When the Story is Co-Opted

Watching TV a few nights ago, my wife and I were subjected to this little bit of commercial advertising.

My wife was appalled. She is a pretty big Hunger Games fan. She’s read all the books, she’s eagerly anticipating the release of the final film and she re-watches the previous movies regularly. Seeing characters she loves get pushed into a commercial endeavor did not sit well with her. We’ve actually taken to picking apart car commercials regularly at our house as they very often have little to do with the car and more to do with the image/status/feeling you get from driving said car. At first, I was amused at my wife’s discontent at the use of her beloved characters. But the more I thought about it and rattled around my limited knowledge of the Hunger Games story (admittedly I’ve only seen the movies) the more I realized how disjointed, forced and blatantly co-opted this whole commercial is.

Mainly, it seems that the people in District 12, where main characters Katniss and Peeta come from, would never be able to afford the luxury of a Chrysler, or any kind of car for that matter. Katniss had to beg for bread to feed her family. District 12 is the poorest of the districts and it’s people mine coal to power the Capital rather than warm their own houses. The quote from the commercial, “Where you’ve been is part of your story,” seems to suggest some kind of suffering on the part of Chrysler, ala that experienced by Katniss, Peeta and District 12. This is your standard “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality so popular in America. I don’t know about you, but Chrysler seems pretty blind to the context of their own story let alone the story of the Hunger Games. You might recall that Chrysler was given nearly $12 billion in bailout money from the government (*cough* the Capital *cough*) and was eventually bought out by Fiat. I don’t know who’s pulling who’s bootstraps here, but Chrysler sure didn’t pull their own. Chrysler does not seem to even understand their story.

I mean, seriously, they're riding chariots here. Do they even have cars in Panem?

I mean, seriously, they’re riding chariots here. Do they even have cars in Panem?

Oh, and of course there’s the atrocity of the Hunger Games spectacle, the violence of the rebellion and the general abuse of propaganda and story between factions in the Hunger Games that Chrysler seems to ignore.

It’s easy, and a little fun to pick at Chrysler for this blatant commercial co-opting of a much deeper story. But, this blog was not started to pick on Chrysler and our over-commercialized culture. How about we turn the microscope inward a bit?

How often do we co-opt the Bible, God’s story and the Christian narrative for our own purposes? One does not have to look far down their Facebook or Twitter feeds to see friends, pastors and political leaders using pieces from the Bible to seemingly prop up and round up support for their chosen cause.

Imagine if this Chrysler commercial had been cut with video of Samson getting his hair cut by Delilah and then him killing all the Philistines while blinded. Or David getting chased by Saul and then being crowned king. Or Peter denying Jesus and then him giving a heroic speech after Pentecost.

Or…imagine if they had cut it with Jesus dying on the cross and then resurrecting from the dead?

It’s easy, convenient and ego boosting to feel like the Bible is talking about us, our culture wars and issues of the day. This is what we do when we pick and choose verses to support our own claims. We propagandize the Bible when we pull stories out of context and fail to take in the breadth and depth of God’s narrative so that we might get a spiritual leg up on someone else.

Now, don’t get me wrong…the Bible has a lot to say about a lot of issues. But, we have to let the Bible say what the Bible is saying. There is so much depth to the Bible than just a political agenda. The Bible says much about living this life now rather than punching our ticket to the salvation of Heaven. The wealth of King Solomon can only truly be understood when compared to the apparent lack of wealth, and charity, of Jesus and the post-resurrection disciples. We do a deep disservice to the 2000+ years of history and people, struggle and suffering bound up in the pages of Scripture when we tack it’s verses to our outrage de jour.

What I’m basically saying is, we would do better to listen and ingest the words in Scripture rather than speak them constantly and use them for our own purposes. Otherwise, we will succumb to a similar temptation like Chrysler and ignore the whole story for the sake of telling an, ego-driven, commercially white-washed and board of directors approved version of our own story. When we listen to the story of Scripture, we are invited into it and are called to be our true selves in the midst of it’s revelation.

We offer ourselves to the God revealed in Scripture through Jesus, not the other way around.

We are co-opted into the story of God, not vice versa.

Then and only then can we honestly accept God when we’re told (not when we say), “Where you’ve been is part of your story.”


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