Fr. Robert Barron on 'The Hunger Games'
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.
James Martin, S.J.
Cindy Wooden - Catholic News Service
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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.
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.
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.
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.