Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I know this post will probably be controversial and so if absolutely nobody has any comments on it, I will know that nobody read it all the way through...:)

The Hunger Games Trilogy

This series has been talked about a great deal recently, as The Hunger Games is coming out in theaters in March.  Hearing the main character, Katniss Everdeen, praised, and the trilogy generally acclaimed, I thought I’d get the series from the library and see what I thought of it.

  I have to say, Suzanne Collins is a talented writer.  The books held my attention from beginning to end, were fast paced, and well-written.  They are written so well that they make you want to like them.  The fact that I wanted to like them shows a lot of talent on the part of the author, as I never want to like a book I disagree with.

  I don’t usually write book reviews, but in this case I thought I ought to, as The Hunger Games Trilogy has been very widely praised, even in Christian circles.

  The Hunger Games, set in a futuristic society, under the dictatorship of President Snow, presents a world where there is no God, no higher power than that of the government.  “May the odds be ever in your favor.”  The books leave no room for doubt the way The Lord of the Ring Trilogy does, allowing for a case to be made on either side.  There is no God, no higher power, and there is no question about it.  We all make our own destiny—if fate allows us the chance.  Keep in mind that a writer can make things however they want them to be.  In the real world, because there truly is a God, an atheistic society can pretend there is no God as much as they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that He exists.  However, in Panem, there is no God, and it is not a pretense, because it is an imaginary world, operating under the author’s directives.

  In this world in which there can be no hope, we meet Katniss Everdeen, a girl who we connect with emotionally over the tragedies which have already occurred in her life, and who seems to display some strength of character, despite some minor flaws.  Her love for her sister is made evident, and we see the grandest display of her sacrificial love in volunteering to be a tribute in place of her sister Primrose.  The tributes are sent into an arena, which is basically a survival of the fittest contest.  Kill your friends before they kill you.  The tribute with the least mercy and compassion has a better chance of winning.

  At the end, with only Katniss and her friend Peeta left alive, after a great deal too much kissing, which is made light of, the two of them resolve to commit suicide by eating poisonous berries rather than have to kill each other.  At this they are hastily extracted and sent home victorious.  Thus ends book one, which also had a strange, and almost toddlerish, slight obsession with nakedness.

  In book two, Catching Fire, the rebellious action of pulling out the berries has ignited a revolution against President Snow and his government, and when the Quarter Quell comes around, a more grand version of the Hunger Games which comes around every 25 years, tributes are selected from among former victors.  Upon receiving the news, Katniss gets drunk, one of several times in the series in which she quenches her pain with drugs or alcohol.  She and Peeta are once again sent into the arena, and they team up with some other tributes, who are in on a plot to protect her and break them out of the game.  They are able to accomplish this, although Peeta is captured by the capitol.

  Book three, Mockingjay, begins with Katniss’ reluctance to become “The Mockingjay”, or the poster child for the rebellion against the capitol.  The rebellion is commanded by President Coin, a slightly less depraved and female version of President Snow.   Peeta, held captive by the capitol, is being brainwashed by President Snow into believing what the capitol wants him to believe.  Katniss eventually agrees to be the Mockingjay on several conditions, including immunity for Peeta.  After the deaths of many people, including Katniss’ sister Prim, the rebels win the war.  Katniss is personally responsible for the deaths of both President Snow and President Coin, as well as several others.  By the end of the third book,  Katniss has become brutal and cruel, and her vote helps ensure a final Hunger Game, orchestrated specifically for and played by the children of Capitol officials, including President Snow’s granddaughter.  By the end of the series, Katniss has become the epitome of what the Hunger Games was created to produce: an unfeeling, uncompassionate person who feels no compunction at murdering her enemies, or taking her own life, if the going gets too tough.  This demise of her character is a good illustration of how, without God, all our righteousness is as filthy rags.

  The Hunger Games Trilogy, though well written, is morbid and hopeless.  Without a God, orchestrating the events for the good of His people, despair is the only option possible.  A few too many of the main characters are killed off for good, without having actually been alive and reappearing at the end, but this fits in perfectly with the worldview of the book.  Without a God, the odds are never in your favor, the world is a morbid place, life is hopeless, and all that is left to do is despair, while numbing the pain with whatever is in your reach.

  Good books usually have two key elements: redemption, or one person sacrificing them self for another, and the intervention of a higher power when all seems lost.  The Hunger Games Trilogy did well on the first in many instances.  Katniss volunteers as a tribute in her sister’s place and repeatedly risks her life for Peeta, while Peeta and many others risk their lives to protect her.  However as Panem is a godless world, there is never any miraculous intervention.

  Without God, there is no faith in God, and without faith in God and obedience to Him, there can be no successful government.  This is well illustrated in the rigid rebel government of District 13, which is hardly better than the dictatorship of the capitol.  Because there is no God to take vengeance, revenge falls to the people of Panem, resulting in heavy bloodshed and anarchy throughout the trilogy.

  Prim’s death is really the climax of the worldview being perpetrated in the books.  Despite all Katniss has done to protect her, Prim still dies anyway.  It was all to no avail.  At the end of the last book, the author tries to pull together a happy ending, which cannot help but be unconvincing in a godless world.  Without God, there are no happy endings.
  The Hunger Games trilogy is built on a worldview of despair, and perpetrates a message of hopelessness.  The world around us may be fascinated by this, but how can we, who have hope, allow ourselves to do the same?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

True Beauty

True Beauty

“Seriously, you could be a model!”

Meant as a compliment, this phrase or one similar is often used to express that the one to whom it is addressed is beautiful.  However there are some underlying problems with this statement.

1.       Models are the epitome of beauty.

To the contrary.  To be a model is a difficult process, involving the value of beauty over character; of the end over the means. One must be willing to do anything under the sun if they wish to be a model.  A model can only get the job by removing all moral compunctions from their mind and hardening their heart. 
   After one has secured the job,  further demoralization is required—not just their own, but of the world in general.  Now not only in their own mind is “beauty” the highest endeavor, but now that message is perpetrated to the world.  With even only provocative eyes or smile, they are able to spread their worldview to the world.  Computer adjustments are made to achieve a kind of “super-beauty” not achievable by humans.  And since beauty is all that matters, women will do anything to achieve it, from makeup and exercize to starving themselves and surgical alterations.  Cosmetic surgeons can do anything from replacing or expanding parts to sucking out excess fat to lengthening legs.  But you will probably be in debt to them for the rest of your life, made miserable by the fact that you have seriously damaged your body in pursuit of an unachievable and worthless goal.
   “Being a model” and making it for a Christian girl would require the sacrifice of one’s faith upon the altar of pride and pagan ideas of beauty.  

2.       Every girl wants to look like a model.

I would sincerely hope, that as Christian girls we strive to forsake the pagan ideas of beauty and hold to the direction God’s word gives us on true beauty.

   “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful…”  1 Peter 3:3-5a

  “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”  Proverbs 31:30-31

Character is to be valued high above outward beauty.  A model only has a job while she is young and pretty.  But a girl who fears God and trusts in Jesus for her salvation will have eternal life.

3.      Outward Beauty is a thing to be praised.

When the Proverbs 31 woman’s husband praises her, note what it is he is praising:

  “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”  Proverbs 31:30-31

  He is not praising her beauty.  He is praising her fear of the Lord and her character and encouraging others to do the same.  Character is to be praised, not outward appearance.  And so rather than telling them they could be a model, praise their diligence in dressing in a God-honoring way.  Praise their modesty of dress which brings glory to God rather than themselves.  Praise their vigilance in not allowing the lies of the world to affect their dress.  Praise their commitment to dressing and acting as a child of God.