“Apply Generously and Stay Alive:” Finding Spiritual Food in THE HUNGER GAMES

This weekend, I, along with millions of other moviegoers, saw The Hunger Games. Not having read the trilogy of books or any commentary addressing the intrigue surrounding its unsettling premise and thought-provoking themes, I was eager to see the film and form my own opinions based on an original reaction uninfluenced by die-hard fans or fired-up foes.

In spite of the violence – certainly made more horrific by the cruel and unjust nature of its context – and the extreme decadence of a dystopian, post-apocalyptic society, I was rather surprised by the spiritual parallels my mind drew readily with very little contrivance (debatable, of course!). You’ll have to decide for yourselves if the forthcoming example of The Hunger Games’s “biblical side” is applicable or disposable ;-).

I’m not going to bother trying to summarize the movie; I’m afraid I would inadvertently insert too many spoilers! There are plenty of wonderful and entertainingly diverse reviews and synopses available to read online if you so desire to learn more! In a nutshell, The Hunger Games tells the story of teenaged heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who has volunteered to take her little sister’s place representing District 12 (a seemingly Appalachian coal-mining region) in the 74th annual Hunger Games. She, along with a male representative named Peeta are escorted to the larger than life, luxury-laden Capitol where they are trained to fight and mentored on how to survive for a televised battle to the death against twenty-two other adolescents.

Seneca Crane is Head Gamemaker; it is his job to design and control the Games (obviously!). He conceptualizes  the “arena” of “play,” and can even manipulate the environment…which leads me to the point of this post. Without giving too much away, Mr. Crane, dressed in a crimson button-up and black vest and sporting a devilish beard and eyes too blue to trust, is merely a pitchfork short of being Lucifer incarnate. One of his clever tricks is steering Katniss in a desired direction by commanding his minions to set a forest ablaze and launch suspiciously accurate fireballs into her path.

Seneca Crane...scary, right?!

This scenario conjured Ephesians 6:16 in my mind, which urges us to take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Completely taken off guard by this spontaneous conflagration, Katniss is wounded and, for reasons I cannot disclose, seeks refuge in the branches of a tree…one not lit on fire. Back at the Capitol, our heroine has an advocate, her mentor Haymitch, interceding on her behalf in an effort to obtain favor from sponsors who can provide supplies necessary for her survival.

Because Jesus promised He would always be with us, even after His ascension to Heaven, we can be believe the New Testament scripture that tells us He intercedes for us while we do battle on this earth (Matt. 28:20):

“who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” –Romans 8:34

In favorable response to Haymitch’s pleas, a small beneficent parachute glides softly down to Katniss’s arboreal haven. Opening it, she is relieved to find healing ointment and a message attached that reads simply, “Apply generously and stay alive.” She obeys the former command immediately; her wound seals and she recovers swiftly.

Now for a summary of my analogies up to this point:

Seneca is to Katniss as Satan is to Christians.

Haymitch is to Katniss as Jesus is to His followers.

Last but not least in this example of spiritual symbolism in a film other Christians have bemoaned as “an exceptionally dark movie” with “no depiction of God,” is this analogy:

Healing ointment is to Katniss as the Holy Spirit is to those He indwells.

The Bible repeatedly uses “oil” to symbolize the work and manifestation of the Holy Spirit. A few examples:

 “And he poured the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.” -Leviticus 8:12

“They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”- Mark 6:13

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord”- James 5:14

“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you …” -1st John 2:27

It would take a month of blog posts to enumerate the ways in which the Holy Spirit works in Christians’ lives as our “Comforter” (John 14:16), but I simply wanted to share my thoughts on what I consider a tremendously timely and insightful film, one that offers myriad talking points for families and Bible study groups alike…if we are willing to search for them.

Regardless of whether or not the possibilities for any spiritual application were intended, I happen to believe that as believers living in a world teeming with debauchery and corruption, and powerful individuals who make money by appealing to and satisfying the manifold lusts of unsaved sinners and struggling saints –much like the Capitol’s populace in The Hunger Games — we might as well try to redeem what the enemy is attempting to pollute our minds with.

In the ninth chapter of Mark’s gospel, John tells Jesus that he and the other disciples ordered a man to stop driving out demons in Jesus’ name because he “wasn’t one of us.” Jesus replied:

“’Do not stop him. For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39).

In an age where nearly half of adults ages 18 to 24 never read for pleasure, and the average person between 15 and 24 spends two to 2.5 hours a day watching TV and just seven minutes reading, I think it’s time for believers to get creative (www.boston.com, Nov. 19, 2007).  If the lost among us are raving about the latest and greatest book or movie, why not seek ways to use that bit of media to lead them to their Savior? All the Holy Spirit needs is our cooperation. Let Him do the work.

And He can work with pop culture.

fans at the Mall of America waiting to greet the cast

Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di


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