Should a Christian Watch The Walking Dead?

Tonight, the third season of The Walking Dead returns to AMC.  Personally, I am geeked.  I think, despite a slow start, that it has become the best show on TV.

If you don’t know anything about the series, it is set in the aftermath of a seemingly worldwide zombie apocalypse.  A group of survivors led by a former Kentucky sheriff  try to establish a life amidst millions of man-eating ghouls. The writing is crisp and the acting is sharp.

But how should a Christian feel about it?

Unlike many of the most popular and acclaimed shows on cable, The Walking Dead does not contain the sex and nudity that so unnecessarily pervades Game of Thrones or Dexter.  But there is violence, sometime graphic violence including zombies munching on people or animals while their own innards are on public display.

Certainly, The Walking Dead is not for the young.  In my opinion, the graphic violence is too much for even a young teen. Such violence should also be avoided by the small number of people who, for whatever reason, find such scenes to be satisfying in a perverse way.  I advise all Christians to avoid any temptation that strikes at the heart of sin that has not yet been subdued by the spirit of God.

But for people like me who like horror and great drama but aren’t tempted in any way by such violence, The Walking Dead is a standout piece of art that lends itself to serious theological reflection.

I have been writing a book on theology & the zombie genre for a year now and am convinced that it is a great way to discern the ultimate questions our culture is asking and respond to them with the answers provided by Scripture.  The Walking Dead asks questions about meaning, about relationships, about community, about what & who we can trust and about the true nature of humankind, especially when the trappings of polite society are stripped from us.

So, if you are like me and interested in these type of ultimate questions, I highly recommend The Walking Dead.  I especially recommend this forthcoming season for, if the season follows the narrative arc of the comic books on which the series is based on, it will be a heck of a ride this fall!

Season 3 premiers tonight at 9 p.m. on AMC (I guess if you have Dish, you’re screwed!).

33 thoughts on “Should a Christian Watch The Walking Dead?

  1. Did you catch the amazing pro-life commentary in season 2? Where one person wouldn’t kill zombies because they were living beings, which was in parallel to a story line where a woman struggles over the choice of keeping her baby or having an abortion? Deep subjects handled very well by the writers & actors!

  2. I’ve decided to put The Walking Dead away. After witnessing a gory scene compounded by another tragedy in the latest episode (S03E04) I felt crushed and violated. I felt as though I may have participated in a ritual of Satan’s cult of death. Phil 4:8 comes to mind and after more than two seasons of The Walking Dead I find that after watching an episode I am starved for those things in Phil 4:8. Is it a coincidence that I feel starved for immaterial things by watching zombies starved for material flesh? As soon as I put the show away and do something else, I feel a lot better.

    One way of looking at The Walking Dead is as a grand tour of death. It explores the death of many things and how they affect us:
    – The Death of Childhood
    – The Death of Relationships
    – The Death of Abundance
    – The Death of Civilization
    – The Death of Reason
    – The Death of Charity
    – The Death of Sanity
    – The Death of Technology
    – The Death of Convenience
    – The Death of Peace

    The show has also explored the death of faith and the death of hope. What I find most disappointing is that the show is actually very enjoyable and a lot of fun. But I know that in consideration of my soul’s health watching this show is like eating Twinkies: I love the taste (fun show), but eventually I get sick and want to throw-up (deciding to stop watching), which hurts but is good because it could damage my health otherwise (soul’s health).

    I wonder if I have to repent of some sin in my life that makes apocalyptic stories so very appealing to me. Would (post) apocalyptic stories still appeal to me if I was not curious about fear or these themes of death? My wife and I watched a lot of horror films for Halloween on Netflix and I made it my personal duty to rate them appropriately. I found that “The Innkeepers” was the best because I thought it mixed a lot of mystery with a little paranormal activity that resulted in an exceptionally frightening end. Many others were garbage, filled with senseless gore and screaming, not scary at all. Lately I have made myself a connoisseur of scary stories.

    For Halloween had dinner at a restaurant that used to be the old train station in New Westminster because rumor has it that it is haunted. We talked to our server about it and he informed us of the tunnels in the basement that stretch for over a mile underground all the way to Woodlands, the old mental hospital where it is well known that many unspeakable atrocities occurred. We explored the Woodlands area, a 20-acre area which today has been converted into many subdivisions except for a few places: a memorial, the boiler house, a vacant lot with rubble from the demolished bell tower. Interestingly enough, Google Street view doesn’t work in this area, but you can look at some of the landmarks (North of McBride and Royal Ave, New Westminster, BC, Canada). These tunnels were used to transport patients from the hospital to the train station simply because it wasn’t classy to transport psych patients on the streets in clear view. Later I learned that Stephen King’s 1990 horror classic “It” was filmed on location in these tunnels. I watched this movie when I was little and it had etched scenes in my memory that have been crystal clear ever since. So then my wife and I watched “It” and scared ourselves a lot more, now I am very curious about these tunnels and I want to explore them myself.

    I’m not sure why I mentioned these other things, maybe as a backdrop for my decision to put away “The Walking Dead” or maybe to illustrate my habitual curiosity. I will probably rely on AMC’s web-site and read the episode summaries from week to week to keep my curiosity at bay.

    • @Jonathan I think you’re right. If one wants to learn about spiritual things, there’s God and His Word. We do not need to make “morals of the story” or the “spiritual parallels” a justification to do what we want to do. I agree with you on Phil 4:8. I believe it was the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Evil can be so cleverly disguised in seemingly harmless things. We must be watchful of the things we let our eyes see and the things we let our ears hear. Otherwise, we’d be desensitized to things such as violence, lust, fear, etc. And we must never get used to these things. We must let our minds be renewed with the Word of God. I personally do not like watching horror movies. Even if there’s an element of heroism or good triumphs over evil theme, things such as horror movies or even movies that feature fallen beings that were originally seen as evil like vampires and witches are inspired by Satan and in turn inspire fear, even obsession. I’ve been dealt with by God on this issue myself, growing up on Harry Potter books. I believe that Philippians 4:8 should end this dilemma. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” There shouldn’t even be a debate about this. And if we profess ourselves to belong to Jesus, we should jealously guard our hearts against any passion or desire that pollutes or tries to usurp our love for Him.

    • I agree. im a christian and I represent life. bc thats what Jesus did 4 me. he died but then 3 days later he came back to life for me. Jesus represents life not death. THE WALKING DEAD are people that are walking, dead. If we are christians that walk with Jesus we are walking with life, not death

      • Yani, thanks for stopping by but I’m unclear as to what you mean. The Walking Dead primarily refers to zombies threatening the living. It isn’t a spiritual statement. Blessings,

    • I’ve been curious if any others felt this way because I love this show like a lot, but I feel bad about watching it… like waking up . panic attacks bad and idk if it’s just me or if God really may not want me watching it, but it has such a good story line and I love survival situations it’s not necessarily the zombies that I like watching to the scenarios of how society falls and idk I just find it extremely interesting. .. but I sit here kinda sad after my boyfriend just called to say it was dead time and I had to tell him ill have to pass…. I’ve watched a lot of spoilers and I have a peaked curiosity of how the season will go and I tomorrow I will be asked what I Thought of it and I’m not sure how to go about saying I don’t feel like I should watch it anymore… and everyone knows how much I love the show :(

      • YOU MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE! Its not a show that God would want us to watch. Its Satanic and not from God. It gory porn .Just as bad for the soul.

  3. @ jonathan. i absolutely agree with you. bravo for expressing your points so well.

    my problem with this show, is that it is fueling our distrust and mistreatment for one another. it celebrates death and gore and i am disturbed at the thought of millions of people at home watching a kid getting impaled or shot in the face and cheering it on…

    believe it or not images can harm our psyche. this show isn’t just slaughtering the undead, it is turning the living viewer, it is impairing our empathy and humanity and that imo is the kind of thing demons cheer for.

  4. I AM A BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN WHO LOVES WALKING DEAD SERIES. I STUDY MY BIBLE ABOUT FOUR HOURS A DAY AND PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. I GRATUATED FROM A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE, STUDING PASTORAL MINISTRIES AND CHRISTIAN COUNSELING. I LOVE EVERYONE AND DO UNTO OTHERS etc. I DO NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION BUT A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. I RESPECT OTHERS WHO ARE CONVICTED NOT TO WATCH THE PROGRAM. IT IS A STORY WITH LOVE AND COMMUNITY IN MIND. NOT LIKE SEX IN THE CITY. OOPS. I AM 67 YEARS OLD AND READY FOR JESUS TO COME. COME LORD JESUS BUT CAN YOU WAIT UNTIL AFTER FEBRUARY 10th. I WANT TO SEE ANGELA TO DESTROY THE GOVERNOR AND MERLE. LOL…….WALKING DEAD……..SOME. CHRISTIANS ACT LIKE THEY ARE PART OF THE CAST.

    • Peggy i would like to friend you onFacebook. I like your style. If you would find me…its Debbie shampaner from Brooklyn new york. Thanks.

  5. My 16 year old son has been watching some episodes. We are ‘old fashioned’ in the sense that we have 1 television. So if he wants to watch, we’re subjected to it, whether we’re interested in it or not. Now I can ignore hours of mindless Disney drivel that the kids watch, but this show comes on and I am horrified. The violence is beyond anything I can imagine anyone would want to see, particularly those who are Christians. I am not a prude, we’ll watch the Law and Order shows, some other cop shows as well. But it’s never done in such a manner that it revolts me.

    I remember the day when in an effort to avoid worldliness Christians wouldn’t attend movies. My parents tell of not going to see The Sound of Music because they viewed the theater as a worldly place. Well obviously that more has passed from Christian culture. I sometimes wish it would come back. The church is irrelevant in this culture, and when Pastors endorse entertainment like this I really wonder if we’re doomed to failure in the United States.

  6. I see the walking dead more as preemptive forshadowing. the “walkers” represent christians, and the survivors are humankind trying to progress forward, facing the challenges of how to deal with an outdated theology holding all mankind hostage.

    • So you can justify anything if you want I guess. To say this show represents Christians and/or Christianity makes me wonder if you have any clue what Christianity is.

      • Steve, I would suggest you read books such as Pop Culture Wars by William D. Romanowski, a professor at Calvin College. The book, as well as others, demonstrates that the Christian aversion to “adult themes” in pop culture is actually a product of the post-millennial movement of the 19th century not necessarily a pure, 1st century version of Christianity. Blessings,

  7. Matthew 18:3. Do we truly believe that we need to become as little children to be pleasing to our Lord? If this is not appropriate for little children then who should watch it?

    • Matthew 18 speaks of Christians becoming trusting and humble like children in re: to faith and service but it doesn’t mean that adults should avoid places where it is inappropriate for children to go. For example, Paul regularly worked and ministered in the Roman marketplace where, among other things, prostitution was common. Yet, Paul was not sinning to go there. Yet, it would be sin for someone to go if he could not abstain from engaging the prostitutes. So, again, it is a matter of whether or not it leads a person to sin. Blessings.

      • Paul also said that we have great freedom in Christ Jesus. I truly believe that, however he also said that not all things are profitable. What is it in this secular programing that we find profitable. We truly must ask ourselves in all that we do; is this profitable to my, or those within our sphere of influence, spiritual encouragement?

        • Rick, for me it is profitable because it (and similar shows) grants me a point-of-contact with unbelievers, especially those under 30 who are my primary mission field. Just as Paul quoted pagan prophets to connect with people on Mars Hill, I quote from pop culture to connect with young people who are part of a post-Christian world where you can not even assume they know what you mean when you say, “God.” Blessings.

          • I can’t comment on the content of the show as I have not utilized the time to watch. Going on the name alone I would have to say that the “walking dead” would be more analogize to anyone who has yet to experience the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. Prior to dieing to my self, my wants, wishes, and desires, I had no idea what joy and freedom there is in knowing that I did not have to do it. I could not do it. no matter what I did I could not release myself from my past. I was dead in my past with no way of escape. Thanks be to God for his loving kindness in providing to me the Perfect since I could not be. For offering up the Perfect since I could not. For raising the Perfect so that I too can be raised from my death to walk in newness of life.
            Preach Christ and him crucified, raised on the third day for us to open our hearts to accept his perfect love.

          • Rick, with all due respect you didn’t address my statement. So, let me ask, was Paul sinning on Mars Hill by quoting pagan poets in order to gain a hearing before preaching Christ crucified? If not, it is no different than watching something like The Walking Dead, which is a post-apocalyptic drama, to also gain a hearing. Blessings,

      • Matt you are a worldly man. Not good. I would not listen to you for more than a minute. No Godly wisdom just worldly. I get my knowledge from the bible not man.

  8. It’s true that Paul was quoting the obvious when he went on to teach of what they had not yet known, “The Unknown God”. Jesus himself taught us not to hinder any who are doing good in his name, Mark 9:38. It is a natural progression of evangelism to meet anyone where they are in what ever level of understanding that they have of spiritual matters as Philip did when he led the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord.
    When you watch TV you involve three modes of learning, visual, auditory, and tactical. To the extent that you let any material into your heart that you do when viewing “TV” must be thoroughly brought before the scrutiny of our spirit given by the Lord himself. I thing that we to cavalierly allow nonspiritual pap into our hearts on a daily basis. I am speaking to myself here.
    Bottom line is, of course you meet anyone on any level to guide them to a greater understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That does not mean that you allow yourself to be overwhelmed with worldly hindrances that are not guiding us to a closer likeness to Him. The old “WWJD” “What Would Jesus Do” is a simple saying that I have a greater understanding of. Less and less of myself and more and more of Jesus.
    Matt,
    If you truly feel that you are spiritually uplifted and led to watch this show and that by viewing it you have a way to reach out to others then by all means go for it. We all must live within the limits of our own conscience.
    In Love….

  9. I am looking up advice on this topic. I do not watch, The Walking Dead, I do not like horror movies. However my 16 year old son loves it. He is actively involved with the Church of Jesus and serves within a local Church
    body. I have seen the Holy Spirit working in his life- Praise Jesus! I have also watch him struggle with worldly things. We have been lucky enough to have an open Church Family that addresses attacks on teens and unfortunaly we have seen that our son had been viewing pornoraphy last year. It was heartbreaking – yet directly addressed ( so thankful for the honestly of others in our church before we found out and knew this was something than many young teens and Christians struggle with). I believe and pray that struggle is behind him. I pray the things he saw will be wiped out if his mind and not used as a weapon of the enemy to attack His walk with Jesus. I was not worried about him watching the walking dead. I feel he is a good kid- hangs out mainly with other kids who love God and understands he is a work in progress. In the past few weeks, we have seen a spiritual stronghold and battle in his life, I have a deep gift of discernment; however, my husband, who is also a devoted follower of Jesus and in The Word daily, does not see or feel the struggles I do. I’m currently praying about what to do and not do, we have to pick our battles as parents of teens and also let our kids make many decisions on their own. I agree with Pastor Matt, it is ultimatly a personal spiritual decision on each person and if it honestly brings up or hurts our walk with Christ to watch this. I am concerned my son puts more importance on watching this show each week- than having time in Gods word. He has just this past year accepted a ministry opportunity with our youth group and I have watch many attacks come at him. Unfortunaly, he does not see the attacks coming and when he is in them like I am seeing them. I truly don’t want to make him stop watching this show and control all aspects if his life- if I’m not certain that it is not causing him spiritual harm. However he is currently being disciplined and he did not get to watch it last night. His reaction was somewhat- argumentative and upset – wat too upset over a wordly TV series. (We even allowed it to tape so he could watch it later when he was allowed) Anyway, I don’t question that he is Gods child and at this point I’m praying boldly that if this show – or anything else is causing him spiritual harm – The Lord will remove it from his life. Also that if his father and I need to help remove anything from his life- that The Holy Spirit will show us what it is.
    At this time- I’m not convinced it is this show – but I’m praying about it.

  10. What a sad way to view the walking dead series, as “art”. What about when the psalmist said “I will put no vile thing before my eyes” psalms 101:3 or when job said “I’ve made a covenant with my eyes”. Truth of the matter is the walking dead is senseless violence paraded as entertainment. Viewing it adds nothing meaningful to your life

    • Scott, thanks for the comment but with all due respect, you are taking Scripture out of context. It certainly does add something meaningful to many people’s lives as I know many pastors who watch it and discuss it from a theological perspective. Blessings,

      • God fearing Christians!! The Walking dead is completely ungodly. You think Jesus would set his eyes for hours on such disturbing and disgusting things. I will answer. NO!!! Zombies are the dead . This is mocking Gods resurrection. You think the different way they kill zombies is cool? That’s satanic and sick. Do you not see the worlds agenda with TV ? Its all garbage. MY HOLY SPIRIT GOES OFF!! I can’t watch and won’t. No God fearing Christian should be setting their eyes on evil. There is no reason you should be watching or enjoying this. You are so lost that you think its OK because you don’t get tempted while watching? Seriously. Feeding your mind this garbage will destroy your soul. No thanks. Focus on what’s pleasing to God. This cannot get farther from God. Any REAL Christian that watches this should really refresh his heart. People this Zombie obsession is from Satan. I read and avoid TV . if you think God is OK with this. HES NOT. I would need a shower and to repent after setting my eyes and liking that evil. Rebuke the walking dead and set your eyes on things that would please God. So you read 4 hours a day? That makes it OK because like time spent reading has to do with holyiness . NOT. Wake up people. Jesus is coming. Get ready. God bless.

        • This is a group of people who dont give up on living and they show people who have committed suicide by choice because of fear. And these choose life despite the horror . And they respect each other. There are many ways to look at something like this. Its deep and thought provoking. Not mindless sex and hate. Remember its from an underground comic….brought to the screen with great talent.

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