The youth at our church have shown a lot of interest in the release of the new movie version of Orson Scott Card’s book, Ender’s Game. I’ve been looking for resources on things we could do with this movie with our youth group. And since I didn’t find much, I am writing up my own resource after seeing the movie yesterday. Hopefully it can spark some ideas for others.
Let me preface by saying that I haven’t read the book. Therefore, I don’t have a dog in the movie vs. book fight. And I’m not here to quibble over the differences. There are also certainly going to be some spoilers in this post, so if you’re looking for a surprise ending, read no further. I also don’t want to comment on the horrible human being Card seems to be. And with that…
I found Ender’s Game could be divided into two lessons: one a Biblical lesson and the other some interesting theological discussion. Today I’ll look at the biblical parallel that mainly plays out in the first part of the movie.
Even at the description of Ender’s Game I had a fairly good sense that Ender followed a lot of the same patterns as the biblical character of David who we read about in First and Second Samuel. Ender is the last child, the child who really isn’t supposed to be much. He’s not physically imposing, but there’s something different about him. He has a gift and a calling. That sounds a lot like David of Scripture (see 1 Sam 16).
There are also some interesting parallels between Bonzo and king Saul. There could be some good discussion that comes up around appearance, power, and leadership, contrasting the styles of the two. There is also a Jonathan-figure, Petra, the only true friend Ender manages to hold onto. This would be a good way to talk about kinship, friends, and those who support us in faith.
I think youth leaders could also find some material in discussing the complicated relationship between calling in the future and who we are now. Many of our youth see themselves as “future people.” All this is practice for “something else” (we reenforce this in the church by calling them “the future of the church”). One of the things we need to teach youth is that their journey as Christians, as people involved in the justice and mercy of world, begins now, not in the future. There is important stuff in Ender’s Game about being made up of the sum of the things we live everyday. A great lesson on formation and discipleship, as well as living fully in the present.
Another important part of the David/Ender story is the flawed hero. Ender isn’t perfect. He has an ambivalent but calculating attitude towards violence. He has trouble with authority. He messes up. He’s in transition throughout the movie. That’s just like David. And it’s just like each of us. Many of our youth think being a Christian is like being a superhero. It means having it all together. But the Christian life isn’t about that – it’s about grace. It’s about being forgiven, continuing to walk even when the path is unclear, and finding others to walk that path with you. This is a good place to begin a discussion about doubt, and how doubt doesn’t have to paralyze us but can help us bring new questions and parts of ourselves and God into the light. Bringing this into the flawed life of David is an easy connection.
And, finally, the two characters (Cornel Graff and Major Anderson) are helpful for a discussion of different experiences and understandings regarding the character of God in our lives and in Scripture. I think it’s great to acknowledge to youth the complexity of the character of God, particularly as God relates to the person of David, and to Ender. How would they characterize each? How do they see this working out in Ender’s life? In David’s? Which “God” do they experience more often in their lives? Do they think one is a more accurate picture of God or is God something like both?