Dystopian People

Posted on March 23, 2012


Thank you for celebrating the Hunger Games with me all week! Here is the final post, written by none other than Erik, a youth pastor, barista extraordinaire, and… oh yeah… my husband.

Erik is big into discussion, so leave your comments at the bottom and he’ll be sure to respond!

We live in a country founded upon rebellion. What is a responsible citizen supposed to do in the face of what seems endless tyranny?

Obviously rebel.

That is what our forefathers believed and founded a country upon. It is also the premise behind pretty much any heroic epic. Although they are sometimes aided with supernatural abilities, really you just need to take matters into your own hands to solve things the right way. And sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Justice is humanly attainable if we just set things right.

This is the basic premise of the Hunger Games trilogy. Panem, a world that formed in the ashes of our current North America, is a corrupt, evil empire that thrives on the suffering of its inhabitants. Death is but another means of entertainment and anything can be attained for a price. Literally anything.

It is in the context of a blood tournament that we meet the protagonist and heroine of the series, a fiery young huntress named Katniss. Faced with the choice of dying and losing everything or battling to the death, Katniss’ chooses to rebel. At first this happens in little ways. A random arrow fired at the game makers. Helping another tribute to survive. Thanking another district for their love and support. However, before long, Katniss has unwittingly started an all-out rebellion and established herself as the symbol of hope for the future.

Fighting Fire with Fire

Now part of what makes this series so addictive to read is its resonance with the innate human desire for things to be set right. We long for wrongs to be punished and suffering to be ended. However, in reading a story about the continued cycle of human failure and evil, I have to ask the question: does it really change anything to respond to violence with violence? Does the saying ‘fight fire with fire’ actually make any sense? Is a story of rebellion and vigilante justice really the thing that is going to set things right?

Katniss: Girl on Fire

Now up to this point, I actually think that Suzanne Collins would agree with me. Violence really ends up only creating more violence. Anyone who has read the third installment in the series knows what I mean. One of the major questions of the third book is whether or not a new government would be free of the failures of the previous one. However, I feel like the author’s solutions to the monumental flaws in Panem society were solved in rather a tragic fashion. Katniss’ solution is murder at the end of an arrow and fleeing into the wilderness to hide for the rest of her days. So in other words, her response is violence followed by avoidance.

Going back to the question of how we should respond to the problem of evil, it makes absolutely no sense in reality to fight fire with fire. If you have a raging forest fire and you try to put it out with napalm, how effective are you going to be? You would actually have a negative effect, igniting more fire all around you. To add fuel to the fire would be of no use whatsoever. Would it burn out eventually? Sure, but what if it consumed the entire world first? In the same way, you cannot fight evil with evil. To respond to something evil with evil is to merely perpetuate the thing that you were fighting.

Likewise, it makes absolutely no sense as Suzanne Collins concludes to merely avoid the problem. Going back to the analogy of the fire, if you have a raging forest fire and you simply choose to ignore the problem, that is no solution at all. Katniss lives out the rest of her life happy, secluded, and unaware of the drama of the rest of the world. But how long will it take for another evil empire to rise in its place? A couple generations? This is also a solution that fails because it cannot be universal. What would happen if everyone ran away to the wilderness? The wilderness wouldn’t be very wild anymore. It would lead to the same problems that those fleeing were trying to avoid.

Instead, fire must be fought with something that can extinguish the flames.  If a society is evil, that is the result of the individuals that make up that society. I believe that if you are to combat that evil you must change the nature of the people that make up that society. So in essence, it isn’t a matter of resistance, it is a matter of nature. To fight a fire, you must either take away the source of oxygen or its fuel, and ultimately change the nature of how it burns.

The Nature of the Problem

But how does someone go about changing their nature? Every religion in the world agrees that there is something wrong with us as human beings. Following the blog earlier in the week talking about our fatal attraction for dystopic novels, this is what I call the dystopic nature of the human soul. We have a propensity for evil and our own destruction. In fact, we enjoy it. Think about all the violence that we take in as entertainment. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all agree that this brokenness began with the very first humans. God had established a world with rules, and it was perfect. Everything was in balance, but in breaking the first rules, we as humans acquired a dystopic nature.

A Dystopia is made up of people

Now everything would be made right with our nature if we could repair that first break. But what was it going to cost? Unfortunately it would cost us everything. As the Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the church of Rome, ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23). This means that to bridge the break, something had to die. Under Judaic law, animals were sacrificed, and it was the death of those animals that provided reparation. However, the payment wasn’t permanent. This means that if you ever broke the rules that God had established for the world again, then you needed another sacrifice. Seems like you’d need a lot of animals and a lot of blood.

Luckily for us, God wasn’t alright with us being stranded in our cycle of sin and sacrifice. So he sent himself in the form of Jesus to become the permanent sacrifice that we couldn’t offer. This is attested to once again by Paul when he writes that we ‘are justified by [God’s] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith’ (Rom 3:24-25). This means that Christ came as a free gift to take the place of those sacrifices if you put your faith in him. It is in the context of this grace that we as humans are capable of overcoming the dystopic nature attested to in the Hunger Games.

So in conclusion, the Hunger Games paints a compelling picture of the problem of human brokenness. We are confronted by the question of whether or not replication of evil is actually the solution to evil. But fire cannot truly be combated with fire. Instead it needs to be extinguished. The problem of evil lies at the very soul of who we are as humans, and I believe the only true solution to our dystopic nature is to repair that soul. It isn’t fighting evil with evil, and it definitely is not hiding from the problem as if it will not follow you. The only real solution can be to bridge the gap that we created through faith in the only Son of God. It is in him that we can truly and permanently be restored to the people we were created to be.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

Rev. 21:3-5


Be sure to check out the other Hunger Games themed blog posts:

And So it begins: The Hunger Games by Farrell

Fatal Attraction: Why do we Love the Dystopic Novel? Guest Post by Rainey

The Hunger Games Cast Guest Post by Jennifer L.

Is Jennifer Lawrence the Real Deal? Guest Post by Rose

Cooking through the Hunger Games Guest Post by Victoria