The National Catholic Review

The Rev. Robert Barron, author (and host) of the widely successful book (and series) Catholicism, which was reviewed recently in America by Tim Reidy, reviews the hit movie "The Hunger Games," from a very Catholic (and very thoughtful) point of view.  (Certainly it's the only review you'll probably see that mentions Rene Girard's scapegoating mechanism.)  Well worth a view in case you're a little confused or, as I am, disturbed, by the success of the book and movie. 

Comments

Michael Appleton | 3/29/2012 - 6:48pm
Fr. Barron's thoughts on the notion of "scapegoating" are both insightful and chilling. Scapegoating is a natural consequence of abandoning faith in favor of fear. I believe that its use as a political tool helps to explain the rise in nativism, xenophobia and racism we observe in contemporary American society (as well as in earlier periods of our history). Wonderful video. I think I need to read Rene Girard.
Bill Freeman | 4/3/2012 - 12:15pm
Maria - I've read many of your posts and am fully aware of your worldview.  I just can't understand how you can square that with Matthew 25.  When a minority group consistently cries out in pain and hurt, how can a Christian not respond with love and care?

Bill Freeman | 4/3/2012 - 7:05pm
Maria - "The measure that you measure with, so shall it be measured to you" (Matthew 7:2).
Bill Freeman | 4/2/2012 - 1:17pm
This is an interesting critique of The Hunger Games and the reflex to scapegoat.  I would also refer readers to Barron’s parallel blog message.  He waxes eloquently that Christianity is the bromide against the all-to-often reflex to scapegoat.  I see it otherwise.
 
Christianity historically has all too often lead the charge to scapegoat and demonize.  It is interesting that the religion that enjoyed Constantine’s protection would use its privileged position to rain terror through the Crusades, the Inquisition, the conquest of North America, and the demonizing of Jews (thus laying the seeds for Nazi Germany).
 
We see again today an organized pogrom by the Roman Church against the civil rights of gays and lesbians.  At every turn, the Roman Church remains the “bully in the room” denying acceptance to the gay community.  And its language is a rallying cry to legitimize hatred with the every-present drumbeat that gays are pedophiles, homosexuality is “objective disordered,” “harmful” and that gay marriage “is the moral issue of our time” with the impact to “destroy civilization” as opined Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput.
 
In response to 2010 news of repeated suicides of gay teens, thousands of leaders from politicians like President Obama to sports leaders like World Championship boxer Sergio Martinez to religious leaders like Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson filmed “It Gets Better” videos in support of gay teens (who have a suicide rate of five to seven times that of their straight peers).  Yet the silence from the Roman Catholic hierarchy is deafening.  Not one Roman Catholic bishop – not one – filmed such a message of hope and support.   Silence is decidedly consent.
 
So. Fr. Barron, I’d be very careful about suggesting that the Catholic flavor of Christianity is the sweet succor against the impulse to scapegoat.  As I see it, the Roman Church is selling tickets to the next gladiator spectator sport – and it’s the gay community that’s in the arena.
Tom Tomaszewski | 4/1/2012 - 11:20pm
I was struck by the Catholic ideal of the saving power of selfless love that repeats as a theme throught The Hunger Games series.Evil in the book is always a perversion of true love whether it be for one another, for a larger group of people or the entire nation. The true subversive acts in the series are done in the name of selfless love and are even self sacrifice. In the face of a dehumanizing authority structure that rules by fear and division the truly heroic acts are those selfless acts of kindness and love we see whether it is the simple offering or bread or the sacrificial offer of life that eventually sets the world of The Hunger Games ablaze with the quest for freedom. That the rebels pervert the ideal they seek to co-opt to their own selfish purposes doesn't ovecome the eventual triumph of self sacrificial love over the perverted evils of either the established or the rebellion authorities who seem to operate as two sides of the same coin in the actions of some characters. That the games are meant as a balm which both soothes the primal urge for freedom innately stirring in the populace and serves to establish a rule of fear among the subjects in the Districts is I fear too superficial an observation to help spread the message of The Good News, I'd rather plant this bomb in the current Hunger Games social phenomena in the hopes that it detonates the liberating notion that Jesus has already given us the key the rebels sought to overthrow dictatorial despots and dehumanizing authorty. Selfless love wins. That is an appropriate Easter message.
David Pasinski | 3/30/2012 - 3:18pm
Thanks, Abe, for your thoughts...I don't think my angst on to the "book only" thus far is off the mark.  I m not believing this is going to create a moral catastrophe for our youth and I think they literary references helpful in placing it all in context, but likewise in our era of drones, it hepls in recognizing the Girardian scapegoating perspective. Perhaps it not a "one size fits all" theory , but I think it provides a welcome perspective.
Kang Dole | 3/30/2012 - 12:29pm
I'm not quite sure if I understand why people are confused/disturbed by the success of this series, especially since, as Barron points out, it's recasting some ideas and narratives that are pretty deeply ingrained in common culture-Collins has explicitly cited the examples listed by Barron as being formative for the books. (I also don't really get why people assume that young people don't have any grasp on the social implications of the storyline-what's the basis for that?)

Needless to say, what has to be mentioned is Battle Royale (novel, as well as the film version), which has a somewhat similar approach (govt. putting teens into a killing environment as a way of manipulating the populace), but that is much more aggressively violent and generative of the sorts of social reflections Hunger Games aims at. (It took 12 years, but a US distributor finally girded its loins and released a DVD version in the States).

I also think that any girardian approach to things like the Hunger Games faces the usual risks associated with using Girard-his exclusive reliance on literary data to say something about anthropological subjects, as well as the universalizing nature of his theory.
P Davis | 3/30/2012 - 10:48am
I too am disturbed by the "success" of the Hunger Games especially among tweens and young teens who don't get the gruesome backdrop or the cultural dangers. We are drifting toward the Hunger Games scenario as Fr. Barron points out. The films success is an opportunity for Christians to proclaim Jesus as victim and also the Easter redemption found in Him, nd to warn of the dangers of violence, aggression, anger, resentment in our culture. The anger/hostility is ubiquitous and unavoidable in our culture. Just walk down the street or drive in a car and look at people's faces. Let us pray that Easter joy permeates our selves, our families, our Church and our society.
David Pasinski | 3/30/2012 - 10:38am
What a terrific analysis!!!! I just finished the book because my son was reading it and I know the movie and book diverge a bit- I will see that this weekend. 

Fr. Barron puts his finger on far better than anything else I've read on a fundamental dimension of this angst that I felt that I haven't been able to explain upon finisheing this work with its ambiguities and waiting to see the public reaction to this.  While I don't look ofrward to raading the sequels, I will just to see how this plays out.

Thank you!
SHAWN ONEAL | 3/29/2012 - 7:28pm
I thank you for posting this.  It got me to thinking about ''The Lottery''.  I had to recall that story, but I recall reading that in school.  On a more geeky level, I remember the film ''Dragonslayer'' because it involved a lottery for the sake of appeasement.

As gruesome as the story is in Genesis about Abraham coming close to sacrificing Isaac, it is good to recall that God's intervention was proof that such action was not necessary.  Prophets spoke against Israel's people when they chose to fall away from the covenant and revert to the use of sacrifice.  It is intriguing how sacrifice seems to pop up again through many examples.  I am glad that we believe that both the Old and the New Testaments show how unique God is and how unique his disciples are to be by not engaging in such behavior.