Category Archives: Just Thinking

The “Hunger” for Survival

The other day I was reading a post by Emily Whitten at RedeemedReader.com on the Hunger Games series. I definitely recommend it to those interested in a redeemed, biblical response to all the hype and hullabaloo surrouding the books. In her piece, she writes about the main idea or conflict that the Hunger Games presents to its readers. At it’s heart, she says the books are about survival.

As a volunteer at a K-12 public school, I hear about the Hunger Games every day. It could be a fourth grader showing me the word “breast” in the book, a fifth grader complaining to me about not being able to read it, or a high schooler carrying it all around the school.

I have often wondered why kids are so drawn to the story. A fifth grade girl told me it was well written, and I agreed (See a post by N.D. Wilson @thegospelcoalition.com on why it’s not well written), but I also thought that other well written and imaginative books are available for students to read. What is it that makes Hunger Games fly off the shelves here at school?

I considered greatly this idea about survival, and I think Emily is right on. Janie Cheaney, also on the redeemedreader site talks about the possibility that kids identify with the character’s struggles and the subconcious knowledge that maybe they really aren’t that good. Countless teachers tell the students that they are special and they are good kids, but do they see through the lie? Maybe the students are scared like Katniss to become the monsters that are lurking inside.

The teachers and adults at school always talk about the good kids that we have. I could totally see the craze about the books here being in part because the kids really know that they are not that good. They have struggles and need connection to others that struggle with real issues. I am amazed at the looks I get from students at times when I use words like “evil” and “good.” The students don’t hear these categories from teachers and adults, but they surely know about it in books.

Just before writing this post, I was with a student and we were talking about super heroes. We agreed that they don’t exist, and I wasn’t Batman, and I tried to steer the conversation to the reason we cheer and root for those “good” guys. I wanted the student to see that the basic character qualities we like in super heroes are the ones that could be in her.

I hope to be able to point the youth I work with unto Jesus, who meets them right in their struggle and offers words that are spirit and life. May the kids be able to say, like Peter, that they would go with Jesus because he has the words of eternal life.

Suzanne writes a good book; the marketing for it was without equal, but she can’t hold a candle, or spotlight for that matter, to Jesus and his life-giving words.

Be sure to check out redeemedreader.com for other great biblically minded reviews of Children’s Lit.

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What words do you have?

One of my favorite parts in the Bible is where Peter tells Jesus that the reason that they don’t want to leave him like the rest of the crowd is because Jesus has the words of eternal life. Words have always been a joy to me. My mother says that I could sit on her lap for hours as she read to me. I could read before kindergarten, and I am on par to read 100 books this year. I am captivated by words. Is that what Peter felt as he heard from Jesus?

C. S. Lewis:

“I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them. I never expected the real world to be like any fairy tales. I think that I did expect school to be like the school stories.”
“It would be far truer to say that fairy land arouses a longing for he knows not what. It stirs and troubles him (to his life-long enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new dimension of depth. He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”
Good story, I believe, points us towards those words of eternal life. We see beyond ourselves, we notice something more. Too much Juvenile and Young Adult fiction, and for that matter Adult fiction, doesn’t lead us to the beyond. It doesn’t point towards the “words of eternal life.” Stories that include some greater ideal of justice, love, joy in suffering, lead us towards the “true” story of God and His dealings with us. Again, I love how Lewis points to the fact that we are living the story and it’s only chapter one, and the story will go on and on for eternity. That’s what Peter is talking about. He knows Jesus is telling the real story. The words fit.
The Narnia stories connect us to this larger story, as CS Lewis rightly notes: All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. 
No one on earth has read it… Only God knows the whole story, we are humble players. We just hear bits and pieces; it makes us want to hear more, to stay with the storyteller like Peter.
Every chapter is better… eternity will be awesome.

Some books that young people are reading are filled with words that don’t seem to connect with those eternal life words.

I recommend these books because in them there is truth.

Peter was able to see that Jesus’ words had truth. They had significance for eternity.

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