Sunday, December 09, 2012

Is the Church asking the wrong questions?



So. About those opinions.

I find myself wondering sometimes, is the Church asking the wrong questions?

I’ve seen it over and over: some book or movie sensation bursts on the scene, sweeping a large portion of youth (or not so youthful, as the case might be) with it. Christians take a glance or three, then begin the outcry: this is wrong! This is bad! Harry Potter—it’s witchcraft. Twilight—vampires and werewolves! The Hunger Games—children are pitted against children! Fifty Shades of Grey—porn for women!

Does the outcry honestly keep people away from wrong?

The issues aside—yes, Harry Potter may be a bad role model where respect for authority is concerned, and the relationship dynamics in Twilight fit the pattern of classic victim mentality—I have to ask whether Christians aren’t approaching this from the wrong angle. Do I believe in absolute truth? Yes. Do I believe Christians should stand up for that? Absolutely. But as a Christian who deals in story, I think we should take a long, hard look at why certain books and movies have such appeal.

Let me say right up front, I’m not a fan of hype. I haven’t yet read Harry Potter, barely watched the movies—did see Twilight and its first sequel, but with lots of poking fun at the melodrama. My oldest son read the book at age 20 or so, and engaged me in conversation about his take. I have no intention of reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I did, however, read The Hunger Games and its sequels, and the movie. Part of that was curiosity—what is it about this story that causes such mania?

And I was surprised. I have some opinions about the story itself—why the author wrote it, whether or not she was “successful” in terms of conveying a moral message. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan, because there are many things I don’t like about the story, aspects of it resonate very strongly with me. And I’ll get to what those are, and why.

In all the debates between those who see something redemptive in the story and those who don’t, I see two issues at stake. One, the author’s vision for the story, and whether the thing that anti-HG people see as the biggest stumbling block—children pitted against children—is a valid story device. Second, the question of whether being anti-HG (or anti-anything) really influences anyone to the cause of Christ?

On the first, I did some digging around at one of my favorite blogs to see what had already been said about The Hunger Games. (I’m slow on this ... what can I say, busy mom of eight, and having three in college doesn’t make for a calmer pace of life!) Just for reference, there are several excellent articles on the subject, some of which discuss the question of dystopian fiction overall, some of which address how Christians should be responding not only to The Hunger Games, but to each other. Most of this could apply to other debates as well—I recently saw a group of Christian women nearly come to blows—who otherwise love each other fiercely—over Fifty Shades of Grey.

About the debate itself, this one says what I think about as well as I could:

His command for us to go into all the world and make disciples doesn’t come with an escape clause — I’ll go everywhere, just not to people I don’t like. Nor does the command to speak the truth in love come with the caveat that allows us to be mean to those who disagree with us.

Who we are as followers of Jesus Christ should make all the difference in how we respond to The Hunger Games. However, I don’t think that means we all have to respond in the same way. Someone with young, impressionable children would be justified in saying, this movie is not for our family. Someone else with a teen keenly aware of the plight of youth in the world — sex trafficking, children conscripted into armies, sweat shops — might think there is benefit in viewing the movie and discussing how such a society might come into being.

So the second important thing for Christians to remember is that our opinions about the story are not definitive for all other Christians.

Such a position can seem on the surface like situational ethics, but we need to remember that God knows and understands our uniqueness and does not treat us all the same, even as He remains the same and His commands remain the same.

Consequently, the principles of God’s word are firm, but whether a person is faithful to those principles by going to see The Hunger Games or by staying away, is variable.

The most countercultural response to that which shapes our culture actually is our response to one another. Scripture calls us to unity, not to uniformity.

(from http://www.speculativefaith.com/2012/03/26/the-countercultural-response-to-culture/ ... a big thank you to Becky Miller, for a calm, reasoned response, as always!)

Read the whole article. Then scroll down for the comments. I tell you, this is one of the best sites for discussing story and Christianity and all things “speculative” (as the blog title says) out there. It’s run by people who have both the intelligence, spiritual depth, and mental energy to talk about all the things I get exhausted just thinking about.

And this article, quoted by the above blog post, has some interesting things to say about the author’s vision for the story.


I may post my thoughts later on whether Suzanne Collins succeeds with her intended vision ...

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