Theology & The Zombie Apocalypse

zombie-apocalypse

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!

4 thoughts on “Theology & The Zombie Apocalypse

  1. I bumped into this site while searching for a game and I must say that everything you say is so true and I agree with you! Churches that I know of have changed so much from being a place to go to talk and get help from others to being a place where you’re supposed to pray for God and listen to His word one second, and then the second it is over you turn your back on His word and go clump up into your comfortable groups and talk instead of talking to those who have no one to turn to.

  2. Thanks for exploring the significant pop-culture and theological phenomenon of zombies. For those interested in exploring this topic further, as well as other aspects of religion and the fantastic, see my blog TheoFantastique (www.theofantastique.com). I recently wrote a piece for Religion Dispatches titled “Toward a Zombie Theology” (http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/guest_bloggers/3871/toward_a_zombie_theology/) that might be of interest, which was picked up by CNN’s Belief Blog (http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/20/the-zombie-theology-behind-the-walking-dead/), BeliefNet, and other websites and blogs. Please continue the important reflection in this and related areas.

  3. No, no, no.
    (slapping all of you at once)

    Now pay attention. I only want to have to explain this once….
    The recent Zombie-phia is because unlike the other “monster” genrae, the Zombie scenerio is unsurvivable. Get it?

    It is the grand-daddy of the Kobiashi Maru. No win. No way out. No survivors.
    In other words, it reflects our true nature.

    It is the train whistle in the distance, and we’re all tied to the track.
    Just look around.

    They’re everywhere.

    Prepare all you like, but it’s already too late.

  4. In my opinion, the Zombie Apocalypse is a deep seated fear. I, for one, am sort of looking forward to killing some zombies if it ever happens. My motto is “If you slow me down I shoot you.” It’s about survival.

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