I’m finally reading The Hunger Games. Only five years and one movie late. No spoilers, please. Oh, and I’m tweeting my favorite lines as I discover them, probably to the chagrin of the handful of people who follow me on Twitter.
I’ve read through Part I: The Tributes. It was tragic, but not really violent. The violence is yet to come. Ever since I wrote Jeremy Spoke last month, I’ve been thinking and rethinking how violence in our culture influences our behavior. While I don’t retract, “Garbage in, garbage out,” I’m struggling with this in light of our stories.
There is no great, compelling story without conflict and crisis. That conflict is most dramatically manifested in violence.
Lord of the Flies is violent. So is The Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia. Les Misérables. Star Wars. The Godfather. The Matrix. Gone With the Wind. The Gospels. And so on.
Is some violence necessary in our stories? What makes it gratuitous? Should we shield our children? What flips the switch to unleash violent behavior in some people, but not others?
A few years ago I took a film analysis class at church. Yes, church. There’s no better place to consider human culture than within the context of God’s redemptive work for us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
We critiqued the messaging of movies. We examined what a film’s story and cinematography say about God, humans, our society, our destiny. We wrestled with themes Christians might shy away from: violence, nudity, profanity. We found our thresholds to be individual and subjective.
I think the point of a class like that, and a post like this, isn’t necessarily answers. Rather it’s to get us to pay attention.
We all break God’s law. There is none righteous. No, not one. Left to its natural course, our law-breaking gets worse, not better. We’re capable of horrific behavior. God abhors those who love violence. The One Hope for our depravity is a core change from death to life.
Maybe the message of Heathers was satirical and Pearl Jam’s Jeremy was a warning. Maybe the conflict, crisis, and violence of our stories, fiction and nonfiction, serve to spur us on to the Redeemer.
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure—
You, the righteous God
Who probes minds and hearts. Psalm 7:9 NIV
The Hunger Games movie site where you can watch the official trailer.
Is some violence necessary in our stories? Where’s your threshold for viewing or reading it? How does violence in our culture influence behavior?