Jesus Is Just Alright with The Hunger Games

I finally read The Hunger Games trilogy this summer (being in grad school means I’m always a bit behind on popculture literary phenomenon). I enjoyed it. Truth be told, I tore through it faster than anything I can remember, which is not to say the series is without a few serious faults as literature, but they are good books offering readers lots to think about.

hunger games photo
Photo by JeepersMedia

An element explored in the novels I find particularly interesting is Katniss’s extreem distrust. There are moments throughout the novel where Katniss interprets situations one hundred percent wrongly and the reader knows it. Those moments are frustrating, and I had to remind myself that Katniss has been environmentally (and self) trained toward skepticism. Her oppressive government, her poverty, her relationship with Gale, her mother’s failure, her personality proclivities, and the Games all work together to fuel Katniss’s near complete inability to interpret the goodness of reality correctly. The most obvious example is the way she completely misreads Peeta’s affection and friendship in the first book.

It’s frustrating because the truth is so obvious. But the truth is, we all do this. We all to some extent or another have been raised in certain social settings to interpret certain actions and sayings in certain ways. As a white Protestant Evangelical, I come from a society that traditionally looks at the negative side of an action or speech act while often ignoring the positive—we’re notorious for throwing the proverbial icon out with the icon worship. When Art Reynold’s gospel song “Jesus Is Just Alright” was made popular (to white folks) by the Doobie Brothers, we said, “Just!?” and ignored all the other lyrics missing the point entirely.

I have my own biases and blind spots, but the tricky thing about them is I can’t see (them) without help from others.

We get annoyed by today’s pseudo-tolerance, (rightfully) noting that blithe acceptance of all is no tolerance at all, but we often fail to see that the motives behind the tolerance movement are good… good, but distorted. And that we fail to recognize this is a great shame because the Christian view of reality and humanity basically boils down to that: good but distorted… with the potential in Christ for a new start.

I realize what I’m doing right now derives from my protesting tradition; critical thinking is good. But without nuance, grace, and empathy, criticism often becomes nothing more than the jarring noise of jackhammers or the nonstop barking of the neighborhood dog… Knowledge without love is just noise.

Sometimes an other’s perspective, like Katniss’s, is flat wrong; sometimes, it isn’t wrong or right, just different. Too often we assign malicious motives and forget to consider the context. Whenever I became frustrated with Katniss for being so thick, so blind to reality, I had to pause to remember where she’s coming from. I had to put myself in her hunting boots.

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