Out of the Sea by Heritage Hill, Free for CAPC Members
For contemporary worship music with a fresh musical style, Out of the Sea by Heritage Hill is a welcome collection of songs.
Mockingjay – Part 1, which opened this past weekend and swept away its box-office competition, has a decidedly different feel from previous Hunger Games films. Katniss—the consummate hunter and outdoorswoman—is now squirreled away underground in District 13. Her movements are restricted, and, in attempting to harness her charismatic spirit as propaganda for the rebellion, the district administration squelches it instead. In this latest in the Hunger Games franchise, the girl on fire has lost some of her spark.
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times reads this shift as a mistake, saying the filmmakers have lost sight of the main character and turned the intriguing female-driven story into a “generic action-flick” blockbuster. The film retains the violent clashes characteristic of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, yet with very little direct involvement from Katniss. She is, as Dargis notes, somewhat on the periphery here, most especially at the film’s peak—a daring raid on the Capitol she can merely watch unfold on monitors in District 13’s war room.
Amid the effects of the Fall, at the mercy of others’ selfish strivings, and prone to give in to an easy cynicism that believes no good will come, let us rather live the promise of full communion and reconciliation, knowing that this, too, shall pass.Yet, I think, rather than reveal a mistake on the filmmakers’ part, such scenes highlight a shift in the story’s focus, or rather a sharpening of a theme that’s been there all along. Behind the violence and gaudy spectacle of the first two films lies Katniss’s longing for community, her strong desire to bond with others, protect her friends and family, and live with those she loves in peace and harmony. Her entrance into the Games themselves was not a political maneuver designed to bring down the tyrannical President Snow, but a spontaneous almost involuntary attempt to protect her sister by sacrificing herself.
In a way Mockingjay – Part 1 returns Katniss to this (non-Rawlsian) original position, searching for a way to keep her loved ones safe, not knowing whom to trust, what those in power want from her, or how to satisfy them and avoid negative repercussions for the innocent. Except now she’s quickly learning the impossibility of accomplishing these goals given her current situation. At the close of Catching Fire Katniss learns that District 13 was not destroyed as she once believed. And she learns she has misjudged several key figures: head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee concocted the plot to rescue her from the arena, a plot supported by her presumably apolitical mentor Haymitch Abernathy. So from the outset of this third film, Katniss realizes that she is embroiled within a deceptive system, the machinations of which she cannot even begin to fathom.
The film’s opening scene establishes this conflict that will ultimately drive the entire film, as Katniss crouches hidden in a utility corridor of District 13. She’s there to avoid the administration who is pressuring her to become the rebellion’s figurehead, yet Katniss questions their motives and their tactics. In filling the role of the Mockingjay, will she simply become a pawn in another level of the Games she thought she’d escaped? And who might become the casualties of her decision?
What we see through Katniss’s uneasiness in District 13 is the outworking of the Fall, as Adam and Eve’s sin separated them from God but also from each other. Human beings, made for relationship—inhuman almost without them—throw roadblocks in the way of the very relationships they need to thrive. A ruggedly individualistic protagonist, though great fodder for Hollywood drama, fits less well within the biblical paradigm of community.
At the consummation of His creation, after declaring all He made good, God indicates that Adam’s solitude is, in fact, not good. Man is not meant to be alone. As explained by theologians such as Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, our having been made in the image of God entails this capacity for and necessity of relationships. God creates Eve to provide that needed companionship for Adam, and in turn Adam provides companionship for Eve; the benefits of their relationship (and all relationships) are mutual.
After Adam, no human being has entered this world unattached. And yet, this side of Eden, those relationships are fraught with danger. Turning inward, unregenerate man seeks to satisfy his own needs, often at the expense of others. Scriptures are rife with example after example: Adam blames Eve for his sin. Cain murders Abel out of jealousy. Abram passes Sarai off as his sister to protect himself. David sacrifices Uriah for his obsession with Bathsheba.
The pages of history and literature are peppered with many more tragic instances of such treachery. Human beings destroy relationships by quarreling, deceiving, exploiting, manipulating, and abandoning the very ones they are meant to support, serve, love, nurture, encourage, and build up. Katniss experiences the effects of these behaviors—definitively from the Capitol which uses others overtly but perhaps also from District 13 whose admirable motives to overcome the brutal President Snow might mask troubling manipulation.
Such is a common-enough theme in the dystopian genre to which Hunger Games belongs. Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, We: the inhabitants of these fictional worlds have no meaningful agency; the government, as in District 13, determines right action without input from the governed, for the good of its citizens. But a paternalistic tyranny is a tyranny nonetheless. In God in the Dock C. S. Lewis insightfully explains the demeaning attitude on which such action is based:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. [. . .] This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
Healthy relationships and the community dependent on these relationships, rather, embrace the dignity of and insist on respect for all parties involved. True love—the necessary cement for relationships—“does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Corinthians 13:5-7).
And indeed Katniss still clings to the hope that the community for which she has sacrificed so much will prevail. She lives now in the not yet, as do we all. Amid the effects of the Fall, at the mercy of others’ selfish strivings, and prone to give in to an easy cynicism that believes no good will come, let us rather live the promise of full communion and reconciliation, knowing that this, too, shall pass.
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