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Pastors find religious themes in 'Hunger Games'

CIT pastors

Credit: Contributed

Andy Langford is senior pastor at Central United Methodist Church in Concord. His daughter, Ann G. L. Duncan, is a pastor at Hoyle Memorial United Methodist Church in Shelby.

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CONCORD, N.C. -- As those who have read the “Hunger Games” trilogy begin to compare Friday’s movie release to the literary version, a local pastor has another take on it.

Andy Langford, senior pastor at Central United Methodist Church in Concord, has written and published a paper entitled, “The Gospel According to ‘The Hunger Games’ Trilogy” with his daughter, Ann G. L. Duncan, a pastor at Hoyle Memorial United Methodist Church in Shelby, N.C.

The paper outlines religious themes Langford and Duncan found in the trilogy.

“We don’t claim these are Christian books per se, but there are religious themes,” Langford said.

The trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, is set in the fictional, future version of North America and features the protagonist Katniss Everdeen. The movie that will be released Friday is based on the first book.

In the first book, Katniss volunteers to compete in an annual event, the Hunger Games, in her sister’s place. The Hunger Games is a competition between 24 youth, a boy and a girl from each of the 12 “districts” the nation is divided into, and the winner is the one who outlives the others.

Duncan began reading the books when her husband, a high school history teacher, noticed his students reading them and told her about them.

Duncan then told her father about the trilogy over the holidays in 2011, and as they began to discuss the books, they saw some religious themes in them.

“I think the main point of the book is the issue of sacrificial love,” Langford said. “In a world where many people do not think it is possible, (Katniss) showed it was.”

Duncan said she believes the themes of social justice, love and hope are the strongest parallels to religion.

“Society was so bad (in the books), the rich versus the poor, and Katniss was always part of this group to better society,” Duncan said. “The Christian story we hear is one of hope and love, and hope and love is strong (in the trilogy).”

When Duncan and Langford decided to write a paper in January 2012 on these parallels, they knew it would take a long time to get published, so they decided to make it available on the Internet through an e-books distributor. The paper is currently for sale for 99 cents on

In the paper, Langford and Duncan write about the similarities of Katniss to Moses and Jesus. They write that Katniss is “an ordinary young woman placed in an extraordinary time and situation,” and follows a path similar to Moses and Jesus, beginning with her being born in the “underclass of society” and later by offering her life to enter the Hunger Games in her sister’s place, similar to how Jesus sacrificed himself.

They also write about her having skills behind her comprehension, like Moses and Jesus, and not playing by the rules of society, also like the Biblical figures.

There are other characters in the trilogy they say parallel those in the Bible, and they also highlight the theme of love and sacrifice in the paper.

The paper also includes recommendations for future studies and discussion questions.

Langford said the goal of the paper is to show a book and character many people like and say that there are parallels in Katniss’s story to Christian literature and other literature.

“(The goal is) to look at a book and then say, if you think Katniss is an interesting person, maybe you should read stories about Moses, about Jesus,” Langford said. “These guys had even better stories.”

Since their paper has been published, hundreds of copies have been sold, and Langford and Duncan have received feedback from all over the country, Langford said.

Duncan said she has also incorporated religious parallels from the trilogy into some of her sermons, and Langford held a discussion session at his church for anyone who read the books, and about 80 people showed up.

“We’re not trying to answer every question,” Langford said. “In some sense, we’re trying to stimulate conversation.”

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