If you haven’t yet read The Hunger Games, no worries: This post is spoiler-free.

I’m a latecomer to the Hunger Games bandwagon, and found about Julie Clawson’s book The Hunger Games and the Gospel: Bread, Circuses, and the Kingdom of God just days after blowing through The Hunger Games trilogy in 2 days. I respected Julie Clawson and her thoughts on pop culture and theology enough to promptly plunk down my $5, and was soon reading it on my Kindle.

In The Hunger Games and the Gospel, Clawson interprets The Hunger Games in light of the Christian faith, and specifically through the lens of the Beatitudes. While The Hunger Games is not a “Christian” book, the applications to the Christian faith are numerous. Ultimately, it’s a story about the power of hope, and love:

The good news that Jesus taught of the Kingdom of God offered tangible ways for how a world full of injustice and oppression can be transformed into one of hope—which was a message of good news back when Jesus first preached it and still is for us today. And it’s a message that resonates all throughout the imaginative narrative of The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is not the Gospel, or even an allegory of the Gospel story, but it reflects the good news, helping to illuminate the path of Kingdom living for readers today.

I liked The Hunger Games and the Gospel for its sheer originality and interesting take on The Hunger Games. The applications Clawson draws between the dystopic future of Panem and our current world is fascinating–especially for U.S. citizens, who may may have more in common with the citizens of The Capitol than we’d like to think. Clawson’s assessment is both convicting and encouraging.

I do think Clawson’s overlay of the Beatitudes onto The Hunger Games breaks down, damaging the book’s structure. I disagree with her interpretation of the Beatitudes (which is crucial to her text). Clawson evidently believes the Beatitudes set forth qualities we should have as Christians: poverty, meekness, mourning, etc. are blessed conditions.

But I have been greatly influenced by the interpretation that Dallas Willard sets forth in The Divine Conspiracy, in which he says that the Beatitudes are pronouncements of grace: the Kingdom of God is so great that even the poor (the meek, the mourning…) will see God.

I am not a theologian, and I may very well be wrong on this point. But regardless of your take on this passage, The Hunger Games and the Gospel provides truly excellent food for thought. I absolutely agree with Clawson’s assertion that “well-written fiction presents the reader with opportunities to make choices about the world and to interrogate his or her own society.” The dystopic future of The Hunger Games provides a safe place for today’s Christians to wrestle with the larger themes of love, compassion, and justice, and Clawson’s commentary will help them do so more effectively.

Final assessment: The Hunger Games and the Gospel: Bread, Circuses, and the Kingdom of God is a worthwhile read for any Hunger Games fan.