How "The Hunger Games" Society Isn't Far from Our Own


It is this recognition of the connection between the Capital's success coming at the expense of the ... suffering of the general populous that I find my own connection to Collins' dystopian world, Vopat writes. (Photo: Lionsgate)
I have been a fan of Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy for several years and have incorporated clips from the first movie into my ministry on a variety of occasions.

In Collins' fictional dystopian future, the country of Panem (formed from the remains of North America) is ruled by a small, wealthy minority in the Capital who seek to maintain control over the rest of the population in the Districts.

To deter any future rebellions from the Districts, the Capital hosts the Hunger Games each year, in which each district is required to submit one male and one female child tribute to fight in gladiatorial-like games.

In brief, the story is a reflection on "the haves" and "the have-nots" by portraying, in stark contrast, the disparity between the wealthy few and impoverished many as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

As with any book being made into a movie, I was curious to see what they would focus on and what would be left out.

I couldn't help but wonder if one of my favorite scenes from the second book, "Catching Fire," would appear in the movie.

The scene to which I am referring is a lavish party in which the heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), and her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), attend in the Capital.

They find themselves surrounded by lavishly dressed people consuming exorbitant amounts of food and then drinking a clear liquid to make themselves throw up so they can continue eating, no longer limited by their stomachs becoming full.

The movie captured this scene perfectly, with Peeta becoming physically ill as he wrestles with the fact that while many people are starving, and all are struggling to make ends meet, in every district, the citizens of the Capital are redefining gluttony.

Collins' exploration of the relationship between the "haves" and the "have-nots" comes to the foreground, as Peeta and Katniss are not seduced by the glamour of the Capital.

It is this recognition of the connection between the Capital's success coming at the expense of the struggles and suffering of the general populous that I find my own connection to Collins' dystopian world.

Like Katniss and Peeta, I find the actions of the Capital citizens detestable. And yet, I can't help but wonder if I am being somewhat naïve and hypocritical.

In Dambisa Moyo's latest book, "Winner Take All," I encountered several sobering statistics.

According to University of Arizona researchers, as much as 14 percent to 15 percent of "edible food" goes untouched in the United States, resulting in $43 billion in food being wasted annually.

When Moyo included the data about industrial and commercial waste, she revealed that "40 percent of all food produced in the United States is thrown out."

I don't deliberately drink a clear liquid so I can eat beyond my limits like the Capital citizens of Collins' novels.

But I can't help but think of the numerous times I have opened my refrigerator door and moved the leftovers aside so I can find something more appetizing to my palette.

Then there are the times I find it more convenient to eat out because I'm in a hurry while the leftovers continue to sit. All of this results in food being regularly taken out of the refrigerator and thrown away because it has spoiled.

Ruminating on all of this has brought new meaning for me as I read Jesus' words of being weary of removing the speck in our neighbor's eye in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-5).

Too often we can be so concerned about the speck in our neighbor's eye that we disregard the log in our own, failing to recognize that our own lifestyle might be contributing in some way to the problem we are critiquing.

Jesus' words call us not only to see the pain and suffering around us, but also challenge us to reflect on how we are connected to them.

Maybe it's time we see our refrigerators and cupboards as sacred places to start thinking about the problems of hunger and starvation in our world.

Seth M. Vopat is the associate pastor of youth and family at Louisburg First Baptist Church in Louisburg, Kan., and a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter @svopat.

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Tags: Food Insecurity, Food Waste, Hunger, Hunger Games, Income Inequality, Poverty, Sermon on the Mount, Seth Vopat, Wealth


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