Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Hunger Games

The weekend before last (OK, so I'm getting a bit behind with my posts!) I went to see The Hunger Games.

For those who haven't seen it and are not familiar with the plot, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic future in a nation called PanEm, in the geographical area that was once North America. PanEm consists of 12 impoverished districts, which are ruled by a totalitarian government based in the wealthy and technologically advanced Capitol. As punishment for a previous rebellion, each year the districts must send 2 children each, from between the ages of 12-18 to compete in a televised fight to the death called, "The Hunger Games", from which only one contestant is allowed to emerge alive.

The film follows a girl called Katniss in particular, and also a guy called Peeta, as they are selected, trained for, and then compete in the games. None of the competitors want to be there, but they must learn to survive, and be willing and able to kill their fellow competitors if they want to make it back home alive to their families and friends.

During the preparation period, before they enter the arena, Peeta confides to Katniss, "I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not." This is the main dilemma faced by Peeta and Katniss (and many of the other contestants). They have been placed in a situation which has completely different rules from the ones that - in their hearts - they know they should be following, and indeed want to follow, and yet if they don't follow the rules of the game they are almost certain to lose everything. How will they respond?

I won't spoil the film for you if you haven't already seen it - and if you have, then you won't need my explanation - but it struck me that to some extent this is a dilemma shared by all of us. We live in a world that seems to be governed by many Rules that in our heart of hearts we would perhaps rather not have to follow. I'm not referring so much now though to rules made by governments, I'm thinking instead about the Rules that seem to emerge by themselves and which we come to accept as simply, "the way things are". Rules like, "it's a dog eat dog world", or, "you have to look out for number one", or even perhaps, "charity begins at home". It would be nice we might think, to look out for other people, to put their needs first and give to anyone who has need, but the world just doesn't work like that. We have to put our own needs first or we will lose out, and sometimes even our survival must take precedence over everything else.

Just over 2,000 years ago, another player entered the "arena" that is our world and chose to do things very differently. He challenged injustice, spent himself on behalf of others and didn't respond with violence even when others tried to kill him. The result? - he was tortured and then executed - just as you might expect, in accordance with the Rules in the previous paragraph. If that had been the end of the story, it would have simply confirmed our suspicion that no-one can get away with breaking the Rules for very long! Fortunately for us though, this wasn't the end, because for some reason, when this particular player chose not to play by the Rules, something very special happened ... he broke The Game!

The Bible teaches us that the world was never meant to work according to these Rules, rather, these are the Rules that came into play when people decided they wanted to run the world their way and could do so without any help from God. When God himself (in the person of Jesus) entered The Game and disobeyed its Rules, The Game broke, because it didn't have any power over the one who had created the world in the first place. It cost God dearly to do that - he paid the price demanded by The Game - but The Game couldn't keep him down. On the third day, he rose again bodily from the grave, appeared to his disciples, and returned to Heaven from whence he came. After this, he clothed his followers in Rule-breaking power and they went on to sacrifice themselves tirelessly and unselfishly to spread the message of his triumph, releasing everyone who believed their message to live their lives free from the Rules of The Game.

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