Zombie Theology!

The Walking Dead season 3 starts tonight in the US – I’m psyched. Thinking about this reminded me of something. Namely, that I love the analogy of zombies for excavating the Christian idea of human brokenness (that is to say, sin).

It’s a powerful one because as silly as we think zombies might be, we also take something about them very seriously. Zombies are humans gone too far. Zombies are the externalised expression of an internal problem, that always originates from humans royally fucking things up! Zombies manifest humanity’s propensity to act selfishly, unidirectionally and on the basis of unmediated desire.

If you want to read more check out this article: Zombies are Among Us! or this sermon: On Sin and Zombies. Both elaborate on how a love for The Walking Dead sparked a whole swathe of connections that are pretty damn brilliant.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article to communicate the gist,

… Every zombie story has some kind of source for the contagion: Did we ruin the environment? Did we get overzealous with medicine? The problem, it seems, always originates with human hubris.

Zombies are not a foreign problem but a human problem. The thing so haunting about zombies is that we make them out of ourselves. Is that not what the first humans do in the garden? Their hubris leads them to claim for themselves the one thing that is off limits, and in doing so, they lose their home.

Then we turned to the serpent’s question. “Don’t you want to know what God knows? It’s not going to kill you!”

A student asked, “I’ve always wondered why they didn’t die when they ate the apple. Didn’t God say that they would die?” Thinking through our zombie lens, we posited that while Adam and Eve don’t quit breathing, they are now
saddled—like us—with death…living dead, you could say. Death becomes internalized as a possibility for the living, a possibility each of the youth knew intimately.

… What Paul shows us in Romans is that there are three things acting upon us: sin, law and death. These three are always bound together. Sin (not
sins) is the brokenness of the world. The law is given, and with the giving of the law comes the desire to break it. It’s just like telling a kid not to get a cookie from the jar until after dinner while showing that kid the cookie jar. Death
then becomes the always-present possibility.

As with Adam and Eve, death is internalized. Paul says we are the place where the battle between life and death takes place. We are potentially human and inhumane. We are always living but sometimes zombies. So it makes perfect
sense for Paul to say, “I do what I don’t want to do.” He too is trapped by sin, law and death.

This is where the zombie analogy is so powerful. Zombies are shells of human beings. The zombie’s body is a place where just a little bit of humanity is left. For zombies, the most base human desires become the sole motivation for
the whole body. They will walk through fire, lose limbs or do anything in their quest to fulfill their desires.

We asked the youth, “What do zombies do?”

“They eat flesh.”

“How do they do it?”

And together we came up with several characteristics of zombies:

  1. A zombie’s whole being is committed to the fulfillment of one desire.
  2. Zombies disregard their own well-being and the wellbeing of others to get what they want.
  3. Zombies have a mindless commitment to their herds, which are always destructive, and they don’t know it.
  4. You’re sad when you see one. They aren’t sad because they don’t know what they are doing, but you’re sad because you see them as someone’s mother, child or friend.

This amazing fact emerged: We all have some zombie in us…

And of course this last bit, if you are a Walking Dead nerd like me, will resonate. Why? Because as you should know if you watch the show, they’re  all infected already – the humans, as much as the zombies, (and sometimes even more) are the walking dead!

The Walking Dead is, in short, a fantastic externalisation and exploration of human brokenness; just as much as zombies are an externalisation of humanity’s all too obvious death drive.

Roll on season 3!!