Forget vampires and werewolves–Team Edward and Team Jacob are so 2008! Zombies are the new it monster. If you’re not watching The Walking Dead or can’t quote lines from Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead or have never played a game like Resident Evil then I’m embarrassed for you! Zombies are hip, baby. The undead craze has hit western pop culture and hit it hard…but why?
Cultural critics have many opinions about why our society is suddenly so obsessed with flesh-eating corpses: (1) it springs from a fear of a pandemic and woefully unprepared we are for such an outbreak; (2) the zombie apocalypse appeals to our current desire to be self-sufficient as evidenced by the trend of urban/back-yard farms, etc. and (3) zombies are good for crisis stories because they lack personalities and are harder to romanticize like vampires & werewolves.
These are all good points but zombies have been steadily growing in popularity since George Romero’s groundbreaking film Night of the Living Dead premiered in 1968 so I think it goes beyond points #1 and #2 although they may be factors. I also think the growing fascination is deeper than just point #3.
What accounts for the popularity of the zombie apocalypse? I think it partly reflects a fear of being all alone with no one to help us. We are a lonely bunch. We tend to build nice little lives for ourselves with superficial relationships at work and evenings filled with video games, Netflix and Facebook.
So, when we are confronted with a crisis–even a minor one like a power outage or same day surgery–we struggle to find people to help us. Those of us who have been victimized by crime find little sympathy from overworked and underpaid law enforcement officers, which only increases our fear that, ultimately, we are alone.
The church should be able to fill this gap but too many congregations are filled with “busy” people who live insulated lives and have shallow relationships just like everyone else.
The early church provided true community and assistance to those who faced real persecution. If the church is to cut through the real fear underpinning all of this–the fear of having to engage in authentic relationships with others that require true sacrifice–then church leaders will have to take the lead.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the church’s mission to destroy the desire for sick shows like The Walking Dead–Pastor Matt loves him some zombie thrillers–but hopefully communities that are intentional about creating real relationships and committed to helping one another will influence the culture so that we love zombies for the right reasons…they do make for good story devices…who doesn’t want to shoot walking brain-eaters in the head without feeling guilty? Count this clergyman in!