I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. At home, my bookshelf contains about the same number of novels as your local library. Some of them are classics, books whose titles everyone has heard. Others are pretty obscure, novels that came out during a certain trend or a standalone story from an unknown author. As a Christian bookworm, I’ve learned God has a way of creeping into the pages of a good story, regardless of genre.

In the following months, I hope to share how certain novels tested and encouraged my faith in ways I never expected. This is the first entry in my Bookshelf.

Imagine you were trapped in a life or death situation. No one is coming to your rescue, and your only hope of survival is at the expense of strangers who may not be as morally conflicted about these events as you are. As a Christian, what would you do? You could refuse to fight and sacrifice yourself, but would you really give up your life for twenty-three strangers who were trying to kill you? Maybe you’d choose to fight in self – defense, but how could you claim to “love your enemies” if you end up resorting to murder?         

Perhaps there’s a more virtuous route. Why not fight to protect someone else, give them a chance to survive? Unfortunately, this path comes with its own set of problems. What gives you the right to decide who should live and who should die? As a Christian, how could you put one life over another?

These were the questions I pondered while reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The first time I picked up this dystopian thriller I didn’t put it down until three in the morning. The intensity, the suspense, it all just drew me in, and I can remember telling one friend it was the best book I’d read in years. Unfortunately, many other Christians didn’t share my admiration. Most argued (understandably) that a book about children killing each other was not something a Godly Christian should be reading.

For me though, The Hunger Games was a challenge to ask tough questions about my faith. I try my best to be a good Christian, but in all honesty I don’t know what I’d do if I found myself in the same position as Katniss or Peeta. By now, some of you are thinking that this is all pretty pointless. After all The Hunger Games is just a book, stuff like that doesn’t happen in the real world. Well, that’s not true.    

Only weeks ago, Iran sentenced a pastor to eight years in prison for planting Churches. China still restricts the activities and teachings of Christian citizens. Meanwhile, in India and Egypt many believers face mounting hostility that too often ends in death. The more I read The Hunger Games, the more I begin to see parallels between the children’s fight for survival and Christ’s battle for relevance in today’s world. To use Hunger Games terminology, we in the United States are too often like citizens of The Capital.

When it comes to our faith, we can be frivolous and petty. We waste our days arguing whether the KJV or NIV is the MOST accurate translation of the Bible, while for many the prospect of simply owning a Bible would be a miracle. We complain to friends that we can’t find a church that is just right for us, while in some places going to Church at all carries risk of violence or imprisonment. There is so much we in America take for granted, we cannot let our freedom of religion become one of them. If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, I encourage you to check it out and start asking yourself the difficult question,

How well do I live my faith?

*This article first published 2/11/2013