At its heart, the Divergent series is about our struggles to accept and value things that are different from us. It echoes Paul’s cry to the Corinthians to see value in each other, recognizing our absolute need for each other and our differences.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:17-21)
That theme continues on in this first part of the last book, Allegiant. But, as the story has gone on, two other themes are surfacing just as strongly—that of a great distrust of authority and the question of how to purify humanity (recognizing that something has gone terribly wrong). All three of these themes are great fodder for some rich conversations.
**Since I covered the first theme, the concept of “the body” here, in the Divergent discussion, I’ll focus on the latter two.**
Distrust of Authority
In Divergent Tris discovered that the authority figures at the time were corrupt, power-hungry and even murderous. Jeanine, the worst of all, was out to kill any who were “divergent.” Four’s dad beat him and was in league with Jeanine, possibly. The leaders of her faction, Dauntless, are often cruel and abusive. Even Tris’ mom had secrets. She was good, but still, it breeds a sense of distrust of authority figures when you find out that you love and trust the most, those you think you know, have secrets that you know nothing about.
In Allegiant, the bad guys (Jeanine and her followers) have been overthrown, so there is hope that things will improve, but the new leadership (Evelyn, Four’s mother) turns out to be just as corrupt. She’s nothing more than another Jeanine. But there’s hope, because Tris finds out that there is more to the world than Chicago. In fact, Chicago is just an experiment…so she is hopeful that the leaders overseeing that will be better. They seem to have good intentions. They seem to have a noble cause, and sincere desire to help the world… But things aren’t as they seem. These leaders as also corrupt and untrustworthy and even murderous; they just hide it better (at first anyway).
Is it any wonder then, after every major leader has been corrupt and cruel (with the exception of Johanna who is a minor player among the leaders at this point), that there is a significant distrust of authority figures and power structures?
The thing is, this isn’t just an attitude in the movie. It’s very reflective of the attitudes in our society towards authority figures. It’s both telling (revealing the times) and influential, planting seeds of distrust in the minds of viewers towards people and forms/structures of authority. There was a time, not too long ago, when people inherently trusted the system (much like in the beginning of Divergent). We had shows like Father knows Best and we didn’t question them. There was security in having good, stable authority figures, in having trust worthy systems and governments and leadership around us. Things weren’t questioned… until they were. And of course there were good authority figures and bad, good systems and corrupt ones… but when people started voicing their concerns, standing up against the bad the pendulum swung to the other extreme. Never questioning became always questioning. Total trust became absolute distrust. There is some reason for that—just as in the movie, there has been a lot of corruption and abuse. In fact, for many, they have never seen a good authority figure. All they have known is abuse and corruption.
The problem is, just because that’s all you’ve known, doesn’t mean it’s all that exists. We don’t want to be fooled, so go to the other extreme, never trusting anyone. That also means we don’t open ourselves up for hope. It may save us some heartache, to be sure, but it also cripples us. It keeps us from trusting God, the ultimate authority figure. We assume a God with ultimate power must also be ultimately corrupt, or at least selfish and power-hungry like the other authority figures we’ve known, if not fully abusive. If we only read the Bible and look for God’s ideas about leadership though, we’ll see that it’s something different from what we’ve largely known. It’s selfless. It’s servant-hearted. It’s the kind of leadership that gives of itself even to the point of death for the good of others. It lays down its right to be served and instead it does the serving. This is the kind of authority a person can trust. It’s the kind of leadership Tris and Four demonstrate, which is why others are so quick to follow them.
- Has your experience with authority figures led you to trust in authority or to be skeptical?
- Do you think America in general trusts authority figures/systems of authority, or not?
- Why do you think the pendulum may have swung from trusting to not trusting?
- How has your experience with authority figures affected the way you see/trust God?
- Would you be more likely to trust a leader who was truly a servant (like God prescribes)?
- Do you think most leaders expect to be served or do the serving? Why do you think that is?
Cleaning Up the Problem of Humanity
Throughout this series the underlying they are trying to fix is that humanity is broken. The factions tried to fix things by organization and control and by dividing people into groups. The problem was that everyone didn’t fit into those groups, so those in power, to keep the peace, wanted to get rid of those who were “different”. As things do, the pendulum swung to the other extreme, however. And by the end of the series, rather than trying to get rid of the divergent, the divergent (Tris, particularly, as the most fully divergent) are seen as the desirable option. Tris, once an outcast for being divergent, is now considered “pure” and everyone else “damaged”. They are less than. Originally they wanted to fix society by control but when they didn’t work, they moved to a new tactic. They wanted to get rid of all the damaged and start over by creating a genetically pure race. Tactics may be different, but the issues are the same: mankind is broken and has problems; and the solution is to get rid of the problems, one way or another—even if it means getting rid of people.
The movie has one thing right, for sure. Man is broken. We do have a genetic problem and it came from Adam. When he sinned, things were broken and everyone from his seed carries his genetic code, and with it a sin nature. (This is part of the reason why Jesus did not have Adam’s DNA, he was human as he came from Mary, but he was not from Adam’s/Joseph’s seed, therefore he did not inherit man’s sin nature.) The solution, however, is not to get rid of man. The solution is to accept Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for your sin and receive HIS nature instead. They are 100% right that we need to purity the human genome, but this is not something that can be done through science and genetics. It is a spiritual problem and must be fixed in the spiritual realm. It’s not just a matter of behavior, but a matter of the heart. If man’s heart is changed, his behavior will follow suit. This is the solution Jesus offers—a true change from the inside, the opportunity to become a new creation.
- Do you think this series is right and that there is a problem with mankind in general?
- Is there any way to fix power hungry leadership?
- How is Jesus’ solution to the problem of man’s sinful heart different from the solutions offered in this series?
- Do you ever feel like you are broken? Like there is something in your heart that actually needs to change and/or be fixed? How do you try to do that?