“Bread and Circuses” (Panem et Circenses)


I am a big fan of the Hunger Games trilogy.  I’ve read all the books and, by the Friday, will have seen the first two movies – The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.  The phrase “Bread and Circuses” is part of the Hunger Games story:

1. The setting of the story is the fictitious nation of Panem
2. The Capital appeases the people not by addressing the underlying social concerns of inequality, hunger, injustice, and greed but by offering up entertainment (bread and circuses) for the masses.

If you haven’t read The Hunger Games trilogy, I encourage you to do so.  It’s got great social commentary!!

I was thinking of this phrase and this idea of “Bread and Circuses,” of entertainment for the masses, as I sit here on the day before Thanksgiving and am inundated with ads for Black Friday.  Do I really need all the things that are up for grabs this holiday season?  Of course not, but it sure is tempting to buy more stuff, isn’t it?  I know that I live in a global economy which is driven by capitalism, but do I really need all this stuff?  Is it a just and righteous use of my resources to buy more stuff – that I don’t need?  I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, my family will certainly buy Christmas presents this year.  But we will also remember my brothers and sisters who go without, who have no food on their table, who live outside in this bitter cold.  Many of you likely know the statistics: Globally, 868 million people – that’s 1 in 8 – are chronically hungry and cannot lead active daily lives, and 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 per day.   In the United States, more than 50 million people do not know where their next meal will come from.  That’s about 1 in 6 Americans.

Statistics can be helpful in making us aware of the extreme need all around us, but I often hear people talk about how personal stories make such a difference.  One such story came to me from the principal at our local elementary school.  She told of a kindergarten student who came to school late one Monday; she was screaming and crying and making a ruckus.  When they finally calmed her down, the child told them that she was upset because coming to school late meant that she missed breakfast and she was so very hungry.   This is a child in my neighborhood, in my own backyard.  This is personal.

It is also personal when people suffer from hunger all over the world.  It is personal because we are all children of God.  So, each is my sister and my brother.  Every person is a part of me in the one body of Christ.  How much more personal can you get?!

God calls and empowers us to see one another with eyes of faith.  God enables us not to be distracted with the immediate satisfaction of Bread and Circuses, but rather to reclaim our living in the peaceable kingdom of God.  My hope for us this Christmas time is that we will replace our “Bread and Circuses” with this prayer: “Blessed be God who is our bread, may all the world be clothed and fed.”

Pastor Kelly


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