Thursday, March 22, 2012

Better than the Hunger Games

A book about The Hunger Games that is better than The Hunger Games!

Yes,  I'll say that again,

"A book about the Hunger Games that is better than the Hunger Games!"

I read volumes 1 and 2 in the Trilogy of the Hunger games, December 2009 - over 2 years ago.  I was impressed by Katniss as the primary character, and I value the post-apocalyptic genre in general.  But did not think too much about the books overall, and I did not become a fanatic enough to need to read the 3rd book in the trilogy whenever it did come out.  (And, I still have not read the 3rd book.)  (In fact, while I blog about most of what I am reading, it appears The Hunger Games didn't even get a footnote in my blog.  I think probably because I did not think the books merited my public engagement - who knows.)

I noticed the "buzz" this month about the soon to be released film based on the books - The Hunger Games.  A few months back I noticed a wise friend, Joel-Doug-Harrison, had made a connection in a blog post to a certain Julie Clawson.  I popped over to Julie's blog entries and realized she's at least as brilliant as Doug, so started following her online.  Lucky for me, because it turns out my life is the better for the connection.  Julie blogged about her book, just published as a kindle ebook:  The Hunger Games and the Gospel: Bread, Circuses, and the Kingdom of God

I'm not a fan of the genre of books that are "The gospel according to . . . ." - the Simpsons or Star Wars or Harry Potter or whatever.    I've seen enough of them published at Society of Biblical Literature meetings over the years and they seem to be much more about marketing hype than anything.  And, I always prefer the Gospel, to a marketed-new-book-supposedly-with-a-connection-to-the Gospel-that-supposedly-better-explains-the-Gospel, than the Gospels!

Despite the fact that I have not been impressed with "the gospel according to . . ." genre over the past decade, in the past few weeks I was impressed with what I was reading from Julie's blog . . . so thought I'd give her book a chance.  (At kindle prices, too, I wouldn't be out too much $.)

Julie's brilliance duped me.  She has not written about the Gospel according to the Hunger Games - but rather - the Hunger Games and the Gospel.

Clawson uses the Hunger Games to actually - aghast - illustrate the Gospel.


Do. not. get. me. wrong.

Clawson's book is not a retelling of the Hunger Games - nor a pedantic "Betty-Lukens-Felt-Set" version of it where she uses the Hunger Games to tell the story of the Bible.  Rather, Clawson tells the story of the Hunger Games and allows connected themes (where they apply) to frame the ethic of Jesus made explicit in the Beatitudes that orient the Sermon on the Mount.

In doing this, Clawson tells the story of the Hunger Games - and - adeptly, astutely, and adroitly tells - not just the story of the Gospel - but the story of the Bible - found in the Gospel's summary in the Beatitudes.

I do not want to say too much more here - as you should read Clawsons' book! - and you should know her book needs "spoiler alerts."  But, her book is not a spoiler - it is the dessert!   Her book is better than the trilogy.

I started this blog more for me than for anyone - to track my own reading.  I imagine only a few people read this blog routinely - and all of these people are friends from years of shared university-parish work.  So, to those of you who know me - this is for you:

  • Clawson reads the Old Testament prophets correctly, including a keen discernment of things like the Exodus, the Exile and the Post-Exilic period - even citing and discerning even Ezra and Nehemiah (all too many Christian's don't even know these books are in the Bible!)
  • Clawson gets the Gospel - and the parables, for sure.  She discerns their social-economic-political "bite." 
  • Clawson frames the Gospels (and the Hunger Games) in light of an informed discernment of 1st Century BCE and CE Judaism in a Roman Imperial age. 
  • Clawson cites and uses with skill, Walter Brueggemann (gotta love that man), Walter Wink, Richard Horsley, Wes Howard-Brook, Jurgen Moltmann, Barbara Brown Taylor, and N.T. Wright!
  • Clawson incorporates an informed understanding of International and trans-global issues from Burma to Liberia to Syria (in as recent as 2011 issues) to U.S. policies with Native American Indians in American Colonial days. 
  • Clawson is the only person I know, besides my wife, who as a matter of fact, knows who Leymah Gbowee is  - and what the U.S. National Day of Mourning is! 
I don't really care if you read the Hunger Games.

I don't care if you go to see the movie.

You should know the basic issues of the Hunger Games "phenomena" right now - that is shaping the culture of many people - young and old - and with worldwide scope. 

And, because Clawson helps us discern the Gospel - and our place as Americans in the 21st Century in light of the Bible and the Gospel - you should read Clawson's book.

If you work in a University campus and want to get her in your chapel - I'm telling you, make your appointments now - she's going to fill up.

I hope Julie accepts my Facebook Friend request - and I hope I get to meet her sometime in person.  We have tons in common - and I could learn from her writing skill, for sure. She is way more articulate than I am.  Imaginative, insightful.  Fantastic.

Thanks Julie! 

Perhaps sometime we can explore further the themes of a Girardian Hermeneutic connected to the power of nonviolence in the Gospel - as the ultimate form of victory.  Adam Ericksen at the Raven Foundation has captured this important nuance.

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