On The Hunger Games and Easter Sunday

Easter, and high school students, and Katniss Everdeen. I promise you—they do

intersect and make sense. 

Sunrises. We like sunrises. Who doesn’t?
A couple times this year, most recently this afternoon, I have had the chance to speak to a room full of high school students about bringing God into their culture. I talked about a few ways they could do that, but the final idea I gave them was simple—bring hope.

Is “hope” really a cross-cultural concept when we’re talking about the Millennial generation? You bet it is.

Witness the biggest genre of YA literature for the past several years—dystopia. A story playing out amid the ruin of a world that no longer resembles the one we know. The dictionary definitions of dystopia include:

  • “An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

  • “ A society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”

  • “An imagined place where people are unhappy and usually afraid.”

Well that sounds like quite the pleasant little backdrop.

Witness two of the blockbusters of this genre—Hunger Games. Divergent.

Now darkness is hardly new to YA literature, and I would be the first to argue that some darkness is necessary to challenge and empower the reader. But there is a not-so-subtle difference in what has been going on in recent years. Harry Potter was dark. Lord of the Rings has its share of dark. But those series ended with people going on to assume lives in which darkness did not reign and evil did not win. Those books ended with—hope. As Samwise says, “Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.” Those authors believed and conveyed this.

The new ones don’t. Heroes are antiheroes. Conflict is “not great” versus “really bad.” You’re not sure you even want to root for anyone in the end. No one wins. Heroes even die in the final pages. The books reflect the attitude of a culture that has shifted. In the words of another LOTR character, “Do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands.”

They just look like hope.
This is the call, I believe, to writers who want to matter and to make their faith matter. 

Bring back hope.

Thus, I told those kids. And I’ve told my daughter, who wants to write this kind of literature. Whatever you do, whatever you write, whatever you are called to do in this life—do it with hope. Draw hope. Photograph hope. Cook hope. Put out fires, police streets, wait tables, perform surgery, counsel families—with hope.

Not happy-clappy ridiculous hope that ignores real life. That’s not hope—that’s wishful thinking. We already have a little too much of that in faith-based writing.

But real hope? If you intersect the culture with hope, you are bringing in an explosive device they are not quite prepared for. Bring it anyway. Bring it especially.

On this day after Easter, those of us who celebrated yesterday have the greatest, no, the only, source of this explosive hope. If you have a relationship with God—a living, vibrant, relationship, not just a go-to-church obey-the-rules one—you have a source of hope your culture needs.

You have it because God calls you, me, and all humans, precious souls whom he ransomed from pointless lives. Because God proved it with the power that kills death itself. Because he promises he made us for more. Because Easter proves there is an ultimate great hope, that evil can be defeated, and that we get to participate in the greatest story ever. It’s not our story. But we’re in it. Are we in it to create hope?

I kind of like that I get to be a Samwise in this world. A proclaimer of darkness-killing light in a world where it does indeed “shine out all the clearer.” Sam’s pretty cool. Sam is a hope spreader. It was needed in Mordor—it’s needed in your backyard.

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