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5 Ideas for Discussing Mockingjay with Teens: A Mars Hill Approach

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I recently sat down with Christian and homeschool mom Dana Cowherd and her son, Chris, for a discussion about The Hunger Games trilogy.  I felt Dana had quite a bit of wisdom to share on the subject so I asked her to put a few of her suggestions in writing.  I should preface her comments by saying Dana has chosen to let one of her children read the books and movies, while two younger teens she has not.


Mars Hill, also called the Areopagus, is the place in Athens mentioned in Acts 17 where Paul debated with Greek philosophers of his time.  He was so distressed to see the idolatry of the city that he went daily to the synagogue and marketplace to reason with whomever was there.  Paul began by stating what was true about the Athenians; they were very religious.  Then he used one of their own idol’s inscriptions, “To the unknown God,” as a way to introduce them to the one true God.

Paul’s concern for the people of Athens and his approach at Mars Hill is helpful for us today as we and our children wrestle with issues of our culture. While we do have to exercise caution as parents, we can also recognize the brokenness behind the culture’s practices and entertainment, confronting them with the compassion and hope of Christ, as Paul did.


With that in mind, here are a few of my suggestions:

1) Know If Your Teen Is Ready. I would recommend HG only for high schoolers who have the spiritual maturity to evaluate the story in light of a biblical worldview.  Even with spiritually mature teens, I would be cautious with those who are particularly boy/girl crazy.  The romantic element of HG carries through the entire trilogy.  It is morally blurry at best and may encourage teens to be more accepting of cultural norms of dating.  For example, Katniss and Peeta “sleep together” and though “nothing happens,” the implication is it’s okay.

2) Read the Series with Them.  If you allow them to watch the movies, watch right along with them.  It is so important to become familiar with the books, music, movies, and friends that capture our teens’ hearts.  Even spiritually mature teens who recognize the anti­-biblical worldview of HG need the practice of discussing the specifics of what they see in the story and its characters.  They need your guidance, mom and dad!  Preteens could be included to participate in and benefit from these discussions simply by having an understanding of the narrative arc of HG.

3) Discuss the Gospel As Our Foundation for Truth and Morality.  Work together to find ways to bring the gospel into discussions about HG so that you and your teens are ready if you have the opportunity to talk about it with non­believers (or even non-­thinking Christians).  As Paul did in Acts, start with what is true or good in the character or story, then lead to why the goodness is lacking a foundation.  For example, the hero Katniss is self-­sacrificing and loves her family, whom she cares for diligently.  However, Katniss also has no internal compass and virtually no one outside herself to whom she looks for wisdom.  Where does her self­-sacrificing love for her family and others come from?  On what is it based?  What is her purpose beyond surviving the games, beyond providing for her family, beyond her confused relationships with Peeta and Gale?  How is this different from a Christian’s foundation for truth, morality, and how we treat others?

4) Show Why the Gospel Solves Our Problems.  Use questions to introduce why the gospel makes the critical difference in how we as Christians view life. The gospel tells us there is purpose and meaning in everything. God’s Word and Christ’s work is a basis for all the good that we do and the love we have for others.  He came to the arena of this world to obey the Law perfectly for us. Though without sin, he was willing to suffer and die “as a lamb led to the slaughter,” paying for the sins of his people. Then he rose from the grave, overcoming our last enemy, death. His resurrection showed that those who are in Christ will also one day rise again to an eternal life of perfect joy, perfect peace, perfect love. That’s a story worth fighting and living for! And unlike Mockingjay, it’s a story whose ending is overflowing with hope.

5) Be Bold in Christ!  Finally, remember that we don’t trust in our own ability to share the gospel well. We trust in the faithfulness of God who sends out his Word with power to accomplish his will! Peter mentions this very thing in Acts 17:32.  When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

The Mars Hill approach is applicable to any book, movie, song, or idea you and your teens may be wrestling with.  The purpose of engaging others in discussions of cultural issues is never to win an argument or to prove your point.  Is it simply an opportunity to shine the light of the gospel into this dark world.


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