The Hunger Games Screams for Justice

ID_D20_08568.dngWhen I asked, What is the central theme of your life, Brian answered and explained why his center is justice, which is a crucial center for God (Gen 18:25; Dt 32:4; Ps 9:7-8) and Jesus (Mt 12:18-21; Isa 42:1-4). As I wondered why I and so many love The Hunger Games, I think a major reason is that it cries out for justice by those who are oppressed and humiliated. A prominent biblical theme is that our God is a God of justice and he hears the cries of the poor, the widows, the fatherless, the foreigners, the helpless and the oppressed (Dt 10:18; 24:19) and he beckons to rescue them (Ex 2:24-25).

As I saw the first Hunger Games on its first day of release, I did so again with Hunger Games: Catching Fire. A friend told me about the cheapest theater in Chicagoland, and I saw it for $4.50, the price before 4 pm. Sorry, I’m a cheapskate and a sucker for the lowest price. Sadly, for me at least, this is a few bucks wise and a million dollars foolish!

Those who love the first movie and love movies in general will love this movie. (It has a high 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared with say 36% for the Transformers.) Sorry, I’m not into reading the book. I feel awkward confessing that I’d rather read “boring” Bible commentaries and 1,000 page Systematic Theology books. This likely contributed to why I never had girlfriends and would never have married if not for UBF.

Enough rambling for now. In addition to justice, here are some reasons why this movie is such a mega hit.

All the actors and actresses–both in major and supporting roles–look great and are good actors. Jennifer Lawrence, playing the lead role Katniss Everdeen, was paid “only” $500,000 for the first Hunger Games. For this movie, she received a raise and was paid 10 million. For sure, the producers will make their money back and some. She is a great actress. She steals virtually every scene that she is in. She massively appeals to girls because she is an unlikely and reluctant hero, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that she is “torn between two cute suitors,” Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) who both want her.

The story is captivating. It is almost a David and Goliath story. The underdogs virtually has no chance against the military might of the Capitol. Yet, in collaboration, they fight and persevere against all odds at the great cost of much blood and many lives being lost.

Sacrificial love. Though they have to kill others in the Hunger Games for their own survival, they often sacrifice themselves that others may live.

Unrequited love. “I will love you, even if you never ever love me back.” Countless guys and gals can fully relate to this!

Justice. Reading John Frame’s and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is helpful for me to begin my own quest in seeking to articulate justice. In English the words “justice” and “righteousness” are different words, but in both the Hebrew OT (tsedek) and Greek NT (dikaiosune) it is the same single word behind these two English words. Righteousness comes from a Greek root (Recht) and from a Latin one (justitia). God can bring righteousness to those who are far from righteousness (Isa 46:12-13) only through Christ (Rom 3:21-22; 2 Cor 5:21) and at an awful great cost (Rom 3:25). Without invoking God, the Hunger Games expresses the desire and the great cost incurred by the oppressed in order to seek justice from their oppressors.

Probably, the appeal of this movie are its stars, its story, its director and screenplay. But perhaps the cry of every human heart–consciously or subconsciously–is the cry for perfect justice, which is rare in our fallen world, and even in our churches. But justice can be found in Christ, as God poured out his justice on his innocent Son in order to justify us guilty sinners (Rom 3:26).

Go watch the movie for entertainment, and see if your heart cries out for justice.


  1. Ok I’ll take the bait and share my thoughts :)

    Yes I LOVE the Hunger Games, and can’t wait to see the second movie. And yes I haven’t quite recovered from ubf enough to prevent me from overlaying such movies into the ubf situation. So when Katniss (in the first movie) shoots the arrow at the affluent spectators watching her training, I imagined doing just that at a ubf meeting!

    Maybe someday I won’t overlay movies with my ubf experience, portraying myself as the unsung hero that overthrows the oppressors…but that day has not come yet.

    When I did a personal study on the book of Job, I found justice as a key theme (of course I suppose I was looking for such a theme :)

    So I love the ending, with God’s litany of questions, and yes I have often envisioned standing up in a ubf senior staff meeting and saying these words:

    7 “Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
    8 “Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
    9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
    and can your voice thunder like his?

    Job 40:7-9

    And as you might guess one of my favorite bible passages became Isaiah 28:16-18.

    16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

    “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
    the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.
    17 I will make justice the measuring line
    and righteousness the plumb line;
    hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
    and water will overflow your hiding place.
    18 Your covenant with death will be annulled;
    your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
    When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
    you will be beaten down by it.

  2. Yeah, Brian, exUBFers who “opened their eyes” (or had their eyes opened) began to feel quite angry at the authoritarian abuses of UBF, which I believe is oppressive, humiliating, dehumanizing as well as an injustice. Authoritarianism is an injustice. It is NOT reflective of who God is.

    Yet no one can open anyone else’s eyes but God. So if we are upset that some UBF leaders continue to “take the high road” by their deafening silence (or “lack of repentance”), then we might be indirectly blaming God for not opening their eyes and repenting, as we might expect them to.

  3. Yes indeed, Ben, we are prone to fall into blaming God or blaming other people and a whole host of other pitfalls. I find that recovering from the ubf system and lifestyle has much in common with recovering from a traumatic experience

    So really to do justice to my life narrative, I need to see the past 26 years as the first 16 years of “KOPH building” and the past 10 years (since 2003) as my recovery. For 10 years I’ve been recovering from those first 16 years in Toledo ubf as well as my own personal trauma recovery.

    I believe I’m reaching “stage 4” now…

    Stage One: Circuit-breaking
    “If you overload an electrical system with too much energy and too much stimulation, the circuit breaker activates and shuts everything down. The human nervous system is also an electrical system, and when it is overloaded with too much stimulation and too much danger, as in trauma, it also shuts down to just basics. People describe it as feeling numb, in shock or dead inside.”

    “When the system starts to recover and can handle a bit more stimulation and energy—and the human system is destined to try to recover, to seek equilibrium—feelings begin to return.”

    Stage Two: Return of Feelings

    “Most people have not experienced so much primary trauma that they must see a professional counselor; they can work through their feelings by involving the people they are close to. They do it by telling their story—a hundred times. They need to talk talk talk, recount the gory details. That is the means by which they begin to dispel the feelings of distress attached to their memories.

    The more that feelings can be encouraged, the better. The more you feel the more you heal.

    The expression of feelings can take many forms. For most people it may be easiest to talk. But others may need to write. Or draw. However they tell their stories, the rest of us have an obligation to listen.”

    “Emotions come in tidal waves that are so big, comprehensive and overwhelming that those who get them feel like they’re going to drown. They flail about, and then the wave recedes; they discover that they’re still alive and they feel better. Tsunamis usually occur because people repress their feelings of pain.”

    Stage Three: Constructive Action
    “Stage Two and Stage Three go hand in hand. To go forward you feel and you act. You can’t do one or the other. Acting and feeling become an engine that propels you forward.”

    Stage Four: Reintegration
    “Traumatic experiences are broken bones of the soul. If you engage in the process of recovery, you get stronger. If you don’t, the bones remain porous, with permanent holes inside, and you are considerably weaker.

    In this stage of recovery, you reintegrate your self and your values in a new way. You incorporate meaning in your life. You integrate deeper and more authentic ways of communicating.

    People at this stage may experience a new sense of the preciousness of life, a clarification of goals and renewed commitment to them, and new understanding of the value of ties to others. But to get to stage four you have to go through the first three stages.”

    • So relating this to your article Ben, “Stage 3” is especially difficult for me. I have struggled a lot with my center of justice to find constructive actions. Most of my thoughts initially center on destructive actions. So I find that I must often submit my sense of justice to God’s justice.

  4. Hey Dr. Ben. I recently read the book, Mockingjay, over thanksgiving break and just like after I read it the first time, it left me with feelings of sadness and depression. The ending is not happy at all. I mean there is a resolution, but it just is not at all what you expect. Of course after I read it the first I was really really upset. I re-read parts over and over again, because I couldn’t believe that it could end that way, but now I can accept it more. I know that Hollywood will of course try and put it into a more positive and happy light, but when you read the books and sum up everything that they went through and the actual people that they are, then the ending is actually really good. It’s not your typical Hollywood happy ending but it develops characters who weren’t heroic from the beginning.

    Katniss didn’t want to be a hero. She wanted a quiet life away from everyone. She didn’t want any part of the rebellion, but she realized she had been created for a vital role whether she wanted it or not. She realizes that the world is bigger than her loved ones and she does the best that she can to fulfill that role and of course, because she isn’t perfect, not everything falls the way she wants it to. To me, it was very realistic and I’m able to understand it and appreciate it. I didn’t think that a movie would be made from the books because of the brutality of the third book, but I guess people want to see it fall through.

    Honestly, when I reread the third book and watched Catching Fire, the movie really moved me and when I watched Hunger Games I actually cried. I didn’t when I watched it the first time, but when I read the books, I’m reminded of the person that they’re supposed to be. You are introduced to a very realistic and different thought process of a regular, imperfect person.

    Honestly, I didn’t really like the movies, because alone you miss so much. With the books, the movies paint some sort of picture, but I’m still running the other scenes in my head. They just have faces now. There is so much character development in the books and that’s why, for me the final is acceptable and actually fitting. It’s not what you expect or even wants, but its the only way the series can end and I still really like the series. It just hurts my heart when I finish that book.

  5. Mark Mederich

    “But perhaps the cry of every human heart–consciously or subconsciously–is the cry for perfect justice, which is rare in our fallen world, and even in our churches.”
    but must be pursued as of first importance (alongside righteousness) every opportunity: although Christ justifies & the Holy Spirit sanctifies, until the fullness of God’s kingdom comes, we will yearn for such;
    God called Abraham out of Ur/Chaldeans (& the Israelites later out of Egypt) to restart a right/just people; people came to Moses for dispute resolution (dad-in-law Jethro wisely helped him share the overwhelming duty with tribal/clan leaders, so he would have time to handle the difficult cases);
    Solomon asked/received God’s wisdom to resolve ‘who does the baby really belong to’ matters; Jesus told the rich to share with the poor, the soldier to act fairly, the pharisee to act right (stop stealing widow’s homes & taking advantage of orphans, etc)