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No Rest For The Weary

Nothing offers us the sanctuary we thought it would when we first laid eyes on it. But we keep looking, and we know that we cannot stop or we will perish.
| Apr 20, 2016 | 5 comments |

Image copyright AMC

I’ve been watching AMC’s hit zombie show The Walking Dead since the first season. I live in suburban Atlanta so it was hard not to be charmed by scenes of my home city being overrun by gore-spattered walkers. There is in fact an undercurrent of quaint Southern charm throughout the series, with its frequent views of leaf-strewn streets and quiet neighborhoods. Despite the ugliness of the show’s subject matter, it still manages to capture the beauty and serenity of the Georgia countryside.

Sadly, that’s pretty much the only bright spot in the entire show. TWD is one of the biggest hits in TV history, which is more than a little surprising considering the graphic violent content and bleak overtones. Of course, it is also a fictional testament to the human survival spirit and camaraderie that often emerges in crisis situations. There is also one more aspect, which is really my opinion more than any notion rooted in fact, that the show provides a much-needed cathartic release for its audience, particularly on a Sunday night when the specter of the impending work week looms large. It’s basically the idea that killing zombies lets you purge your savage instincts without actually committing murder. What could be more welcome news for this sick, desperate world – “You mean I can kill people and be the good guy? Sign me up!” The audience enjoys vicarious thrills through these weekly slaughterfests and doesn’t have to feel guilty about it.

I’ve never read the comic books and I’m not a big fan of the zombie genre, but the show drew me in very quickly because it is more than just a hurricane of undead violence. The zombie apocalypse is merely the background in which everyday characters are suddenly forced into extraordinary situations with encouraging and terrifying results. Friendship and family dynamics are strained and frayed, alliances are made, betrayals abound, and the fragile human psyche is laid raw and exposed in this new nightmare world that looks a lot like where we live already, just with dead people instead of living ones. The survivors wander in desperation, looking for a safe haven to begin life anew.

As time and the seasons wore on, we the audience were forced to ingest disappointment after heartbreak after failure. Places that should have been safe collapsed for various reasons, though more often than not it was the people inside that brought about ruin and destruction, rather than the zombie hordes outside. Rick and the gang move from place to place, searching for that community or mountain or fortress where they can protect themselves and nurture what little they have in the hopes of reigniting civilization. And time after time, they are thwarted.

Image copyright AMC

It’s not difficult for the believer to see this as an allegory for our own souls in our quests to find peace and salvation. Those who do not yet know the grace of God are wanderers in the wilderness of their own lives, despite their protests to the contrary. Our sinful natures drive us to seek solace in the things of this world – money, love, success, entertainment, sensations, ambition, etc. Yet they inevitably crumble, often sabotaged by the very natures that drove us to seek refuge in the first place. The lover cheats; the workaholic pushes legal limits; the hedonist ODs; the superstar burns out. Nothing offers us the sanctuary we thought it would when we first laid eyes on it. But we keep looking, and we know that we cannot stop or we will perish.

The truth is that nothing we do can save us. No matter how high the walls may be or how strong the fence is, it will eventually fail. Only surrendering to God’s limitless grace can give us rest and safety. Perhaps Rick and his friends should give prayer a try. After the recent season finale, they’re going to need all the divine help they can get…

Mark Carver writes dark, edgy books that tackle tough spiritual issues. He is currently working on his ninth novel. Besides writing, Mark is passionate about art, tattoos, bluegrass music, and medieval architecture. After spending more than eight years in China, he now lives with his wife and three children in Atlanta, GA. You can find Mark online at MarkCarverBooks.com and at Markcarverbooks on Facebook.

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I enjoy TWD. At times the gore-factor is a bit much, but there’s much more of the other “relationship” stuff than the gore, so that’s what keeps me coming back. I will admit to being drawn to the post-apocalyptic scenario. I love seeing people being pushed to their limits and trying to survive. They have had some exploration of faith in the context of this disaster, too. Not sure they always get that right but at least they talk about it from time to time.

Kat Heckenbach

I’ve never read the graphic novels either, nor have I ever been much of a zombie fan, but I *adore* The Walking Dead. The way strangers become friends, and friends become family, and they all support and defend each other in seemingly impossible situations.

It also shows them dipping into madness, but overcoming it. Rick, in particular, willing to give even his sanity just to save his loved ones, and then gaining it back.

Most recently, though, what has been sinking in with me is the parallel with the world today, I see villains on this show and think, “There’s no way a person can be like that! Why doesn’t everyone just try to help each other! Why don’t they see that cooperating will bring about much more than groups banding together and going to war with each other?” And then I realize…wait, that’s our world NOW. No apocalypse, no zombies–the biggest threat to human survival is humans. It makes me cling to my faith in God, because I know someday that won’t be the case anymore.

Natalie Hidalgo
Natalie Hidalgo

I have a love hate thing for TWD on one hand I like the characters and how they have developed, but they live in a world without hope. the only religious person was so cowardly for so long it’s a wonder his character is finally standing up. In a real disaster of epic proportions the church would not be hidden and the Lord would give us hope. Thanks for this observation. I am writing a YA book with demons, angels and zombies and my church peeps look at me like I am weird when I say it’s a book on zombie theology.

HG Ferguson
HG Ferguson

God has used this show in the past and I hope He will again. I’ve pretty much lost interest in it after the destruction of Terminus for precisely the reasons you mention. But who can forget Hershel reading the Psalms to his daughters? On camera. The Word of God, spoken and heard by the millions of people who watch this show. I do say God bless TWD for that moment. May He do so again!