Innocence in a Time of War, Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2, seems to ask, “is there innocence in a time of war?”

From the movie poster of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

From the movie poster of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Non- spoiler review – Mockingjay Part 2 is awesome. I laughed a little. I cried a lot. I left the theater satisfied and hoping to see it again on the big screen.

If you haven’t read The Hunger Games books or seen any of the movies, here is your primer. If you have, feel free to scroll down to The Spoilers.

The Hunger Games

Katniss, a teenage girl, supports her widowed mother and sister by poaching wild game, highly illegal in Panem, an Orwellian society. Her best friend is Gale. His father died in the same coal mine explosion as Katniss’ father. They hunt together, relying on each other for success.

Each year two names are drawn from the pool of teenagers in each of the 12 Districts of Panem. The Hunger Games are designed to demonstrate the Capitol’s complete control, pitting the children against each other in an arena until only one is left.

Prim, Katniss’ beloved younger sister is drawn. Katniss volunteers to take her place. The boy “tribute”, as they are called, is Peeta, the baker’s son. Peeta is the only other boy Katniss cares about. Shortly after her father died Peeta intentionally burned a loaf of bread so he would have to throw it away. Instead he gave it to Katniss. Peeta’s act of kindness saved her from starving to death.

Incredibly, Katniss and Peeta are the last two tributes. But rather than fight each other, they defy the Capitol and make a suicide pact. Before they can swallow the poison berries, both are crowned victors.

Catching Fire

Katniss and Peeta are on their Victory Tour, forced to continue the romance that built their popularity – and probably saved their lives – in the arena. President Snow blames Katniss for kindling the fire of revolt that is spreading in the districts. He puts the job of settling the crowds back down on her shoulders. It is an impossible job, especially for a guileless teenager.

It’s also the Quarter Quell. Every 25 years there is an especially brutal form of The Hunger Games called the Quarter Quell to remind the residents of Panem how painful revolting against the government can be. This year it is decided that the Tributes would be drawn from the victors from each district. As the only female victor from District 12, there is no question what will happen to Katniss.

Once in the arena she learns that the rebellion is more than just outer district discontent, but an actual movement. An intricate plot is in place to rescue the rebel tributes from the arena, but it is only partially successful. Peeta is among those left behind.

Mockingjay Part 1

Katniss wakes up in District 13, formerly believed to have been destroyed 75 years earlier. She learns Peeta and several other allies were captured by Capitol forces, and by now are certain to be tortured for information.

The president of District 13 is a woman named Alma Coin who has taken charge of organizing and leading the rebellion along with a former Capitol Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee. They ask Katniss to step up and agree to be the public face of the rebellion, since everyone has rallied around her anyway.

She is assigned a camera crew to film her and produce “propos”, propaganda that will be broadcast to the districts and into the Capitol.

Katniss does her best to rally the rebellion, and she is very good at it, until it becomes clear that Snow is having Peeta tortured. The weight of all the dead left in her wake, along with Peeta’s obvious pain, becomes too much for her. Finally, Coin and Heavenbee agree to launch a rescue party for Peeta. He is found and brought back to District 13, only to turn on and nearly kill Katniss with his bare hands.

Now, to the spoilers.

Do you remember M.A.S.H.? It was a show about war – but it was not a war show. I was 13 when the final episode of M.A.S.H. aired, and the reveal at the end, that Hawkeye carried the horror and guilt of the death of an innocent, has always stuck with me. M.A.S.H. showed us the horrors of war.

Mockingjay Part 2 is a movie about war – but it is not a war movie. In Mockingjay, during war good people do despicable things, and power hungry people to do anything they want.

Who is good?

In The Hunger Games universe, are the rebels innocent?

They are fighting a just cause against a definitively unjust and corrupt government.

Katniss would say no. She certainly would not call herself innocent, she feels the weight of death personally. But she holds out hope for her cause, until she finds her Gale and Beetee discussing a two-stage bomb that would lure family and medical staff into range before going off a second time. Then, when Gale proposes avalanches that will block thousands of of people inside a mountain fortress, many of them civilians, her faith in him is shaken.

“No one who supports the Capitol is innocent,” Gale says.

“With that kind of thinking you can kill anyone you want!” Katniss shouts back.

Katniss, Boggs and Gale navigate the Capitol. (Jennifer Lawrence, Mahershala Ali and Liam Hemsworth) Photo courtesy Lionsgate 2015

Katniss, Boggs and Gale navigate the Capitol. (Jennifer Lawrence, Mahershala Ali and Liam Hemsworth) Photo courtesy Lionsgate 2015

Obviously Gale doesn’t believe the citizens of the Capitol are innocent. But later he finds the lines aren’t so clearly drawn. Gale and a group of elite soldiers have been assigned to go with Katniss and her camera crew. They barely escape an ambush and are hiding out in a posh Capitol apartment. As he digs into sweets and delicacies that aren’t available in District 12 he says, “If I got to eat like this every day I’d believe anything I was told, too.”

(If that line doesn’t make you take stock of what you’re being told, you might want to put down the Kool-Aid for a while.)

Of the corrupt, there seems to be no end of the depths they will sink to.

President Coin states from the safety of her bunker in District 13, that she is willing to pay any price for victory – to Commander Paylor. It is Paylor leading the charge into District 2, who is expected to send her troops into withering gunfire.

Snow poisons one of his own ministers at his dinner table, then crows, “Our gamemakers will make (the rebels’) advance a celebration of suffering!”

Later, when Katniss’ group gets within a few blocks of his palace, Snow calls for an evacuation of an area of the city nearest to him, promising shelter in the presidential palace.

“(The rebels) have never known our comfort and sophistication. They do not understand us,” he tells them in a mandatory viewing broadcast. “They are coming to destroy us.”

But he doesn’t provide shelter. Instead he uses the wealthy refugees and their children as human shields.

I will not reveal any more of the movie to you here and now. It’s far too powerful an ending to spell out here.

When you get home from seeing Mockingjay Part 2, will you let me know what you think?

Are there any innocents in wartime? If so, who?

And, those of us who enjoy peace, what is our responsibility?

I write a lot more about the questions raised Mockingjay, and The Hunger Games, in my book Bird on Fire available through your favorite online book dealer.


Mockingjay, Peace comes from Violence

I always thought it was interesting that in the Hunger Games universe the governmental police are called Peacekeepers.

Have you ever thought much about what that means? Peacekeeping? At its simplest, peacekeeping is maintaining the status quo. At its worst – as in The Hunger Games – maintaining the status quo at any cost.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 3.17.22 PMPeacekeeping is also as simple as following the rules. The Peacekeepers who publicly execute rebels are simply following rules. The Peacekeepers who herd laborers into the forest and mow down those who try to run away, simply good soldiers. Peacekeepers keep their hands clean, doing their work from a distance. Peacekeepers do their violence and sweep the results away, so that nothing ever changes.

Those content to live under those rules live in peace. Of a sort.

But what about those who chafe under injustice? Yes. They could chose to live in peace. They could even chose to live in relative safety. For example, once any resident of Panem passes the age of 18 they are “safe” from The Reaping.

But would you be willing to live peacefully and safely under the terms of The Reaping?

Nations have been born from lesser reasons that that.

There is a scene in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 where President Snow is preparing to address the nation and discusses semantics with his speechwriter. The nation is in turmoil and open rebellion against his tyrannical rule is erupting in various districts.

“I won’t call them ‘rebels’,” Snow says. “I won’t legitimize them.”

What if, instead of his choice of “radicals”, we substitute “peacemakers”.

Calling rebels peacemakers seems a little backwards at first – but think about it this way. What happens when we make stuff? Before we can make bread we must destroy the grains of wheat. Before we can sew a garment we must destroy a bolt of cloth. Before we can build a house, we must first cut down trees. Creating anything is a messy, painful, exhausting process.

Cressida for youBeing a Peacekeeper is easy. Just follow the rules… keep to the status quo.

Being a Peacemaker? Now there is the challenge. Peacemakers go where the problem is. The Mockingjay example is the camera crew that follows Katniss out into the field. Katniss asks the director, Cressida, if she and the crew were forced out of the capitol. Cressida shakes her head no, “We all fled on our own. For this. For you.”

Peacemakers roll up their sleeves and feed the hungry. They teach people who have lived for generations in poverty how to make the pennies they have grow into dimes, and quarters, and eventually dollars. Peacemakers wade into the muck of the places where the homeless find shelter and give out toilet paper, wet wipes, and sleeping bags that turn into warm winter coats. Peacemakers design sleeping bags that turn into coats. Then they hire those homeless people to make more of them for others.

Peacemakers chose to inconvenience themselves for the betterment of others.

Is it any wonder then, that Jesus himself said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Want to read more from Jane about what we can learn about the Bible through The Hunger Games? You can order Bird on Fire at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or place an order through your local book store.

Oaks of Righteousness

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:3)

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)

Pastor Heather Boone let us into the darkened building of the Oaks of Righteousness Christian Ministries late on an overcast Thursday afternoon. We, my sons and I, were dropping off a plastic bin of toys and clothes. A small donation to the homeless outreach we’d heard about just a week earlier.

While the boys explored the dimly lit building on their own, Heather gave me a guided tour and an overview of just what Oaks of Righteousness is about.

We started on the lower floor of the mid-century modern, split-level, yellow brick building. Down a short flight of stairs from the entry are the main homeless outreach areas: a kitchen and dining room, food pantry, clothes closet, and storage room with a handful of shiny blue mattresses and shelves for the homeless to store their bedding.

This is the core of the Oaks of Righteousness winter ministry as the only unrestricted warming shelter in Monroe County. There are other emergency shelters, but they have restrictions: only county residents, or only men, or only women, and many have a 90 day stay limit. As a result, Pastor Boone explained, Oaks of Righteousness shelters people from as far away as Toledo and Detroit, and all corners of the county. They have also been able to shelter whole families displaced by tragedy – or as in an event last winter – the closure of a slum-lord’s apartment building due to lack of heat and running water.

This is also where they shatter all preconceptions of who is homeless. Of the 191 people seeking emergency overnight shelter, seven were mothers with children, 80 percent were white, many had cars and full-time jobs.

Last year as Michigan suffered through the harshest winter in decades, Oaks of Righteousness sheltered as many as 37 people per night. The warming shelter is only open during the cold months, starting this year on Halloween night when the temperatures dropped and snow was in the forecast.

A few of the bed-bug and body-fluid resistant mattresses the shelter will need to get the homeless safely through the winter.

A few of the bed-bug and body-fluid resistant mattresses the shelter will need to get the homeless safely through the winter. Each bag on the shelf has a guest’s name on it. It is washed weekly and is goes with the homeless person when they are able to move out of the shelter into a home.

The mattresses in the storage room right now are not going to be enough. The outreach is in the middle of replacing former mattresses with new ones that are bed-bug and body-fluid proof, Pastor Boone explained. Their goal is to purchase 34 new beds. Right now they have enough money for 24, but are waiting to order the mattresses when they can buy them in bulk for the best deal on prices and shipping.

At every turn, Boone demonstrated the same sort of careful budgeting. Every dime has been carefully invested in a ministry that doesn’t hand out help so much as offer a hand up.

That “hand up, not hand out” mindset permeates the outreach. “We ask them when they check in for the night, ‘How can we help you in your homelessness? How can we help you take the next step?'” Boone said.

We walked back up to the ground floor where a narrow room lined with windows fronts the sidewalk. We sat at a long counter facing the street, cozy tables and seating fill the space. This is OHOP, Oaks House of Prayer, is so more than just a free lunch program for 100 to 150 people a day.

Oaks of Righteousness is in Monroe’s “East End” – literally on the wrong side of the tracks. The predominantly white residents west of the tracks are afraid to enter the East End, Boone said, a fact I learned shortly after moving to Monroe several years ago. Then she turned the tables and explained that East End residents are also afraid. They are afraid to go downtown, just eight short blocks away, to the cute boutique stores and coffee shops. They didn’t know what to expect, so fear of the unknown keeps them inside the physical lines of the East End: a triangle roughly drawn by train tracks, the River Raisin and I-75.

So while feeding the hungry is a major goal of OHOP, the other is psychological. In the summer, when cafe tables with umbrellas fill the sidewalk, and free wi-fi and banks of charging stations are available, OHOP becomes a window into the rest of the world. It is a place for people who have been born and raised in poverty can get a feel for what it’s like to move freely in the world.

“All we ask is that we pray for them,” Boone said as a smile spread across her face. “Sometimes people we come in and say ‘I don’t need lunch, I just want my prayer to day.'”

The single-pane, metal framed windows do little to keep out the cold. But they do offer a view of the property Pastor Boone is praying to add to the ministry.

The single-pane, metal framed windows do little to keep out the cold. But they do offer a view of the property Pastor Boone is praying to add to the ministry.

Up another short flight of stairs is a classroom with tables, chairs and huge white Post-Its stuck up on one wall. Hand written in marker across the top of one page is “Bridges out of Poverty”. Offered by the Monroe County Opportunity Program, Bridges out of Poverty strives to teach residents of this particularly hard-hit area of Monroe how to break the bad habits that keep poor people poor. Skills such as buying ingredients and cooking from scratch, the value of a dollar and how far money spent on manicures and expensive shoes can go when invested elsewhere.

Pastor Boone pointed out two computers in the corner set aside for job search and education. Boone’s ministry also offers resume writing classes and has a “Dress for Success” program that provides work clothes for interviews and almost any sort of job their clients might land from business suites to steel toe boots.

Across the hall is a small but well appointed sanctuary where Pastor Boone preaches every week. Oaks of Righteousness is non-denominational, but Boone’s Wesleyan training is evident in her passion for the “least of these” in Monroe County, Michigan.

Like any charitable organization, the needs often outstrips the resources. The building is old and desperately needs upgrading. The large single-pane windows do little to keep out the Michigan winter cold, their panes rotted and patched with narrow strips of wood. Oaks of Righteousness is only serving a fraction of the need in the community, limited by the size of their existing building. Boone is confident, though, that God has greater plans. Through the drafty the church nursery window she can see the back of a closed Catholic church property complete with a beautiful sanctuary, rectory and school. Her entire face lights up when she imagines the transitional housing, education and back to work training Oaks of Righteousness would be able to offer through that space. But for now the purchase of St. Joseph’s is an item of prayer and faith.

More pressing are the immediate needs of bedding, clothing – especially for smaller men, pants sizes 30-36, and non-perishable goods for their food pantry.

Please consider supporting this amazing cause or a similar outreach near you. Pastor Heather Boone can be reached at Donations can be sent to Oaks of Righteousness, 1018 E. Second, Monroe, MI 48161.


The Mockingjay Part 1: Final Trailer

The Mockingjay Part 1 final trailer has been released – and it leaves me breathless.

Katniss walking through the devastated District 12. Peeta breaking down on camera, warning her even through Capitol-inflicted torture and mind control. Katniss’ first acts of war as the Mockingjay firing incendiary arrows at Capitol aircraft.

It’s all there and it is perfect.


Share the change with our Facebook Group

We have done some housecleaning on the Bird on Fire Blog – and added a guest room! Welcome to our new Facebook Group where you can share the change you are making in your community.

Has Bird on Fire inspired you or your group to collect canned goods for a food pantry? Has your small group raised awareness about homelessness or human trafficking? Let us know!

Share your story in the comments, link to your online story, or upload photos of your event. It’s all good as long as you are working to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.youreventgoeshere

Jaime the Very Worst Missionary and a cheap T-shirt

I know I’ve mentioned Jamie the Very Worst Missionary before, but in case you forgot, or weren’t paying attention, allow me to make a more formal introduction.

Jamie is… awesome. She is sassy, smart, heart-wrenchingly honest, occasionally profane, and always relevant. Someday I hope to meet her in person. I know at least we agree about coffee and that’s a really good place to start.

She wrote a post a few weeks ago called “Consumed by Thoughts of Consumerism.” And I have been consumed by thoughts of that post ever since. Maybe because I was wearing one of my very favorite cheap Target T-shirts that just seem to fit so right and cost so little. (In case you’re wondering, I asked if I could share this. She said, quote, “Please feel free :)” I even got a smile emoji! So, feeling special, we will move on.)


Consumed by Thoughts of Consumerism

Something is happening to me.
I want to say it’s bad, because it feels bad a lot of the time… but I think it’s actually good. Maybe even very good.
I don’t know. All I know is that I used to be able to go into a store, pick out what I needed wanted, pay for it, take it home, and enjoy it without a single irritating thought about where it was made, or why it was so cheap, or who made it. Clothes and shoes and jewelry and electronics and furniture and household goodies just seemed to appear, as if by some sort of hip, trendy, mind-reading magic, in the stores I frequent. All I had to do was have an idea about what I’d like to wear to a wedding and when I showed up at H&M it would be there waiting for me. If I thought about the perfect thing to hang above the toilet in the downstairs bathroom, I could run over to Target and, not only would I find it, it would practically jump into my cart and wheel itself to the checkout.
I totally look like this when I shop at Target. No, I don't

I totally look like this when I shop at Target. No, I don’t

I didn’t even have to try – I could always find just what I was looking for. Sure, sometimes I wouldn’t get it because I couldn’t afford it, but until recently, I’d never walked away from the perfect find because I wasn’t sure about the conditions of the factory it was made in, or the workers ages or wages.

I mean, I’m not a damn hippie. 
But, like I said, something’s happening to me.
I think it started on the busy streets of Cambodia, when I saw a parade of trucks carrying thousands of factory workers out of the city after a long day’s work. They were standing shoulder to shoulder, packed like lil’ smokies onto long, diesel driven flatbeds with wood slatted sides, bandanas tied across their noses in a vain attempt to keep the billowing smog and relentless dust out of their slight bodies. It reminded me of passing a cattle truck on a California freeway, and as one truckload of people after another went by, the labels in my cheap clothes started to make me itch. I wondered if any of them recognized their handy work in the Old Navy tank top I’d thrown on that morning, or if they could see their solid stitches in my trusty Target sandals. Seeing all this, I started to feel embarrassed by my own blissful ignorance, so I did the only appropriate thing…. I slid down as far as I could in the back of the taxi and avoided all eye contact.
That was like the first time I’d come face to face with where clothes come from. 
I felt like a child learning hamburgers are made out of cows and chicken is actually chicken, and then, quite suddenly, I was faced with a moral dilemma I hadn’t been prepared for. I knew my response would imply things about my character I wasn’t sure I wanted to even think about, let alone address, so I did the only appropriate thing… I tried to forget about it.
I came home from SE Asia and tried with all my might to forget everything I’d seen and every stupid idea I’d ever had about my role as a consumer and my consumer responsibility to the world and all of its inhabitants. I decided to forget, because averting my attention is the grown-up version of averting my eyes; if I’m not thinking about it, it’s not happening.
But it was useless.
I’d seen their faces, they’d seen mine, and for a brief moment, my comfortable retail world was invaded by the harsh reality of the people whose shoulders it rests on, people who are trucked in like cattle to make my every wish come true.
I’m telling you, the magic is gone. The fleeting tingle I used to feel when I came home with the latest, cutest, cheapest thing, has been replaced by something… significant.
I am consumed by thoughts of consumption.
“Where did this come from? How was it made? Did the person who made it get paid a fair wage? Is the person who made it a slave? Is the person who made it able to provide for her children? Wait, was this made by a child? Or, did the person who made this thing I’m about to buy arrive at the factory in the back of a truck, with wind whipped hair and a mouthful of dirt, and a dream of having her own one day but no hope of that ever happening?”
These kinds of questions haunt my every purchase. I swear, I can’t buy a box of tampons without wondering if I’ve made an ethical choice. I recently spent like 120 hours online trying to find a backpack for my 16 year old that was both ethically made and affordable enough for a pastor’s salary. And I’m really, really, really sad to say that in the end I got so frustrated I just ordered the first one he asked for and when it arrived directly from China, I did the only appropriate thing… I put it in my kid’s room, closed the door, threw all the packaging in the outside recycling can (so I wouldn’t have to look at it), and felt uneasy for a month. Actually, I still feel uneasy…
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel bad about buying stuff from China — I’m all for international commerce. The truth is, that backpack may very well have been made in an upstanding factory run by a kindly, benevolent old man who loves God and people and wants to make the world a better place. Like a Chinese Jean Valjean. …Though, it was cheaper than if I’d made a backpack myself using twine, garbage bags, and tree sap… so I doubt it.
Anyway. The point is, it’s a process and I’m trying. And I can’t not care about this anymore. The connection between the Western appetite for cheap goods – MY APPETITE — and the fact that there are more slaves worldwide than ever before is too blatant. So, even though I said I’m tired of caring, which I totally am, I haven’t been able to shake the idea that the way I consume is directly related to the way the world works.
Can I just be totally honest here? (Of course I can, this is my blog.) I’m probably not gonna start making my own clothes any time soon. Or ever. And, even though our family’s made a conscious decision to live pretty simply – which we mostly do – I still buy lots of stuff. I’m still a huge consumer. I still want to dress cute, I still enjoy a stylish space to live, and I haven’t shunned iPhones, or Netflix, or restaurants. I’m still doing all kind of consumer type things… I’m just trying to do them more conscientiously.
That’s the thing that’s happening to me. I’m becoming a consumer with a conscience…which really sucks, but in a good way.
Not gonna lie, using your consumer power wisely is a costly endeavor. It will cost you time, it will cost you money, and it may cost you a little bit of your pride, but I’m just gonna come out and say this, you can afford itYou can afford to do the research before you buy, you can afford to pay a little more, you can afford to shave off a smidge of that fat ego in exchange for the health and wellbeing of a person on the other side of the world. Or the other side of your country. Or the other side of the street. Our consumer dollars are a powerful thing, we shouldn’t waste them! 

Yellow Flicker Beat: Mockingjay News


The war has begun. Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, stands in front of flames set off by bombs from the Capitol from the upcoming release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

The war has begun. Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, stands in front of flames set off by bombs from the Capitol from the upcoming release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay


Yellow Flicker Beat, the first song from the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay soundtrack, has been released. The song, written and performed by New Zealand teen superstar Lorde, captures all the pain and rage the main character, Katniss Everdeen, would be expected to feel after two years of incessant exploitation and endangerment. The lyrics, which you can read here, are dark, moody and full of  images of fire and revenge. It is exactly the mental state we will find Katniss in when Mockingjay opens November 21st. Click play below to hear the song for yourself.