As someone who wanders the wasteland that is Christian blogging I have come across tons and tons of blogs about The Hunger Games movies. I have even seen some devotionals based on The Hunger Games (what ever happened to basing devotionals off the Bible?). Most of these blogs point out the Christological features of Katniss Everdeen. She comes from a backwoods, blue collar town on the outskirts of the empire. Jesus comes from a backwoods blue collar (fishers and stone workers) town on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. Katniss lives in a time of revolutionaries, all of them failed. Jesus lived in a time of revolutionaries all, except the Maccabean family, failed as well. Katniss sacrifices herself for the ones she loves. Jesus sacrifices himself for the world that he loves. Katniss ends up brining down the Capital and its hegemony. Jesus ends up bringing down not Rome but the Kingdom of the prince of the air; Jesus defeats sin, death, and Satan as George Eldon Ladd once said. Not to mention that in the case of Katniss and Jesus there are “deaths” (in the case of Christ a real death and in the case of Katniss a sort of death) that end in life. Christological parallels abound, or so some bloggers would like us to think.
On the other hand there are some bloggers who like to point out that Katniss is far from being a Christ figure, she actually embodies human frailty and sinfulness. She is the very embodiment of selfishness. She toys with Peeta’s and Gale’s hearts. She refuses to assume responsibility. She even kills people. Throughout the book you get the image of a narcissistic self-centered teenage girl, with archery skills to die for….
So how does this movie portray Katniss? Is she the noble self-sacrificing hero? Yes! Is she the self-centered narcissistic teenage girl? Yes! Is she a leader doing her part to take down the empire? Yes! Is she the coward who shys away from responsibility because its too costly? Absolutely. Contradictions abound in this movie. Katniss displays glimpses of being a Christ figure. Yet at the same time she also shows us the depth of human weakness and sinfulness. So what shall we say about Katniss? Katniss is a human being riddled with contradictions, much like us.
In Justification reconsidered Stephen Westerholm argues that Paul had a pessimistic view of human moral capacity. He argues that Augustine’s, Luther, and Calvin see human beings as capable of doing good, this is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. As Christians we know that Christ is the full image of God, so when we say that we are made in the image of God it means that in some sense we are made like Christ. Yet Westerholm makes an important observation about the great tradition, namely that on one level particular deeds done by untransformed human beings are good, but on a deeper level these deeds are not truly good. That is without God, humans are incapable of true goodness. This is an important feature to remember about unredeemed humanity. We are capable of Christ like acts, but these acts are not meritorious. Yes we are totally depraved, but that does not mean we cannot do good acts before human beings (contrast this with doing good acts coram deo).
Nobody understands this dualism more than Dostoyevsky. In The Gambler Tolstoy presents us with one of the most vivid portrayals of the attractions and pitfalls of gambling (as well as infatuation and pride). The main character, Alexey Ivanonitch gambles in a fictional German city, here we see the transformation from a man who has never gambled to a true gambler. In one of the early chapters Alexey enters the casino for the first time, he says that “it all struck me as so dirty, somehow, morally horrid and dirty….” He describes gambling as a “most foolish and imprudent pursuit.” However, at the same time he says that he felt “as I went into the hall of all this covetousness” that all this “covetous filth” was in a sense congenial and convenient. He suffers from a “plebeian desire to win.” At once he finds the casino morally repugnant but attractive. Disgusting but congenial. Is Alexey being double minded? Yes he is, but that is simply what it means to be an unredeemed human being. See, Katniss too suffers from this unredeemed double mindedness. Just like us human beings she struggles and vacillates between doing the good that she knows she ought to do and not the things that she knows she ought to do. Of course Katniss is not as complex as Dostoyevsky’s characters, neither should we expect her to be, nevertheless Katniss embodies what it means to be a human being made in God’s image. She has potential for Christlikeness but is totally depraved. She has potential for good, and at times we see her doing good, but at the end of the day she is just like we once were, sinners at the core. Thankfully though, because of Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf, he has taken up all our humanity into himself and redeemed and transformed us. Because of his death for our sake we are justified, and (don’t forget this) we are renewed in Christ’s image so that we don’t have to be double minded like Katniss.