What is it with Christians and zombies?
I was reading a blog the other day by a fairly-prominent pastor/pundit. He was talking about the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, it being Holy Week and all, and in one of the comments, someone referred to the mass resurrection that took place after Jesus expired as “the zombification of Jerusalem.”
Now, having spent some time in Christian spec-fic circles, this wasn’t the first time I’d heard somebody make this sort of allusion to the walking dead. Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones is another passage that always gets a few zombie shout-outs. It bothers me, because what’s happening in both these scenes is the exact opposite of zombification—this is God restoring life in its fullest sense to the dead, not animating corpses like a troupe of puppets on strings.
If anything, we’re the walking dead, before we meet Jesus. We have the appearance of life, but we’re spiritually empty. Maybe this is why the image has a peculiar magnetism for some Christians. It’s a metaphor of a life disconnected from God–a decaying corpse shambling around aimlessly, devoid of purpose or even comprehension of its debased existence.
And zombies are the most pathetic of the undead. They’re slow, stupid, and easy to dispatch. They shed body parts at random. They pose a threat only in large groups, or to the unwary, who probably deserve to become zombies themselves if they’re dimwitted enough to be caught by one.
Christians have traditionally shied away from zombies in entertainment media because of their association with voodoo culture, but with the advent of science-fiction-oriented zombie stories driven by viruses, parasites, chemicals, radiation, or alien pixie dust, zombies are pretty much mainstream now. It helps that they’re funny to watch, at least when they aren’t gnawing on human flesh. I suppose there might be a cathartic release in fantasizing about knocking the block off that annoying neighbor up the street. Hey, she’s already dead! I’m doing her a favor!
Which brings me to my fundamental discomfort with the zombie image. Zombies are un-redeemable. You can’t restore a zombie to humanity. All you can do is kill the poor thing and put it out of its misery. You also have to lay on a substantial amount of mayhem to seal the deal—decapitation, incineration, acid bath, chopping into itty-bitty pieces, et cetera. In the process, we lose our sense of the body’s inherent sanctity, and for people who believe in the resurrection of the body, believe in a resurrected Savior who ascended bodily into heaven, and believe that human beings are created in God’s image, this is a problem.
I’m not trying to preach a “Christians shouldn’t watch zombie movies” sermon here, but I do think we need to be careful about how we interpret and apply the metaphors we borrow from literature, film, and other media, particularly when we’re trying to share our faith. I’m a firm believer in using popular culture as a jumping-off point for spiritual discussion, but…“the zombification of Jerusalem?”
Come on. That’s an idea worthy of a zombie.