Category Archives: Current Events

Hunger Games Review

A little belatedly, I would like to add my two cents to the conversation about The Hunger Games, specifically responding to: this Gospel Coalition blog‘s guest post (where author ND Wilson whines about how bad readers are at reading) and this concerned father’s post (which floated around my circles on Facebook for a while).

1. You’re not done reading Hunger Games until you’ve read all three.

2. You heard me. Read. Not watch. The movie is a companion to the book, flattened by the need to streamline the story.

3. Do not compare Hunger Games to Harry Potter. Do not compare Hunger Games to Twilight. Why do people do this? Fantasy is not the same genre as science fiction is not the same genre as romance.

4. Do not be confused. Suzanne Collins is the author. She gets to decide what situation her characters are thrown into. I’m sorry it’s not something you see happening this week in middle class America. But sometimes ethical choices are really hard, and Collins decided to make the circumstances in her story extreme to highlight something, to drive home her message.

5. Katniss is a round, consistent, complex, original character. She is revealed to us over the course of the three books. In the first book, she was not a revolutionary. She takes the easy way out sometimes. She lets the Capitol manipulate her. Wilson says, “She needs to stop giving a rip about her own survival (the most dangerous men and women always forget themselves).”

I respond with his own words: “File this under misunderstanding humanity, which is just another way of saying that [Wilson] misunderstands courage, inspiration, oppression, and nobility.”

As Katniss develops she does choose the harder path and suffers for the sake of everyone who the Capitol is oppressing. But let’s not forget that every human hero remains human. Jesus is the perfect hero–he forgot himself completely in his heroic acts. Katniss is a human character–she will still act within her flawed nature.

6. Peeta. How I love Peeta. Wilson’s accusations against him descend from a flawed understanding of gender. “[Peeta is] fundamentally passive and submissive,” Wilson says, using that as ground to bash Peeta for letting Katniss initiate their relationship. Read this blog post and look again at the accusations from Wilson. Someone has their knickers in a twist over middle class Victorian ideals.

Peeta is, in fact, fundamentally passive and submissive. What I don’t understand is why ND up there thinks that’s such a bad thing. I’m thinking of that perfect hero again, and how he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and did not open his mouth. Passive and submissive? Yes. The ideal heroism.

7. Yes, refusing to eat the berries could inspire a rebellion.

8. Gratuitous violence is violence that doesn’t have a point. Hunger Games violence in the arena and in the battles to follow serves the specific function of driving home a point about the nature of culture and violence. So… it’s not gratuitous.

9. A potty mouth, let us be clear, uses swear words excessively. Katniss says “hell” and “damn” at appropriate moments of surprise or anger.

10. Why would portrayal of “a body-pierced homosexual” offering “respite from the madness” be a problem? Who were “Dad and Emily” even talking about? What?

11. Cheer for the right winner.

The Generations With Vision post summarized like this: “It was the fact that there were two audiences watching the game, and everybody on both sides of the screen was rooting for the winner.” I included this post in my discussion at all because of this point–one that I considered as I sat in the theater at midnight watching Katniss being called into the arena.

But “Dad and Emily” miss what the Capitol audience is cheering for. The Capitol audience is not inside Katniss’s head like the reader is. It sees star-crossed lovers when we see Katniss struggling to keep her family safe. The Capitol audience cheers for its favorites in the arena, thriving on the bloodshed, and then wonders what’s for lunch, while the reader suffers with Katniss as she agonizes over her position in the arena, as she slowly learns to shake off the presuppositions that the Capitol has relentlessly driven into her worldview.

Suzanne Collins wrote a page turner. She trusted her readers to be thinking as they read. Hunger Games succeeds in making people think about difficult ethical dilemmas, violence in entertainment, and the making of a hero. But the books actually give an answer, the right answer. Collins doesn’t stop with making you ask questions; she answers them.

But I don’t want to give anything away. Go read the books. All three.

A Woman Like Jesus

Many women I know are afraid of the mall. Of going out at night. Of living alone. Of walking in crowds. Of walking in deserted areas. They feel men’s eyes leering at them from every sector and fear that every stranger wants to rape them.

This mindset has been drilled into them: you must dress modestly to keep men from lusting and you are very vulnerable without a husband to lead you. So they have been taught.

During one Bible class discussion of helping the homeless, the girls were excused from helping if their safety was at risk.

Fear. Excuses.

This particular fear–this particular excuse–is not only supported but encouraged by many Christian leaders. Christian women, especially young Christian women, are shuffled away from dangerous service.

But Jesus calls every kind of person to his service. He did not give caveats. He did not give gender-specific commands. He says, “Follow me.”

Not, “Help the helpless unless you fear for your safety.”

Not, “Reach the lost unless you’re a scared woman.”

Following Jesus is the ultimate identity. Every other identity is encircled in it: Christian friend, Christian parent, Christian man. Christian woman.

And the Christian life is not one to be lived in fear. We are to be like Jesus, reaching into the darkest, dirtiest corners of humanity, where safety will undoubtedly be at risk, to spread the good news.

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

In this world we are like Jesus. This statement does not divide into one section for godly men and one section for godly women. Every believer must use his hands and feet for the sake of the gospel. We are told not to fear. We are told to be like Jesus.

Clothed In Naked Virtue

Fortunately, the Bible does not set out specific standards of modesty.

Fortunately, because otherwise we’d be dressing like first century pagans, which is what the first century Christians dressed like. I take it back. They probably wore culottes in the summer and long jean skirts in the winter.

In my experience, the long jean skirt look is often paired with poofy bangs and waist-length French braided hair. But I Peter 3:3 talks about not braiding your hair. So what standards are they following?

Are these Christians, who set stricter standards, more modest than other Christians?

Modesty is not about being behind the times. It’s not about dressing simply. It’s not about not drawing attention to yourself. It’s not even about the ratio of bare skin that’s showing.

Christians who define what Christianity should look like by outward standards of modesty are lying about the gospel. Catering to them, either by following their standards or by acting like they’re better for their standards, helps spread the lie.

Christianity is not about what you wear or don’t wear. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s not about following standards. It’s not about keeping your testimony clean by looking the part.

It’s about loving Jesus and then loving others because you love Jesus.

The point of passages like I Peter 3:3 and I Timothy 2:9 is that beauty is not outward. It can’t be defined by a particular style or any one set of standards.

Modesty starts internally. With love.

To Be Perfectly Honest II

My last post, which was in response to this, pointed out the less-than-helpful nature of transparency for transparency’s sake. I’d like to make a few more observations on that topic.

First, that privacy is inherent in relationships. Just like it’s healthy for a married couple to keep counsel with each other, secrets between you and God are a helpful thing.

Every believer is a priest. That means direct access to the throne of God. You don’t need to confess to any human unless you’re seeking forgiveness.

Unity derives from love, not from spilling your guts in front of strangers.

Your mind belongs to you as much as your body does, so you should protect its chastity just as fiercely. No one gets free access to your mind without your permission.

Keeping accountable to spiritual mentors is helpful.

The church should be a place where people are loved, where sinners come in and know love as the utterly selfless charity that the Bible describes and that God himself exhibits.

Transparency is a buzzword, not a biblical mandate.

To Be Perfectly Honest

The girls sat in their usual circle, cross-legged on the floor with knees touching.

“Really,” Allison was saying, “I think that basing every theological argument on one pet bias is–”

“Girls, I’ve been thinking,” Jennifer said loudly, cutting over the other voices. Allison stopped mid-sentence. “We just sit around chatting. Getting to know each other isn’t a very spiritual activity. I wish you would stop discussing things that are hard to think about, too,” she said, staring directly at Allison. “We need to be more open with each other.”

“I mean, I’m pretty open,” Allison said. “Everyone knows I’m a Calv–”

“I mean open about our sins,” Jennifer said quickly, trying to cut Allison off before she could say that awful word again. “It will unify us. We’re all sinners. We might as well tell each other. I’ll start, and then we’ll go around. I had a complaining spirit today.” She sighed loudly and cast her eyes to the floor. “I can’t believe it. I have sooo,” she lingered on the word so until the rest of us starting looking bored, “much,” she finished. “I want to apologize to everyone of you that I complained to.” She looked over at the girl next to her, Sally, and nodded encouragingly.

“Hold on a minute,” Sally said. “I hadn’t thought about this yet. Um…oh, yeah! I stole a car, sold it, and used the money to buy drugs.”

“Ok,” Jennifer said. “Next?”

“Well, to be perfectly transparent, I love your boyfriend,” the next girl, Kelsey, said. “And I hate you for dating him. Sometimes in class, I write lists of ways you could accidentally die, and then I imagine myself comforting him until he falls in love with me. Wow, Jen, you’re right! I feel so unified with you.”

Jennifer growled as Kelsey leaned over Sally to hug her.

The next girl was a visitor. “Hey,” she said. “My name is Sheila. I’m here just to see what opportunities this place has. I love the atmosphere. You guys are so open. To be honest, nothing pops into my head right now that I could confess.”

Jennifer stopped sharpening her knife and tore her glare away from Kelsey. “We’re all terrible sinners. You definitely sinned today. Think harder.”

“How about I go?” Allison said.

“No,” said Jennifer. “Next?”

“I was upset that I had a bad hair day,” the last girl said. “I know I should be happy, but… you know.”

Jennifer nodded. “Even when your hair looks like you put your finger in an electrical outlet, you should be happy. Oh, honey, thanks for confessing.” Jennifer gave the girl a hug. Soon they were both crying.

“Oh, that feels good,” Jennifer said. “Sheila, don’t you want to feel good?”

Lil’ Wayne and Girl Power

Keri Hilson has a problem with me.

I first found out one night as I was driving with the radio on. The announcer told me to stick around because a new girl-power song was coming on.

So I stuck around, only to be attacked with Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock.” First, she told me how beautiful she was. Then she told me that I’m a hater, I’m jealous, and that I have to sing with her.

I felt less than powerful.

Lil’ Wayne’s “How To Love,” which addresses a girl ensnared in the skankier side of life, sounds soothing, almost fatherly. I imagined a girl who was vulnerable, wanting out but feeling trapped. And the persona singing to her valued her above her mistakes.

Hilson’s personal record is pretty clean compared to Lil’ Wayne’s multiple arrests and string of love children. But the rapper somehow managed to capture compassion in “How to Love.” Its theme is, “You are worth more than your mistakes.” Hilson’s song reveals an external locus of identity that she shoves on all women. Her song says, “My derriere is worthy. If yours isn’t as good as mine, you’re not as good as me.”

Lil’ Wayne has evidently learned something of forgiveness from his shady past. Hilson is trapped in the vicious cycle of assigning value based on body image. Here’s the cycle: I am pretty, therefore worthwhile. She looks prettier, therefore she must be more worthwhile. I must trash her to regain my sense of self-worth. Once she is satisfactorily trashed, I say again, I am pretty.

Worth is found in being human. To be human is to be in God’s image, and therefore full of his virtues. Love. Forgiveness. Mercy.

You want to give me a girl-power song? Give me a song about compassion.

Candor—my tepid Friend

Facebook has changed our language. Unfriend became a word. Like now explodes with nuanced levels of meaning, starting with enjoyment but also including approval, agreement, and support. Facebook itself is now a verb.

And there’s the word friend.

Wait, are you talking real-friend or Facebook-friend?

I resent that “or.” Who are all those Facebook users that I’m connected to? Figments of my imagination? Yes, I go from computer to computer in the library, creating ghost accounts for invisible friends so I can friend them on Facebook.

One of my dearest childhood friends moved fifteen hours away, so our relationship is now purely Facebook based. A girl I went to highschool with married a guy she met through Facebook.

Are those fake relationships?

Just like I’m texting another human being when my eyes are on my phone, I’m communicating–I’m relationship building–with real people on the other end of Facebook.

Sometimes as I pass real friends on the sidewalk I only smile. Sometimes I say hello, too afraid to add a name lest I’ve forgotten it. Those are real people. Those connections are important.

Facebook connects to real people too. Sometimes it’s just a smile, if I like a picture. Sometimes it’s a hello, if I write “happy birthday” on a wall.

But always, they’re real people. And those connections are important.

Death of a Euphemism

As the month marches toward Halloween, we start to see pictures of eerie graveyards with swirling mist and delapidated tombstones reading “RIP.”

The letters are a symbol of death, a shorthand way to say, “This is a grave. Death won here.” A cartoon label, like putting “ACME” on Wile Coyote’s dynamite. I was surprised, therefore, to see the letters start popping up on Facebook recently after the death of Steve Jobs. Maybe because he’s a public figure, his death seems less personal. Maybe people use the abbreviation euphemistically. The way the last generation says, “he passed,” our loling generation says, “RIP.”

Maybe a euphemism is easier to say because we can keep death hiding in the broom closet with the spiderwebs, covered in a thick layer of dust.

Since when was death supposed to be easy? Does talking about it have to be easy? As Dumbledore taught us, fear of the name increases fear of the thing itself. Sometimes the most painful words are the words that most need to be spoken.

Death is the last enemy. But our hope that it will be conquered is certain. The story ends with Death sealed up in his own tomb. RIP, Fear.

Jesus wins.