The Hunger GamesFATHER ROBERT BARRON
When I was a junior in high school, I read Shirley Jackson's great short story "The Lottery," and I will confess that her narrative still haunts me.
You might remember the plot. The townspeople of a village in the American heartland are gathering on a beautiful summer day in late June for a festival. There is good food, lively conversation, and upbeat music. It becomes clear that the focus for this celebration is the annual lottery, and the reader naturally assumes that the winner of the lottery will receive a prize of some kind. But when the choice is made, the "winner" shrinks away in fear, protesting the injustice of it all, while her fellow citizens close in on her, rocks and stones in hand. As the story ends, they are upon her.
In ancient Mexico, the Aztecs would choose a particularly handsome and brave warrior from a rival tribe. For a year, they would wine and dine him, provide entertainment for him, and treat him like a celebrity. Then, at the close of the year, they would lead him to the top of a tall pyramid and rip his still-beating heart from his chest, and offer it to the gods. In the arenas of ancient Rome — most famously in the Colosseum — young gladiators would engage in mortal combat for the entertainment of blood-thirsty mobs, and emperors would use these spectacles for cynical political purposes. In the mythological story of Theseus and the Minotaur, we hear that the king of Crete obligated the king of Athens every year to send seven young men and seven young women to battle the Minotaur who was hidden in a devilishly complex maze. No one survived the ordeal, until Theseus managed to outwit the monster and escape from the maze.
Girard discovered something else, which, despite his Catholic up-bringing, took him quite by surprise. He found that Christianity was the one religion, philosophy, or ideology that both unmasked this scapegoating mechanism and showed a way out. For at the heart of Christian revelation is God's utter identification, not with the perpetrators of violence, but with the scapegoated victim. The crucified Jesus is hence the undermining of the dynamic that has undergirded most civilizations and that continues to beguile the human imagination to this day. If we find stories like "The Lottery" and The Hunger Games disturbing, it is due to our at least implicit Christian formation. Human sacrifice flourished in the midst of some of the most sophisticated and intellectually advanced civilizations in history. It is demonstrably the case, and not just a matter of speculation, that what brought it to an end in both the Roman and Aztec contexts was nothing other than the influence of Christianity, the religion centered on a crucified Lord.
Father Robert Barron, "The Hunger Games : A Prophecy?" Word on Fire (March, 2012).
Reprinted with permission of Father Robert Barron.
Father Barron's brilliant new video series "Catholicism" is described by George Weigel here: "This is the most important media project in the history of the Catholic Church in America. A stimulating and compelling exploration of the spiritual, moral, and intellectual riches of the Catholic world."
For information go here.
Father Robert Barron is the founder of Word On Fire and is an acclaimed author, theologian and speaker. He is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. Fr. Barron is also the creator and host of the groundbreaking, ten-part documentary series called CATHOLICISM (www.CatholismProject.org). Word On Fire (www.WordOnFire.org) programs reach millions of people and have been broadcast on WGN America, EWTN, Relevant Radio and the popular Word on Fire YouTube Channel. Fr. Barron is the author of, And Now I See: A Theology of Transformation, Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master, Heaven in Stone and Glass: Experiencing the Spirituality of the Great Cathedrals, Eucharist (Catholic Spirituality for Adults), Priority of Christ, The: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism, and Word on File: Proclaiming the Power of Christ.
Father Barron uses his YouTube channel to reach out to people and bring valuable lessons of faith alive by pointing out things that can be learned by watching popular characters of movies and television shows.
Copyright © 2012 Father Robert Barron
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.