Acton Institute Powerblog

Hope and The Hunger Games

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The Hunger Games may lack a single reference to religion or God, but as Jordan J. Ballor and Todd Steen point out in an article for First Things, the books and film presents a secularized alternative to the Christian virtue of hope:

The only hope that the residents of Panem have is in themselves. The best they can hope for is that perhaps someone might repay a good deed with one in return. As readers of the novel or viewers of the film, we also want to find hope in whatever situation we encounter, real or fictional. We see flashes of goodness in people and the order in creation and believe that better things are possible. How does this hope persist in Panem or in our world? Why does the idea of hope resonate with us to such a great degree?

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Domenico Bettinelli

    Actually, it doesn’t lack a single reference to religion. In the second book, there is a moment where the main character describes a very old painting that includes depictions of “babies with wings”, i.e. cherubim. I think Collins makes a deliberate allusion to what can happen in a world stripped of faith and religion, of an absolute moral order. In the third book, when some of the “good guys” discuss the tactic of dual terrorist bombings designed to cause collateral damage to emergency first responders, another character is repulsed and says something to effect that some things should just be out of bounds for the good guys and gets confused stares in response. Again, I think Collins is making the point that what separates the good guys from the bad isn’t just which one is the oppressor in power, but that an objective moral order exists by which we should measure ourselves and our actions.

    • That is a great point, Domenico, thanks for raising it. I do recall the passing reference, which you must admit is rather oblique and passing. I happen to agree, though, that the relative absence of religiosity in the trilogy is a device to show us how bad things can be in such circumstances. As I write elsewhere, “If Panem is what a world without faith and freedom looks like, then Collins’ books are a cautionary tale about the spiritual, moral, and political dangers of materialism, hedonism, and oppression.”