Critical Response to “The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity”

Posted on May 29, 2019. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Christian, Masters, personal, Privilege, Race |

A friend sent me this article on The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity. We both are believers in Jesus, both go to the same Acts 29 church, and both have studied critical theory through our Masters programs. By the time I had read the article and typed up my response, I figured I had enough information to do a blog post rather than just a text reply to her.

Please read the article first as I am only responding to what it says. If you would like to check out some of my other thoughts on anti-oppressive education, decolonization etc., please find the category links to the right. >

Things I liked/agreed with in the article

  1. I agree with the authors that critical theory can function as a worldview. I would say that I have seen some of my professors live, think, and act through this lens entirely. I also agree that without the gospel, this worldview falls short, as liberation from oppression will only truly come when Jesus comes back and we are made perfect in Him and through Him.
  2. I am so thankful that Shenvi and Sawyer chose to write out the metanarrative of Christianity. It is the gospel summed up in four statements when they say, “We are creatures made in God’s image, who have sinned against him, who need to be rescued through the atoning work of Jesus, and who are called to love both God and neighbor.” They seem to have a clear understanding of the gospel, and it shows when they speak about our identity as humans and our depravity as humans.
  3. I am happy that the authors asked their readers to be careful with language, and to do more research/reading before using the language… and sort of pretending they know what they are talking about. I did my Masters of Education with a focus on Anti-oppressive education, and I am still learning the language. These authors are far more educated than I am, so I definitely can’t say that the following disagreements come from a place of greater knowledge. In fact, my next statements come from a place of trying to be a critical thinker, and my own experience with how God used critical theory to change my life.

Things I disagreed/disliked in the article

  1. “In contrast, critical theory is associated with a metanarrative that runs from oppression to liberation: We are members either of a dominant group or of a marginalized group with respect to a given identity marker. As such, we either need to divest ourselves of power and seek to liberate others, or we need to acquire power and liberate ourselves by dismantling all structures and institutions that subjugate and oppress.” I agree that critical theory’s metanarrative is to move from oppression to liberation, but I don’t see how the first part is in contrast to Christianity; “to divest ourselves of power and seek to liberate others” is what I believe the Bible is calling us to do. In Philippians 2, we are called to imitate Christ by emptying ourself, humbling ourself, and to look to the interest of others. In Luke 4:16-19, Jesus quotes Isaiah- “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives… to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Verse 21 says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What did Jesus mean by that? He obviously didn’t mean that all oppression stopped in that moment. But I believe he did mean that THROUGH JESUS, that is what can happen. By looking at Jesus’s life, I do believe that freeing people from physical, spiritual, and societal oppression was part of his ministry, and as such, I believe that aspect of critical theory is not in contrast to Jesus’s call for us.
  2. “The points of tension are numerous. Invariably, we will be forced to choose between critical theory and Christianity in terms of our values, ethics, and priorities.”  I disagree, and this statement sort of rubs me the wrong way! When my eyes were opened to the oppression in this world, and my own White Settler privilege, I was not thrown into an anti-Christian worldview and mindset. In fact, I believe God was using my classes to teach me about his heart. He opened my eyes to my own privilege, and it caused me to run to Him, knowing how deeply I need Him and how broken we are. We need a Rescuer. There was definitely an acknowledgment that without activism we remain in a privileged position; I could undoubtedly show up at school and just learn about my privilege without doing anything about it. But as a believer, I knew that the Holy Spirit was the one that would work through me and produce fruit when fighting oppression. I wasn’t forced to choose between critical theory and Christianity, my priorities were being refocused through the work of the Spirit in my life.
  3. “Christians who embrace the paradigm of critical theory as a solution to racism or sexism often question a biblical understanding of gender roles, gender identity, sexual orientation, marriage, parental authority, and even the uniqueness of the Christian faith.” I feel like this statement should be referenced or backed up with research from a primary source.  I feel like I could just as easily say “Christians who take communion every Sunday often question a biblical understanding of gender roles, gender identity, sexual orientation and so on.” Is questioning these things even wrong? I am sure I questioned all of these things before I had ever taken a Masters class or learned what critical theory is. The Bible is our standard, period. That is where we go to find our identity, answer the hard questions, and we are under the authority of Scripture. But questioning some very real examples of what is going on in our world at the moment isn’t just for those embracing critical theory.
  4. “Critical theory claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their “lived experience” of oppression. Such insight is unavailable to members of oppressor groups, who are blinded by their privilege.” The authors disagree that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth just because they are oppressed. My question would be- don’t they have special access to “their truth??” Haven’t they experienced systemic oppression and a suffering that myself as privileged White Settler has never and will never experience? Isn’t this why Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack hits home with so many White Settlers because it opens our eyes to our innate privileges? Now, I might get eaten alive for inferring that truth is relative and that each person can have their own truth. In this circumstance I am not talking about the truth of the word of God, or that Jesus says he is the way the truth and the life. I believe these things!  But what I’m saying is that members of oppressed groups do live their own experience, and we do need to listen to and hear about the suffering they might experience. It is their truth, and because the systems in our society greatly benefit certain groups of people- male/White/straight/Settlers for the most part, members of privileged groups don’t share the same lived experience. I know for myself, I WAS blinded by my privilege; not to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but to the oppressed member’s truth and lived experience… Absolutely.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment with your thoughts below.


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Parenting: Introduction

Posted on April 22, 2017. Filed under: baby, Books, Christian, parenting, Parenting: Gospel Principles |

I am currently reading Paul David Tripp’s book called Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family.  We were given this gift when our daughter was

Photo 2017-01-15, 10 27 44 AM

Adelyn was dedicated Jan. 15, 2017

dedicated at our church. Now that I’m finished my masters, I actually feel like I have time to read it!  I will start reading some other novels as well, but I figured why not start with a parenting book while she’s young! Not everyone will agree or believe everything this book says, but I thought it would be good for me to blog my way through it and share what I am learning as I go. (Also a great place to post some of the pictures I have of Adelyn just sitting on my phone!)

Currently our daughter is just about 7 months old.  I started reading the book tonight, and though the chapter was already talking about behaviour, sibling fights, sports teams and academics etc. (which don’t apply to our current situation quite yet), I figured there’s no better time to learn about parenting then now. And sure enough! I was already convicted of some things in my heart that I feel I need to work on.

Chapter summary

The Introduction’s main point was that parents can either be ambassadors or owners. Tripp explains this as your worldview about your children; do you believe they are yours to own or is your job to ‘steward’ them as gifts from God?

“Ownership parenting is motivated and shaped by what parents want for their children and from their children. It is driven by a vision of what we want our children to be and what we want our children to give us in return” (Tripp, 2016, p. 14).

This is very similar to the marriage advice he gives in his book, What Did You Expect?
He said that we often use our spouse as vehicles or obstacles to get what we want. It can be the same with our children. It becomes a user/consumer mentality.

His alternative is ambassador parenting.  This is the view that our children are gifts from God and we don’t own them, but we steward them to the best of our ability.

“The only thing an ambassador does, if he’s interested in keeping his job, is to faithfully represent the message, methods, and character of the leader who has sent him” (Tripp, 2016, p. 14).

An ambassador parent’s job would be to try their best to reflect godly principles and messages to their children.

My take-aways

1) My identity does not come from Adelyn. Period.  “Owner parents tend to look to get


‘Auntie’ Ashley having fun with some Snapchat filters!

their identity, meaning, purpose, and inner sense of well-being from their children” (p. 17). Funny how I used to find myself struggling with getting my identity from my job!  Have a kid, and sure enough… that can be easily replaced by a little one.  Now, I know I can take great JOY in my daughter.  I can love how cute she is, how good she sleeps, how well “behaved” she is when she is tired etc. but this does not, and should not reflect my true worth. The point is, that if my worth comes from her appearance and behaviours, then I will be the most proud parent one minute, and the most discouraged, disappointed parent the next.  It’s the “Saviour” complex.  Looking to Adelyn to have her make or break my day is not a role she was made for.  Ambassador parents are “freed from asking family life to give them life because they have found life and their hearts are at rest” (p. 18).

2) I don’t have to dread Adelyn’s awkward older years. I am a primary teacher for a reason. I love the cuteness of kids ages 3-7. I find them adorable, funny, clever, and their


Photo credit: Laura Barberis via Flickr

imaginations are magical.  I’m not going to lie, I find 9-13 year olds kind of annoying. I do want to eventually teach that age group as I love that they are getting to be more independent and critical thinkers at that age.  (They also behave way better for their teachers than their parents)… but to be completely honest, I find them awkward and sometimes irritating.  My husband Jon and I have already joked about how those years with kids are going to be terrible.

This chapter totally convicted me of my selfish desire for my child to always be cute and funny for MY selfish wants. Owner parents “struggle with the crazy, zany phases that their children go through as they are growing up. They’re not so much concerned about what that craziness says about their children, but what it says about them” (p. 20). On the other hand, ambassador parents “have come to understand that parenting will expose them to public misunderstanding and embarrassment somehow, someway. They have come to accept the humbling messiness of the job God has called them to do” (p. 20).


Speaking of messiness…

If I am to honour Adelyn in every way that I can as her parent, I need to allow her to grow into the little human God has called her to be.  I can release her from living up to my expectations, and I can try my best to impart knowledge, grace, and love to her. She is already an awesome baby DESPITE me, not BECAUSE of me. I’m doing my best, but have already had so many parenting fails! I need to remember the truth and strive to be an ambassador parent.

Just for fun share time. I keep track of many of my parenting fails in a note in my phone. It keeps me humble 🙂

Parenting fail #1


First week of parenting: I thought breastfeeding was going great! I figured she was perfectly latched and that the milk was going, I don’t know, into her mouth?

Parenting fail #2- I spelled her name wrong on the invitation to her church baby shower. Oops!

Many more fails to come! Anything connect or resonate with you? Do you struggle with ownership parenting? Comment below and share your experience!

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I’m Sorry

Posted on June 19, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Christian, Church, cultural, Ed890, educational, First Nations, Masters, personal, Privilege, Race, reflection, Unsettling the Settler |

Chapter 6 of Paulette Regan’s Unsettling the Settler Within is all about Apologies. She says that an apology and/or testimonial exchange can be a decolonizing act. Her position as part of the TRC committee allowed her to sit in and listen to Survivor’s heart wrenching testimonies of their experience with residential schools. Although she was extremely moved, the interaction between herself and the Survivors was limited as she was working within the bounds of a government project.

“I am mindful that my apology, although heartfelt and sincere, was offered within the constraints of the ADR pilot project. My words were spoken in private within the context of a claims resolution process that, though more informal in nature, was still bound by legal convention” (Regan, 2010, p. 174).

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ADR via Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Regan obviously felt limited in her response to Survivors. She was honoured that she was allowed to be a part of those conversations, but her position with the government also hampered a full response. That said, she allows her readers to explore the idea of how Settlers (like her) fit into a testimony and apology context.


“Healing Walk 2014” Photo Credit: Jen Castro via Flickr

“Testimonial exchange may well be healing for certain people, and to some degree the very concept of healing has become analogous with decolonization. Within this context, one can talk about healing individuals or a nation. But the healing metaphor has been used almost exclusively with regard to Indigenous peoples. We have heard far less about the settler need to heal” (Regan, 2010, p. 175).

This paragraph moved me. I am not constrained to a title or a government position.  I am free to speak my mind (within limit) without legal ramifications. I have the freedom to explore my own thoughts and feelings that perhaps Regan didn’t. In reading this chapter, I have realized that I have been learning so much about decolonization over this last year, but I have never had the opportunity to apologize. So in honour of taking a step towards decolonization and acknowledging my settler need to heal, here I go.

I’m Sorry

This apology is going to start with a firm rejection of the “Canadian peacekeeper” myth.  If I am going to own and apologize for my White Settler side of Canadian history, then I need to do that while fully rejecting the “victorious Canadian Western Settlement history” that I grew up learning. From this point on, I am acknowledging that Canada is not a peacemaking country, and it never has been.

As a teacher, I need to apologize for working within and reinforcing a neo-liberalist society. I acknowledge how the institution of education (which includes me) often works directly against Indigenous ways of knowing. It inspires and drives capitalism, and I really don’t challenge this enough. When I have lunch dates with my students, and I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, many tell me about dream jobs that will make them rich. I wish I could say that I used these opportunities to challenge and reveal the downfalls of capitalism and how it affects my young students.


“Dr. Ladybug” Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

As a believer in Jesus, I am sorry for what people have done in the name of Christianity. I am so sorry that people who said they loved Jesus actually just loved power and control. I am sorry that the residential schools were run by Christian churches. I am broken over the idea that people thought Aboriginal students needed to be stripped of their culture, their language, their heritage, and their families so that they could be “Christian.” I am grieved that many people will never be able to trust Jesus’s words in John 10:10 that say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

IMS cemetery

“Mary’s Indian Residential School and cemetery” via National Post

I apologize for all the times I was a bystander. If you asked me about some of these topics a few years ago, I would try to convince you I was innocent. I was not.  No matter what level or depth of understanding one has on these issues, silence is a stance. Not asking more questions is a stance. Not digging deeper into why things are the way they are, is a stance… and a privileged one I might add. I have been a bystander to unjust acts, and there is no innocence there. Here, I am nothing less than guilty.

To all of the First Nations students who have gone to University, I am sorry for thinking that you were handed a free education, and that this wasn’t fair FOR ME. I am sorry for the times that I had misguided discussions about this and I used my privilege and ignorance to speak hurtfully and perpetuate very racist, uninformed ideas. I wish I would have known some of the Treaty misconceptions  earlier. I’m sorry that it took me 28 years to even start this journey.


First Nations University of Canada

I am painfully sorry that I ignorantly tied poverty, drug abuse, homelessness and other social issues to race. I can’t believe I am capable of simplifying so many huge interconnected social issues and reducing them to a biological factor of the colour of someone’s skin. Here I must apologize for not seeing how the systemic racism has been initiated and then preserved by White privilege… my White privilege.

I know that I could continue. There are many things I am learning daily that I feel like I need to ask repentance for. But in this moment, I am going to stop; I’m not going to ask for forgiveness. I’m not going to expect forgiveness. This apology is not a way to relieve White guilt. This apology was not made so that I can feel better and then move on.  In fact, I don’t plan on “moving on” any time soon.  This apology is a way to take hold of the responsibilities of Settlers. This apology is to shift the obligation of reconciliation from the shoulders of First Nations people onto the shoulders of Settlers. This apology was a way for me to Unsettle the Settler Within.

unsettling the settler


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The 3 best blog posts I’ve ever read.

Posted on October 3, 2015. Filed under: Blog on Blogging, Christian, Ed800, teaching and learning | Tags: , |

There are so many influential blog posts out there. Probably millions. BUT if I were to choose my top three blog posts that have made the biggest impact on my life so far, it would be these three. I am going to summarize them, critique them a bit, and tell you how they have impacted my life.

  1. A Professional Blog Post 

Dear Parent: About THAT Kid by Amy Murray

What It’s About: This is a blog post that has gone viral in recent years. It has showed up on my Facebook wall, I have seen it tweeted about and newspapers like the Washington post and Huffington Post have picked it up. It’s just that good. This post is about THAT kid.  The kid who bites, hits, and has to sit by the teacher’s feet during carpet time. You know the one. We all know the one.  Amy talks about how her hands are tied as a teacher when it comes to talking with parents about THAT other family’s child. She enlightens her readers about the struggles of THAT child’s home. She shares some heart warming moments about THAT child’s life. She explains how she isn’t able to tell parents what she is doing “about” that child, but that if their child ever becomes THAT child, she promises to keep their privacy and information confidential.


Photo credit: Natesh Ramasamy

Why I like it: I joined a Twitter chat called #kinderchat my first year of teaching.  Amy @happycampergirl was one of its moderators and I learned so much from her.  I even stopped by her classroom for a visit that year when I was in Calgary. She is awesome. This post is an outflow of Amy’s pedagogy and beliefs. It challenges all of us as teachers, parents, and gossipers! It hits home with every single one of its readers.  The comments on her blog have gone over 1000. She has parents who consider their own child, THAT kid. They thank her and tell stories of THAT kid becoming a successful adult. This post gives people hope and it gives me perspective as a primary teacher.

What it makes me think about: When I was taking part in the #kinderchat world, some of us would reference “THAT kid in Kindergarten.” Someone ended up making a hilarious twitter handle @THATkidinkinder which would speak from THAT kid’s point of view. Maybe you just need a primary teacher’s sense of humour (because my husband didn’t think the tweets were that funny), but I remember loving them and laughing so hard.

Jim Benton Crayons

Photo credit: Jim Benton

More seriously, Amy’s blog post makes me think about one of my own blog posts I wrote when taking part in a #kinderchat challenge. The challenge was: “Imagine that a parent of one of your students, stumbling around the internet, happened to land on your blog. Not your class blog with your cute photos of all your munchkins and their amazing brilliant work. Your personal teacher-reflection blog, the one where your intended audience is mostly other teachers. Pretend that parent managed to figure out exactly who you were, and that you were their child’s teacher. What would you want that parent to know? What would you say to that parent? Write the letter that you would want that parent to read.” I remember really enjoying this blogging challenge as it made me really question what I was posting. It challenged me on what digital citizenship looks like for teachers. Is what we post safe? How are we protecting or putting ourselves out there? We probably shouldn’t be naive enough to think that parents AREN’T Googling us and reading what we write, right? After all, Henry Jenkins says that it’s the average citizens who have the ability to seize control over the media technology of today.

What I think this blog post could do better: The only thing I think Amy could have done to make this post better, is give credit to the teddy bear image she used in her post… unless it’s her teddy bear picture? Since her post went viral, she wrote an addendum at the bottom asking for others to give her credit or ask for permission before using her post. This is a completely valid request, and one that should be listened to. That said, unless she is the teddy bear’s photographer, maybe the person who took that picture would want credit given to them as well.

2. A Thoughtful Blog Post

Police and Media… A Wife’s Point of View by Brittany Klassen

What It’s About: Brittany writes a touching piece about what it’s like for her to watch police featured in the media. It’s different for her after all, as an RCMP officer’s wife.  She eloquently describes what it’s like to watch live video of shootings on repeat. She explains her horror at seeing images of police cars with bullet holes as headlines. She challenges how media outlets now allow here-say into their stories when explaining the character of a criminal.  She explains how police officers are not allowed to comment publicly on a criminal’s character, and she feels it undermines what the police have to say. In a culture where there are many articles, videos, and blog posts that offer information to distrust police, she sides the other way and examines the absolute humanity of police officers. She questions if the media has just jumped on an already visible distrust of police, or if the media is fueling our society’s distrust for police.


Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey

Why I Like It: I like how Brittany “takes on the internet” in supporting police in a digital space that hasn’t been very fond of police over the past few years.  I like how she has brought a voice to police officers and their families.  She states how the police can’t publicly comment on lots of these issues because they are bound by their jobs to secrecy, privacy, and professionalism.  In their silence, she speaks up.  Her post emotionally connects with every person who has ever loved someone in a first responder’s uniform. She even has to defend her post because of all the hate she received in the comments.

What It Makes Me Think About: Her post makes me think about Danah Boyd’s article on Social Networks as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications. Boyd’s article talks about the structural affordances of networked publics. Boyd says, “Networked technologies introduce new affordances for amplifying, recording, and spreading information and social acts.” This is exactly what Brittany was talking about. With the technology that is out there, someone with a cell phone camera can videotape a shooting/bombing. That type of video is “juicy” for the average consumer and so bigger media outlets pick up the video and it is now amplified through standard media outlets and social media outlets. Boyd suggests that networked publics become “persistent, replicable, scaleable, and searchable.” Boyd even says “what spreads may not be ideal.” Brittany is furthering this idea by suggesting that it’s not just the physical video or image spreading that isn’t ideal, but perhaps an ideology.

What I Think This Post Could Do Better: I think Brittany’s post is very well written, and very emotionally engaging. I admire her for taking a stance on what she believes strongly in, and standing up for her fellow RCMP members, friends, and family.  What I think she could have done better was tried to see the other side of the argument a bit more openly. She definitely admits to being biased in writing this post, but in light of what has come out in the media in regards to police brutality, I think this post might have been a place to gently address it. She speaks to the humanity of the police officers, but what this post may be missing is the humanity in all victims; victims of racism, victims of criminals, victims of police brutality, and all of the families hurting behind any of those senseless acts. All in all, I know her post has touched many, and I am thankful I am included in that number.

3. A Personal Connection Blog Post

In God We Trust by Jeremy Echols


Photo credit: Anna

What It’s About: This blog was written right after Obama became president of the United States. Because Obama is a Democrat, many American Christians were upset over the election results. Not unlike Canada, different religious organizations tend to vote for certain political parties and the line between church and state is sometimes blurred. Jeremy Echols, being a Christian himself, basically calls out the American Christians and reminds them about what the Bible really says about governing authorities. He quotes verses like Romans 13:1 that says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” He reiterates to Christians that the Bible says it is God who gives humans authority, and He is in charge, so stop freaking out if “your guy” didn’t become president.

Why I Like It: I like this post because it made a huge impact on my life. I stumbled across it shortly after the American election in 2008, and I was so impressed by his wisdom in this matter, I commented on the post.  I said, (typos and all)

“Hello! I am not from the Us, but Canada and I just want to say I am so pleased to hear you faith in the One who does control elections. Thank you for quoting scripture and bringing it back to God… because when it comes down to it, He is the one who gives men and women the authority. Thank you for blessing my heart today”

Jeremy was encouraged by my comment and ended up adding me to Facebook. At the time, he was interning at a church in Seattle, and over the next few months he really challenged my husband and I with what church looked like for us.  We had a friend’s wedding in Seattle the next spring, and so while we were in Seattle, we met up with Jeremy and his wife for dinner. We talked about God, church, church politics, and what it looks like for both of us in our respective countries.  My husband and I had driven to Seattle, and it was Jeremy and his wife who gave us a lot to talk and pray about on the long drive home.  In fact, it was enough, along with God’s prompting, that when we got home, we decided to switch churches and start going to a new church plant in the city called The Compass.  We have now called The Compass our home church for the last 6 years, and we couldn’t be happier. It has challenged us with what it really means to “be a Christian,” and though we are far from having all the answers, we have loved journeying with others who are trying to figure it out too. It’s hilarious because every time someone asks us how we ended up at such a small church like The Compass, I have to start with, “Well it all started with this blog about Obama…”

What It Makes Me Think About: The Canadian federal election is coming up, and I have been seeing many Facebook and Twitter posts about the election, and it has come down to some very disgusting campaigning. I loved this one article I read that pointed out all the religious intolerance, and how people are so willing to share and “like” racist articles that aren’t rooted in truth, but rather fear and misunderstanding.

Photo Credit: Kat Angus Buzz Feed Canada

Jeremy’s post has me thinking that I might be writing a similar post to his after this election if “the right party” doesn’t get in.  I know people are going to be mad no matter what the result, so maybe I should just start writing the post now! The thing I love about democracy is that whoever gets voted into power after the election on October 19th, will be our new leader.  It is our job as citizens to respect and support our government no matter what the party. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with all of the decisions, and it doesn’t mean we no longer have a voice, but the point of a democracy is that majority wins. After October 19th, we need to adjust our attitude and think about ways that we can help and support the government from the bottom up to make this country the best country it can be, regardless of who voted for, or didn’t vote for.

What I think this post could do better: I really liked that Jeremy used some “in text” visual citations that drew attention to the main points. I thought this made the post easier to read.  What I think Jeremy could have done better was use some video or images to make this post a little more visually appealing. His title is engaging and obviously enticed me to find his blog 7 years ago, but perhaps some visuals could have enticed even more people.

Well folks, these are my top three favourite posts. What do you think?

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The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective Part 2

Posted on August 5, 2014. Filed under: Christian, Hunger Games, reflection |

If you have stumbled across this post, and you haven’t read Part 1, you can read that here. It might give you some context as to what I am talking about!

In this post I am going to elaborate on what ideas and themes in the Hunger Games I “reject” from a Christian perspective.

The first theme I see in the Hunger Games that I reject is the idea of “owing someone something/keeping score.” Early on in her life, Katniss was given loaves of bread from Peeta so that her and her family wouldn’t starve. She let this act of kindness hang over her head, and though she was thankful, she felt as though she continually owed him throughout the story. She wasn’t fully able to thank Peeta or even speak to him before the games, and then during the games, these feelings continued to surface.  When she finally took care of Peeta near the end of the Games and saved his life, she finally began to feel as if they were “even.”

At the climax of the story where the remaining tributes were forced to the Cornacopia, Thresh’s decision to let Katniss go was also based on the idea of “owing something.” Katniss had taken care of Rue, protected her, fed her, and ultimately honoured her in her death.  Thresh was also from District 11, and so when he learned that Katniss took care of Rue, he showed his appreciation by not killing her, but letting her go.  Katniss feels connected with Thresh in that moment, because she admits to knowing what it feels like to owe someone something, and so she understands his decision deeply. Once everyone’s debts are squared up, they leave each other knowing that they are now able to fight for their lives because they don’t owe each other anything.


Though many readers may connect with this theme, and even though I feel a sense of honour at what Katniss or Thresh did, I reject the principle behind it because it lacks the true understanding of grace or mercy. The idea of owing someone something, or making things even is the exact opposite theme from my first post- self sacrifice. The Christian gospel is different than any other religious belief for this very reason. Some religions say you need to do things, and follow rules to earn God’s favour. If you do this, then God will do that.  The gospel says you can do nothing to earn God’s favour; you already have it.  When Jesus died on the cross, he died completely innocent on behalf of the world’s sin.  He rose from the dead, conquering death (and therefore sin) and he now expects NOTHING in return.  Get that? Nothing. It is one of the hardest things for mankind (including myself) to understand.  Romans 10:9 says, “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Christianity only takes belief.  Technically, we owe God everything, we owe him our salvation, our eternal life, but there is NOTHING that we can do to even out the relationship.  We can’t do more, we can’t be better, because he will not love us more for trying harder.  God loves us SO much that before we were even born, He sent Jesus to die so there would be a way to have a relationship with the God of the universe. The problem with Katniss’s response to Peeta and Thresh, is that she will never be able to experience a deep peace.  If Peeta does one more nice thing, or saves her life again, she will continually feel like she will need to “earn her salvation” and keep things even with him. Though I often stumble with this concept of earning my own salvation, I am so thankful that as a Christian I can experience peace knowing that I am loved, accepted, and saved the way I am, and that I don’t have to earn my way into heaven some day.


The next principle I reject in the Hunger Games is the idea that the Capitol is a happy, joyful place. Sure they have great food, a plethora of clothes, trend setting fashions, and copious amounts of money, but we all know that the author wants us to see past that. The idea here is that the Capitol is meant to be a stark contrast from the districts, or more specifically, District 12.  The Capitol is made to look enticing and attractive, and it does, after comparing it to what the people of the districts have to face on a daily basis. The irony is that as Westerners (North Americans/Western Europeans), we ARE the citizens of the Capitol! Compared to the rest of the world, we are the fools who spend our money on outrageous things.  We are the ones that perform ridiculous procedures on our bodies, and talk about things that would sound atrocious to someone who struggles to find food every day.  So why I reject the idea that the Capitol is actually a happy place, is because when I look around, I know that as a society, we AREN’T very happy.

capitol fashion

Even though we have “things” that are supposed to make us happy, we always end up needing more.  Our consumerist culture demands that we buy the newest and latest thing, and then marketing tells us that once we have it, we will be happy. But we all know that this isn’t the truth.  Go to a landfill.  Everything in there was once NEW. It was once shiny and precious as well.  When I look at the Capitol, I can compare it to sin.  When we chase after our own desires, it looks good… it looks REALLY good.  It might even feel good, taste good, even satisfy, for a time.  Nothing in our world was created to meet that deep need we have inside of us.  Ever hear of the God shaped hole in our heart? It’s not the most perfect analogy, but I know that it often rings true for me.  The analogy is that we have this God shaped hole in our heart that we keep trying to fill with iPods, clothes, houses, love, sex, cars, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses etc.  But we are always left wanting because the only thing that can fill that void in our life is someONE who is outside of this world.  Someone who doesn’t shift or fade or deteriorate. Someone who is beyond our human standards.  Someone who is so much greater, that no matter how much we have of Him, we will never have it all.  This person is Jesus. Even though Katniss and Peeta can appreciate the delicacies of the Capitol, deep down they know it is not satisfying.  They don’t fall into the belief that the Capitol is happy, and they don’t think that if they move to the Capitol, magically all their problems will go away. They seek a deeper peace, and a deeper rest than the Capitol has to offer.

The third idea I reject from the Hunger Games is when Katniss’s mom emotionally abandons her after her father dies. This is a sad but true human response to suffering. I can’t even say I fully understand the pain people experience when they lose someone close to them.  I have experienced death before, but thankfully I have never experienced someone in my immediate family dying. I can only imagine the deep suffering one must go through when this happens. That said, I reject the idea of shutting others out when death occurs. I believe God has put us here to live in community and to do life together. I think that the best part of the human experience is when we get to connect deeply with other people on this planet. Often times the deepest connections inter-personally happen when one or both parties have experienced a type of suffering, and they are willing to share that burden with the other person.  I think that Katniss’s mom could have experienced more hope and healing had she let her daughters in after her husband’s death.  Though difficult, I think that we, as humans, need to reach out to others in our times of struggle. The times when Katniss experienced peace for her broken heart were when she was allowing Gale or Peeta to comfort her and walk with her on her painful journey. Solitary battles leave lonely hearts.

broken heart

All in all, there are few themes that I reject throughout the book.  I think Suzanne Collins has done an excellent job of maintaining a thread of hope throughout the story, even through the seemingly hopeless conditions Katniss found herself in. I only reject the above principles because through a Christian lens, I know there is a better and more hopeful way.  I don’t think that Collins should have omitted these themes because a lot of them helped to drive our protagonist, Katniss, into the circumstances she often found herself in. The dark parts of the text make for an interesting story, and an even more redemptive ending… Which I will talk about in my next blog post, part 3; The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective- what I “redeem.”

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The Hunger Games: A Christian Perspective Part 1

Posted on July 24, 2014. Filed under: Books, Christian, Hunger Games |

I had already seen the movie… and HATED it. I remember leaving the movie theatre disappointed in the lack of character depth and over cheesiness of the film. That said, I still went to the second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, and came out not hating it, but not loving it either.

I am a teacher, and so therefore I get the summers off. Even though I have to put up with all the sunshine, good weather, and extra sleep, there are some positives to having the summer off- I get time to actually read for enjoyment.  This week on Sunday, I started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

We were heading to the lake that day, and so I started reading it in the car.  When I was there, my aunt commented on the book, sharing that it’s pretty dark.  I hadn’t really thought it was that bad yet, so I kept reading.  It was holding my attention and interest, so I read all of Part One that day.  But something inside of me was nagging me to do a little more research. So before bed, I looked up some of the summaries and reviews of the book. I found out that later on in the book, there was going to be a graphic rape scene, and a lot of the book has to do with sexual content etc. I decided to stop reading it and save my conscience and mind the images that would most likely end up haunting me. (I don’t do well with that kind of thing.  Did I mention I teach grade one… and quite enjoy the innocence of it!)

On Tuesday, I went to my parents house as we were going up to the lake again. (Tough life, I know.) I ran upstairs to their bookshelf to see if they had any other books I could read.  Lucky for me, my dad got the Hunger Games trilogy for Christmas. I dove right in.  That was on Tuesday, and I finished the book yesterday…. which would be Wednesday. Sigh. Yes I’m a nerd.  But in my defense, it is very well written and has an excellent story line. The movie does not do it justice.

I was reading my Bible this morning and because the Hunger Games is fresh in my memory, I was making some connections from the themes in the book to Christianity. That, my friends, is where this post is coming from. I plan on posting what I receive, reject and redeem about the Hunger Games from a Christian perspective. Post 1 is what I “receive.”


The idea of Self Sacrifice: From the very beginning we see the theme of self sacrifice through the protagonist, Katniss.  We know that Katniss is constantly looking after her mother and sister by hunting in the woods illegally and providing for them before herself, but this is just a foreshadowing of what is to come by Katniss volunteering to die in place of her sister Prim, and the rest of District 12. I “receive” this idea because I see it paralleling Jesus so easily.  Jesus chose/volunteered to die in our place.  He loved us so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of us dying and going to hell.  He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice even though he knew what that outcome would be. Katniss didn’t volunteer thinking she would win, she volunteered knowing she would die.

i volunteer

Peeta is also a great example of self sacrifice.  The book tells the story of him deliberately burning his parent’s bread, so that he could run out and put it into Katniss’s starving hands. He was abused for his choice, but made it anyway. Throughout the story, Peeta continually is the depiction of self sacrifice. He constantly puts Katniss’s needs first, and we get the impression he has decided to put her well being before his own no matter what. This makes me think of how often Jesus did this in the Bible. His self centred disciples are constantly making the kingdom of God about themselves and their own kingdom, and though Jesus rebukes them, he continually loves and serves those he is with.  He never once chooses to put himself first; even when his followers hurt and abandon him.

I receive the idea of Evil: In The Hunger Games, The Capitol is represented as being evil. It is The Capitol that is causing oppression on the districts, it is The Capitol that is witholding food and forcing the districts to live in fear.  Gale and Katniss agree on this while hunting in the wilderness, and Gale even suggests running away from its reign. I “receive” this idea because in our world I also see oppression and evil happening.  I don’t blame some governing body or city, but I do blame sin.  All it takes is one look at the newspaper to know that there is something wrong with our world.  There is a disproportioned use of power.  There are deaths that are inhumane and preventable.  Something is just not right.  Though the Hunger Games is often considered part of “dystopian literature,” I see our world as being dystopian. In Genesis it says that the world used to be perfect until sin entered.  When Adam and Eve took that fruit, they allowed sin to enter the Earth, and more or less screw up everything that was good! Thank God that He had a plan to redeem this world and restore it! There are still many evidences of grace today where we can see a glimpse of that once utopia, and without those, I feel like we would all feel utterly hopeless. Fortunately I know that even though we are living in a very fallen and depraved world, there will be a day where Jesus returns to restore it to its former beauty.

forbidden fruit

The idea of real love: Though Katniss is a hard hearted character, the author allows us to see little blossoms of her true love, and one of these is Prim.  Katniss truly loves her.  She would do anything for her sister, even give up her life. She has moments of fondness for Gale, her mother, and even Peeta, but the audience knows that she truly LOVES Prim.  Because Prim is left behind so early in the book, we get to experience Katniss’s sisterly love again when it comes to Rue.  Rue is more than just an ally to Katniss; she becomes a sister. Though short lived, we see the fruits of Katniss’s sisterly love when she spends the night in a tree with Rue. Katniss has a peace that night that casts out all fear.  Her nerves are calm and she can enjoy the company of Rue without the heavy loneliness that had been following her throughout the games. 1 John 4:18 says, “there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear.” The idea of real, true love points me to the Lord.  When we truly experience the love of a heavenly Father, every fear and worry seems to get a little smaller and less significant. His love gives us a sense of safety that not even a human’s love can.

Furthermore, Peeta also reveals true love to the readers. All along, Peeta seems to be thinking about how he can love Katniss more.  His strategy before, and during the games, is always to keep Katniss safe and allow her to live. His love is what draws the Capitol’s sponsors in, and provides help for Peeta and Katniss when they need it.  Though Katniss behaves as though she loves Peeta, the Capitol, (and the readers,) always have their doubts about her true feelings.  Peeta’s love stands the test of time and circumstance.  At the end of the Hunger Games, when the announcer shares that there can only be one winner, killing Katniss doesn’t even cross Peeta’s mind, though we can’t say the same for Katniss. Katniss is Peeta’s “bride,” his love, and he is willing to die for her.  Again, this so clearly reflects Jesus.  He calls the Church his bride, and he loves the Church beyond measure. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Peeta was throwing his knife away, while Katniss was grabbing her bow to kill him. Jesus was giving his life away, while we run to sin that ultimately kills Him.

Does the book, The Hunger Games, have a clear message of the gospel? I would say no, but I do think there are elements of the gospel in the book. When we open our minds to receive these, we are able to take a beautiful story and let it strengthen our faith in God and what He has done.

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