Ethos Education

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2: How does Christian faith influence understanding of morality in wartime?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of different Christian responses to war.
  • Awareness of Christian responses to Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on the factors that determine whether certain actions are morally right or morally wrong.
  • Analyse arguments about the morality of certain actions in a war-time context.
  • Analyse the concept of a Just War from a Christian perspective.
  • Analyse a number of Bible passages to determine possible Christian responses to violence.
  • Synthesise learning by rewriting a scene from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 to reflect a Christian perspective on the morality of actions taken in wartime.

Supporting Values Education:

The value of individual liberty is based on a belief that humans are created by God and are equally valuable to him. This lesson encourages students to consider how Christians resolve the conflict between respect for all people and the fact of a world where military aggression sometimes takes place.

STARTER:

Ask the students to vote on whether some or all of the following actions are always wrong, always right, or whether they depend on circumstances. After each vote allow a brief discussion for students to argue the case for how they voted, particularly for votes which were controversial or divided opinion.

  • Deliberately fouling during a game of football.
  • Punching someone in the face.
  • Shooting and killing someone.
  • Copying a friend’s homework.
  • Cheating in an exam.
  • Cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Stealing a laptop computer.
  • Stealing a loaf of bread.
  • Stealing from an old age pensioner.

Ask the students whether circumstances are always the main factor to determine whether something is right or wrong, or whether some things are just wrong regardless of their context. Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about whether times of war justify acts of aggression that would be unthinkable in peace time, and looking at Christian belief concerning what is legitimate in times of war.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Lionsgate 2015, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online. Explain that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is part of the resistance to an oppressive, violent state. In this scene she and some of her fellow rebels discuss strategy. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the concerns Katniss has about the implications of some of the proposed actions, and the counter-arguments that others respond with.

Start time:       0.6.40 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
End time:         0.11.41
Clip length:      5 minutes and 1 second

Ask the students why Katniss seems uncomfortable with the delayed second explosion that Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) are discussing.

The clip starts with Katniss sleeping. The first line is a voice over the tannoy saying, ‘thirty minutes ‘till touchdown. Prepare for landing.’ The last line is Katniss saying, ‘I, of all people, know that it’s always personal’. Cut after the bombs start to fall and the crowd start chanting in celebration of the bombs.

Introduce the concept of Just War, and give out the Just War worksheets. Explain that the idea of a Just War was developed as people attempted to reconcile the belief that violence against others was wrong, with the need to respond to other people who were perfectly willing to carry out such acts. In its modern form, the theory of the Just War involves fulfilling five separate conditions:

  • The war must be a defensive response to unjust aggression.
  • There must be a realistic chance of success.
  • There must be some proportion between the costs and the post-war settlement.
  • Only military targets can be chosen.
  • The force must never be an end in itself – it must be for a specific purpose.

To reinforce the learning, ask the students to complete the two tasks on the worksheet (this could be done now or later as a reminder for students).

Discuss how the various actions proposed by the rebels compare with the doctrine of the Just War.

Ask the students if they think that Christians would be likely to agree with this criteria for establishing whether or not a war is legitimate. It is worth pointing out that this is a subject which Christians have always disagreed about. The first Christian form of the Just War theory dates back to Augustine in the 4th Century. Prior to the conversion of Emperor Constantine (also in the 4th Century) the vast majority of Christians refused to become soldiers. Even today many Christian groups (such as the Mennonites and the Quakers) and individuals adopt a pacifist position and argue that war is always wrong, while many others serve in their nation’s armed forces.

Break the students into small groups and ask them to produce a list of reasons for and against agreeing with the principle of a Just War from a Christian perspective. Some groups may need some help in getting started, in which case you may want to feed some or all of the following ideas to them:

  • Jesus taught that people should love their enemies.
  • Jesus taught that people should turn the other cheek (i.e. not retaliate when provoked).
  • The Bible teaches that God hates injustice and wants people to stand against injustice.
  • Jesus taught that Christians should love their neighbour.
  • Jesus taught that peacemakers would be blessed.

Allow the groups to feed their findings back to the rest of the class and to discuss any interesting points that arise.

Give out copies of the Wars and Rumours of Wars worksheet, which features nine quotes from a Christian perspective which have some relevance to this discussion. Read through the quotes on the worksheet one at a time, asking students to decide in each case whether the quote seems to suggest a pacifist response to the problem of conflict, a Just War response, or some other response. You may want to remind the students that these statements are not necessarily contradictory, but are indicative of the tension between biblical demands for love and justice.

You could set students the task (in pairs or small groups) of ranking the quotes according to how strongly they support one position or the other (e.g. the most pacifist oriented quote being allocated number one, all the way down to the most pro-Just War being given the number nine). Once the quotes have been ordered, set the task of writing answers to the following questions:

  • Where would you place yourself on this scale?
  • Is it more important to love those who don’t show love and tolerance to others, or to protect the innocent from aggressors?
  • Prepare a response to this issue that you would be willing to defend in front of the rest of the class.

Here are the quotes from the worksheet:

‘You have heard people say, “Love your neighbours and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you.’
Jesus, Matthew 5:43-44

‘God blesses those people who make peace. They will be called his children.’
Jesus, Matthew 5:9

‘When you hear about wars and riots, don’t be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn’t the end. Nations will go to war against one another, and kingdoms will attack each other.’
Jesus, Luke 21:9-10

‘Obey the rulers who have authority over you. Only God can give authority to anyone, and he puts these rulers in their places of power.’
Romans 13:1

‘Try to live at peace with everyone! Live a clean life. If you don’t, you will never see the Lord.’
Hebrews 12:14

‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.’
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (abridged)

‘The purpose of all war is ultimately peace.’
Saint Augustine

‘Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.’
Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

‘They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.’
Micah 4:3

All quotes are taken from the Contemporary English Bible.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to put themselves in the place of a member of the resistance in the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Have them rewrite one or more of the scenes from the film, framing the discussion about whether or not certain strategies are morally acceptable from a Christian perspective.

YOU WILL NEED:

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