Archive for April 14, 2012
Tags: Barbie, Common Sense Media, Hunger Game, Katniss, Lord of the Rings, Olympic Games, Reality television, Suzanne Collins
Hungry for The Hunger Games? It seems as if millions of Americans are – both children and adults.
The Hunger Games is a trilogy of books authored by Suzanne Collins and geared toward adolescents of all ages, but is equally popular among older elementary ‘tweens,’ too. And the draw of The Hunger Games has spread to the adult world as well, with many adults getting caught up in the phenomenon.
The first book of the trilogy has now been made into a movie and is a huge blockbuster success. We’ve heard glowing, positive acclaim for the movie, and we’re read concerning critiques about it as well.
Christians are also caught up in The Hunger Games craze, drawing millions to the theater. There are even Bible study materials developed for churches bases on The Hunger Games.
With a movie that is obviously greatly impacting the culture, we at ADA decided to see what all the hoopla was about. So, with notepad in hand, I went to watch the movie. Believe me, taking notes in a darkened theater is rather difficult. Before seeing the movie, I researched the book, but have not read it.
This is a synopsis of the story. The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic, godless society led by a ruthless totalitarian government. The nation is divided into 12 districts and, as a form of government control, once a year each district must send one adolescent boy and one adolescent girl to participate in “The Hunger Games” – a competition where the teenagers fight to the death until just one is left alive. Beginning at the age of 12, the names of all youth are put in a lottery system and those chosen are sent off to the capital as the competitors in the hunger games. The teens participate in all the pomp and circumstance we would associate with the opening ceremonies of our Olympic Games. The Hunger Game contestants train for the event, are paraded around to media interviews, and treated as celebrities. The “games” are televised across the country to a rapt audience of viewers as the ultimate in reality TV. The games take place in a huge outdoor arena – a woodland setting of forests, streams, and fields – where the kids are to survive the elements as well as the other kids trying to kill them.
Now, for my take on the movie. To be blunt, I found The Hunger Games to be very disturbing. There were several elements that I found very dark and troubling, but one theme specifically was most concerning.
Keep in mind, this movie is geared toward teens, even young teens, but is also hugely popular with younger children as well. Just recently a Barbie doll was created based on the female lead character, Katniss. The doll is even accessorized with weaponry.
You might think the actual depictions of violence are what most concerned me. The games begin with each teen in on his/her starting block in an open field with a pile of weapons and survival gear in the center. Weapons include machetes, spears, knives, bow and arrow, etc.. At the start, the kids run to the center trying to be first to the weapons and supplies. There, several of the young people are slaughtered by their peers. While the imagery is not as graphic as it could be, images are shown of blood splattering, one’s neck is slit, another impaled with sword, later images of one teen having his neck snapped, a young girl approximately 12 years of age is killed by a spear.
And while I found these scenes to be disturbing, I’ve seen scenes that I would consider more “gory” or explicit in other movies – even movies I would recommend. The Lord of the Rings comes to mind. Another movie geared toward kids which include battle scenes is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – a movie I would highly recommend for young teens. And so, it’s not the battle scenes per se that greatly bothered me. However, there is a big different between The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Those battles in Middle Earth and Narnia were distinct battles of good forces vs. evil forces. In The Hunger Games the battle is not good vs. evil, but kids killing kids.
While watching this movie I was overcome with that thought – these are children being turned into killers of other children. Littleton come to life.
Many fans of the The Hunger Games – and believe me the defenders are many and fierce – claim this story is about good and evil as well. While it is true there are definitely elements of good and evil, however the contest portrayed in the movie is not a battle good vs. evil, but one merely of survival of the fittest.
Yes, there are underlying themes and symbolism that I can read into the storyline as an adult viewer. I can see the point the author is making about the evils of totalitarian rule. Viewers recognize and applaud the noble character traits of the heroine of the story, Katniss, who volunteers to participate in the hunger games in place of her younger sister. And one can’t help but be outraged about the inhumanity and unjustness of these bloody games.
Yet, in spite of the “thought-provoking messages” of the film, one can’t get past the fact that the story unfolding before your eyes is of kids being turned into cold-blooded killers. What do you think young viewers are really going to get out of the movie? Will they contemplate the threat of totalitarianism, or make a correlation between the impact of media upon culture? I highly doubt it. Kids are caught up in the story, the action, the characters, and the star-crossed young lovers.
Betsy Bozdech of Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization group that rates films, is concerned about the impact of the movie upon children and young teens, stating:
“We all have vivid imaginations, that’s for sure, but it’s very different to see a kid spearing another one, breaking another one’s neck, smashing their head in, than it is to read about it. It’s just a more visceral experience.”
Psychologist Brenda Hunter, PhD, and education writer Kristen Blair, authors of “From Santa to Sexting,” have also issued a strong warning about The Hunger Games.
“Americans were horrified recently when a 17-year-old boy shot and killed students at an Ohio high school, yet middle schools across the country will take students on field trips to see this movie in which kids slaughter kids to survive.
“Why this cultural disconnect? We are playing with fire. What children watch and read matters greatly. It seeps into their hearts, minds, and souls. Research unequivocally documents the connection between media violence and aggression in children. Yet tweens and young teens today are exposed to graphic violence through video games, television, movies, and books. Collins’ novels, slated for 12-year-olds on up, are nonetheless being devoured by elementary school children.”
As stated above, a trip to the movies has become a fieldtrip of choice for schools all across the country, tying it into a book read in thousands of classrooms. Yet educators, too, have turned a blind eye to the concern of violent themes and imagery upon children.
According to a report from CBS News, Rafael del Castillio, the principal of one school taking students to see the movie, stated: “It’s clearly a pretty violent book. But I do wonder why we collectively are so worried about violence in this particular book and this particular movie,” he added, noting the pitfalls of video games and other media kids consume heavily.
So, this educator’s rationale is that since kids are exposed to other forms of violence in entertainment media, what’s one more?
As a former public school teacher myself, I could give numerous examples of entertainment shaping kids’ behavior, language, and actions. For example, I began my 11 years of teaching first graders when the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was first popular. When we teachers were outside for playground duty, what do you think we saw acted out by young students? You guessed it, the karate kicks, antics, and verbiage from that much-watched cartoon. As stated above, what children watch and read does matter and does impact hearts, minds, souls – and behavior.
Col. David Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor, Professor of Military Science, and an Army Ranger, is a leading expert addressing our understanding of killing in war, the psychological costs of war, the root causes of the current “virus” of violent crime that is raging around the world. He authored “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” and his works also include: Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence.
The summary of “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill” states in part:
“There is perhaps no bigger or more important issue in America at present than youth violence. Jonesboro, Arkansas; Paducah, Kentucky; Pearl, Mississippi; Stamps, Arkansas; Conyers, Georgia; and of course, Littleton, Colorado. We know them all too well, and for all the wrong reasons: kids, some as young as eleven years old, taking up arms and, with deadly, frightening accuracy, murdering anyone in their paths. What is going on? According to the authors of Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, there is blame to be laid right at the feet of the makers of violent video games (called “murder trainers” by one expert), the TV networks, and the Hollywood movie studios–the people responsible for the fact that children often witness literally hundreds of violent images a day.
“Authors Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano offer incontrovertible evidence, much of it based on recent major scientific studies and empirical research, that movies, TV, and video games are not just conditioning children to be violent–and unaware of the consequences of that violence–but are teaching the very mechanics of killing. Their book is a much-needed call to action for every parent, teacher, and citizen to help our children and stop the wave of killing and violence gripping America’s youth….”
This is my greatest concern regarding The Hunger Games. Children are being desensitized to killing – even killing their own peers. Humanity is diminished. Teens forced to participate in this grotesque game of murder are reduced to inhuman, amoral killers.
When Katniss is about to go off to the capital city to “compete” in the hunger games, a boy she leaves behind encourages her to use a bow and arrow in the games which she regularly uses to hunt for game to provide food for her family and is an excellent marksman.
He tells her: “You know how to hunt.”
She answers that yes, she knows how to hunt – “animals” – she states.
He replies: “It’s no different.”
I wanted to scream at the screen, “Yes it is different!” However, this is the message young viewers may easily take away – a relativistic view that turns humans into prey. There is no view that human life has intrinsic value based on our Creator who made us in His image. The value in The Hunger Games is in being the sole survivor.
Ted Baehr’s highly-esteemed Movie Guide had this to say about The Hunger Games:
THE HUNGER GAMES is an exceptionally dark movie where the audience literally watches as children kill each other in a bloody maniacal fashion. The movie portrays society as wanting this sort of killing, which implies the same thing for real human society, including the people who might watch the movie or read the book series on which it’s based. Though this is a point the movie is making, it only has a negative impact on society. In the Sudan, for instance, children are being taken, desensitized by watching violence, given a gun, and killing. So, why would you want to watch the same thing happening in a Hollywood Blockbuster? Taking death so lightly will desensitize the audience in a very dark way.
With a strong humanist worldview, THE HUNGER GAMES has no depiction of God or the supernatural world. It’s all up to the movie’s heroine to win the game, but, eventually, she too has to hurt other people to win. Thus, there is no solid depiction of good and truth in THE HUNGER GAMES and no implication of a greater Hope. Ultimately, the story seems overly cynical and dehumanizing.
Years ago I had the opportunity to tour Italy and one vivid memory of that trip was a visit to the Coliseum in Rome. I remember being overcome with the thought that on that very spot, hundreds of years ago, Christian martyrs were killed for the amusement of a watching audience.
However, unlike in The Hunger Games, if those Christian martyrs were told to kill each other for the chance to survive, I highly doubt any would do so.
Who do we Christians most resemble – those martyrs who would not compromise their faith to save their lives or those being entertained by their deaths?
Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, has stated she got her inspiration for the books in part by watching reality TV as well as reports of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. She stated: “If there’s a real-life tragedy (on TV), you should not be thinking of yourself as an audience member …”
Yet isn’t that exactly what this movie is doing to viewers? Turning them into a voyeuristic audience watching a gruesome contest of murder? Fans of the movie can list a myriad of “lessons to be learned” from the film, but the bottom line is The Hunger Games is about kids killing other kids while the audience – both those depicted on the screen and those sitting in the theater – watch.
Tags: Blood of Christ, Christ, God, Health, Israelite, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Unclean animals
There were doubtless great sanitary reasons for many of these enactments. This book is one of the greatest sanitary codes in existence. God made religious duty enforce regulations essential to the physical health and well-being of His people. But there were deeper reasons yet. The whole of these arrangements were contrived to teach profound lessons to us all of the nature and evil of sin, and of the need of being continually cleansed in the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
The unclean saul spreads uncleanness. – Whatever the ceremonially unclean touched, used, or sat on, was polluted. Even those who came into contact with him were defiled. How wary all true Israelites must have been of their associates, lest they should contract pollution! Let us adopt similar precautions, and not voluntarily associate with the unholy or unclean. And if our business calls us into their daily company, let us seek cleansing for ourselves as we return to our homes, that any adhering germs of evil may be removed.
The urgent demand for holiness. – The ordinary processes of life are not necessarily clean because they are natural. The foul heart may vitiate the most natural functions. We must bring the thought of God into the simplest, the commonest, and the most secret acts. Nothing is outside His jurisdiction. Though hid from sight, yet He is ever near the child of God. His grace, and blood, and cleansing, are always requisite, and ever ready. Amidst and after every act, incident, and episode of life, we should be quiet before God, considering if we have aught to confess, and asking to be ever kept from staining our white robes.
Tags: Bible, God, Hebrew alphabet, Holy Spirit, Psalm, Psalm 119, Psalter, Scripture
I will never forget your commandments, for by them you give me life.
When I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I would meet each Friday morning with my elders. We didn’t do business in that meeting, but, rather, spent time sharing concerns and praying. Our prayers would begin with the reading of a psalm, whichever one happened to be our psalm of the day.
I’ll never forget the day we were supposed to read Psalm 119. As we opened our Bibles, we looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Were we really going to read all 176 verses of this psalm, the longest in the Psalter? Yes, indeed, we were. So, for about fifteen minutes, we read Psalm 119 aloud, with each person reading a verse as we went around the circle. When we finished, we felt victorious, as if we had climbed a mountain of Scripture.
If you read all of Psalm 119, especially if you take the time to read it out loud, you’ll quickly notice a fair amount of repetition. This psalm makes one basic point, again and again and again. In fact, the structure of Psalm 119 is meant to convey a sense of thoroughness and completeness in making this point. It is an acrostic psalm, with twenty-two stanzas that begin with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in order. If we were writing a version of Psalm 119 in English, it might read something like this: Absolutely faithful is God’s Word. Blessings come to the one who loves his truth. Come and follow the commandments of the Lord. …Zeal for your Word fills my heart.
Psalm 119 pulls out all the stops in celebrating God’s truth. His Word not only guides our steps and keeps us from getting off course, but also, in a phrase, it gives us life.
Why do we read, study, reflect upon, and pray the Scriptures? Because in them we find life, life with meaning and purpose, life with depth and truth, life both now and forever. The Word of God guides us so that we might live life to the fullest. It shows us how to find significance in every aspect of life as we live for God and his glory.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How has your life been enriched by the Word of God? How has God spoken to you recently through the Scriptures?
Thank you for showing me how to live with meaning each day as I see my life connected to your grand work in the world.
Thank you for teaching me through Scripture how to be faithful in my workplace, my family, my church, and my community.
Thank you for showing me how I can live, not in my own strength, but by your power. How grateful I am for biblical teaching on the Holy Spirit and his gifts.
Thank you for revealing the nature and purpose of the church, helping us to be the people of God, a body consistently growing in you as each part is active.
Thank you for showing us in Scripture that we are called into your mission, and that we can live out this mission each day in every area of life.
Finally, thank you for revealing in the Bible your love for me, your grace through Christ, and your invitation to live in relationship with you.
All praise be to you, O God, for your Word gives me life! Amen.
Tags: God, Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, Matthew, Narcissism, Personality disorder, Psychopathy, Science fiction
Seeing with Compassion
“Excitement, perturbation, feeling.” These are states of mind we are all familiar with. In a world as violent and full of conflict as this these come and go, blaze up and die down in the average man’s bosom a hundred times a day. The normal man and woman will in the course of a few months experience every degree of emotion from near ecstasy to mild dejection without apparently being any the better or the worse for it. Of course I have in mind here only the normal man and woman. The psychopathic personality lies outside the field of this study. The emotions are neither to be feared nor despised, for they are a normal part of us as God made us in the first place. Indeed the full human life would be impossible without them. One recoils from the thought of the man who lacked all feeling. He would be either a cold, naked intellect such as inhabits the pages of the science-fiction novel, or a mere vegetable, such as is sometimes found in the incurable wards of our mental hospitals. The right relation of intellect to feeling and feeling to will is disclosed in Matthew 14:14. “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Intellectual knowledge of the suffering of the people stirred His pity and His pity moved Him to heal them. This is how it was with the ideal Man whose total organism was perfectly adjusted to itself; and this is the way it is with us in a less perfect measure.
Tags: Christ, Christian, Epistle to the Ephesians, Georgia Institute of Technology, God, Lord, Los Angeles Times, New Testament
For years, scientists have wondered how fire ants, whose bodies are denser than water, can survive floods that should destroy them. How do entire colonies form themselves into life rafts that can float for weeks? A Los Angeles Times article explained that engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that tiny hairs on the ants’ bodies trap air bubbles. This enables thousands of the insects, “which flounder and struggle in the water as individuals,” to ride out the flood when they cling together.
The New Testament speaks often of our need to be connected to other followers of Christ in order to survive and grow spiritually. In Ephesians 4, Paul wrote, “We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” He added, “But, speaking the truth in love, may [we] grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (vv.14-16).
Alone, we sink; but clinging and growing together in the Lord, we can ride out every storm.
Let’s stick together!