Apparently I wasn’t paying attention in my high school lit class, because on Sunday night at Junior High Youth Group I was taught about a genre of literature called dystopia. The genre is extremely popular presently due to the poster-child book/movie of the genre Hunger Games.
So here is the back story... We began our lesson with the teens sharing their favorite book or movie and then we briefly chatted about their genres and what makes certain books/movies fit within a given genre (i.e., action-adventure typically keeps you at the edge of your seat and results in your heart rate raising a bit). From there we broke into small groups to explore how God’s story fits into different genres: romance, horror, comedy, action-adventure, and our final group chose dystopia. They were given sidewalk chalk and a nice space of patio real estate to visual show how God’s story can be seen as the genre they were assigned.
The idea was to look at God’s broader story as shown through scripture and in their lives, not narrowing it down to specific Bible narratives. I was thoroughly impressed by the artwork, but more so by the ideas that were shared.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know that the genre “dystopia” existed so obviously hadn’t spent much time flushing that out in my mind prior to our discussion, but the teens did a great job of selling their case that the story of God finds itself within this genre.
According to the fount of all Internet knowledge (Wikipedia), the dystopia genre entails a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian.
The teens shared how God has a vision for the world (heaven on earth, the kingdom of God, the Garden of Eden, etc.) in which harmony, peace, equality, and the like are embodied by God’s creation. Yet this utopian vision is corrupted and twisted by human beings who choose instead to live into a dysfunctional reality, hence dystopia.
I would take it even further. Presently we live in a repressed state, in which humanity is controlled by sin. Selfishness and greed run rampant. Often we forget that God even exists, and we definitely neglect the needs of our neighbors. Yet at the same time, we have convinced ourselves that our attempts to achieve happiness through material possessions or success in the business world are valid and living the american dream, when in reality we are lost in this dystopian reality.
God offers something different. A different way, a way out of the cycle of greed, selfishness, fear, and hatred. God’s has a utopian vision for the world and the amazing part of it is that God has invited us as the church to be a part of introducing the rest of the world to that reality. As we interact with others and offer peace, we participate in the nearness of the kingdom of God.
May God’s vision overwhelm our vision. May we see the discord in our pursuits of happiness and may we focus on living into God’s will.