aren’t supposed to want to do those things.

When I was a child I remember being told that the rich are nothing but greedy and that politicians are liars. I heard that a good Christian job was physical labor, medicine, teaching or the military and that these were the only honorable things available to me. Then I joined the Marines and during that time I realized that those who affect the most change, have the greatest impact on society are not on that list, not directly, not individually. Those with the most direct and individual influence on America are those people of business and leadership, which Christianity shuns.

The problem I see is that for three generations now, young Christians have been pushed by fellow Christians away from these fields and resulted in a growing movement where Christians do not welcome them and are not welcomed by them.  And as a result of this, Christians are growing farther and farther from the socioeconomic center of America. They are losing their place as leaders in its future and are alienating themselves from its people. So while I see many posts going up about the Decline of Christianity in America and the general idea that we are becoming a Godless nation, I say to you “What did you expect? You teach your young people to join you in seclusion from the society they are part of.”

But things don’t need to be this way. In the future we need to encourage our young people to be those leaders of tomorrow. We need to encourage them with stories of great Christian businessmen and politicians, so that they can lead Americans with a Christian perspective. They can recommunicate the values of Christianity in a way society is able to understand and perhaps fix some of the problems we are seeing in society today from hatred of Christians to .

That’s why I am glad to be invited to speak on Tanner’s blog. He is an example of the future of Christianity and the future of America. In the next few years, people his age are going to be making the decisions that will put them in positions where they can have a great resounding impact on us all. I hope that you will encourage them to do something great.

Be entrepreneurs. Solve humanity’s problems with new ideas, new innovations and give people jobs. Make yourselves very wealthy and remember who blessed you with your success. Then tithe.

Be politicians. Become leaders who set a great example to all Americans of what a great person is and should be. Become directly involved in the decision-making process and therefore have greater potential to influence the aspects of society you see that can be fixed.

Don’t live a mundane life complaining about the rich, the wealthy and the powerful. Become them and set a new precedent.

***This post has been duel posted on Opinionz Matter by Tanner Brumbarger . I have been invited to guest post to Tanner’s blog and hopefully this will help drive a bit more traffic to Jon’s Deep Thoughts.