by Sharon Ely Pearson
The media is filled with announcements and advertisements for “The Hunger Games,” a best-selling book trilogy for teens by Suzanne Collins, the first which has had its movie debut this weekend. Knowing that many of our youth (and perhaps children and adults) have read the books and already seen the movie, would this be an appropriate subject to discuss in education settings?
Beth Felker Jones writes on the Faith and Leadership blog of Duke University in The Hunger Games:, Christian ethics and the young:
In the books, twelve districts serve and are controlled by a wealthy ruling Capitol. The Capitol maintains power through an annual game, a kind of reality show gone mad, in which each district is forced to send two children as tributes to a nationally broadcast fight to the death. Katniss, our heroine, throws herself into the games, volunteering to replace her beloved little sister when her name is drawn as tribute.
It’s a wild and violent premise, and it’s not surprising that Christian response has included worry about a story that makes us voyeurs before the gruesome death of children. When Katniss is eventually involved in rebellion against the evil rule of the Capitol, some Christian response has included uneasiness about what seems like a valorization of war.
Both critiques have merit, but I think they miss the complicated layers of Collins’ story and the important possibilities for spiritual formation implicated. Christians have our own history that includes children dying in arenas, and we have plenty to talk about here.
In a time in which we recognize the need to engage youth with how faith can inform our view of culture, perhaps these books (and movie) give educators an opportunity to talk about competition, scarcity, food shortages, economic issues and the disparity between those who have and those who do not.
There are numerous study guides and curricula developed for a school as well as church setting:
- From Scholastic, the publisher of the series.
- Hunger Games Lessons from
- Hunger is not a Game from The Imagine Better Project (The Harry Potter Alliance)
- “The Gospel According to the Hunger Games Trilogy” is a bible study written by two United Methodist pastors.