August 13, 2013

PHONEY-BALONEY ETHICAL DILEMMAS:

CHRISTIANS AND THE HUNGER GAMES (DOUGLAS WILSON, 23 MARCH 2012, Credenda Agenda)

In short, when you have the privilege of setting up all the circumstances artificially, in order to give your protagonist no real choice about whether to sin or not, it is a pretty safe bet that a whole lot of people in a relativistic country, including the Christians in it unfortunately, won't notice.

As the book progresses, the ethical problems are effectively disguised. The first way is by having a number of the wealthier districts send tributes who are semi-pro. In other words, they are not reluctant participants, but are eager for the glory that attends winning the games. When that kind of guy comes after you, everything is self-defense. Then there is the fact that there are a bunch of them out there killing each other, and Katniss doesn't have to do it. And the third device, and the one that keeps you turning the pages, that the author does not reveal whether or not Katniss will be willing to kill when it gets down the bitter end, and her opponents are innocents like she is. In other words, you have a likeable protagonist who is fully expecting to do something that is perfectly appalling by the end of the book.

There is a twelve-year-old girl named Rue that Katniss teams up with, and there is an expectation that later in the games the alliance will be dissolved . . . and you know what will happen then. Rue is the same age as Prim. There is a boy from her own district named Peeta who has been in love with Katniss forever, and who gave her family a loaf of bread a number of years before. Is he going to kill her or vice versa? I hear that spoilers are supposed to be bad, so I won't tell you what happens.

The Capitol is hateful, and cruel, and distasteful, and obnoxious, and decadent, and icky . . . but not evil, as measured against any external standard. The Capitol is to be disliked because the Capitol is making people do things they would rather not be doing. But nowhere is there a simple refusal. There is a desire to have it all go away, but everybody participates with an appropriate amount of sullenness.

The story is told with enough detachment and distance that you feel like the participants really do have to cooperate. Resistance is futile . . .

But think for a moment. Someone tells you to murder a twelve-year-old girl, or they will kill you. What do you do? Suppose they give the twelve-year-old girl a head start? Suppose they give her a gun and tell her that if she murders you first, and she will be okay?

This is what situation ethics specializes in. Suppose a woman is in a concentration camp, and she can save her husband's life, or her child's life, through sexual bribes given to the guards. What should she do? Suppose you could save one hundred thousand lives by torturing someone to death on national television. What should you do? The response should be something like, "Let me think about it, no." As Thomas Watson put it, better to be wronged than to do wrong. It is not a sin to be murdered. It is not a sin to have your loved ones murdered. It is not a sin to defend your loved ones through every lawful means. But that is the key, that phrase. Every lawful means only makes sense when there is a law, and that only makes sense when there is a Lawgiver. Without that, everything is just dogs scrapping over a piece of meat. And once that is the framework, there is no real way to evaluate anything. The history of the Church is filled with families being martyred together. Survival is not the highest good.

Back in the Cold War, a joke was told about an admiral who was inspecting a destroyer, and was making the rounds while they were out at sea. He came upon a lookout, a lowly sailor, standing there with his binoculars. "Lad," he said, "what would you do if a Russian destroyer appeared on the horizon there?" "Sir," the man said, "I'd nuke 'em." "Oh," said the admiral. "What would you do if ten of them appeared?" "I'd nuke them too, sir." "I see," said the admiral. "What would you do if the whole Russian fleet appeared there?" "I'd nuke them all, sir," came the reply. "And," the admiral said, pressing his point home, "where are you getting all these nukes?"

"The same place you're getting the Russians, sir."

When you are imagining some kind of scenario, it is easy to construct one exactly to the needs of your plot, and the sub-creating author can create a world in which it is not true that "God will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to bear." Your tributes are in the arena with a command to kill or be killed, and in this place it is not true that with every temptation there is a way of escape. For faithful believers, the way of escape might be martyrdom.

And the Daughter Judd was appalled by our review?

Posted by at August 13, 2013 4:56 AM
  

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