Peter Leithart's piece on Zombies and then read Ethan Cordray's follow up. What is it with Zombies? We have sure come a long way since the cult classic Night of the Living Dead but the whole movie and TV fascination with Zombies (and werewolves and vampires) seems insatiable.
The zombie phenomenon is very interesting theologically, as it’s sort of a “return of the repressed” way of recognizing the deadness of appetite-driven modern culture. As we become more and more zombified, as our culture becomes ever more adept at amplifying our desires through advertising, pornography, and a media culture obsessed with gratifying every appetite, we can see the inevitable results of that process shambling along on their rotting legs.
Cordray sounds positively depressing. And there is more! Zombies themselves are not actually all that dangerous. They’re usually slow and clumsy, almost never use weapons, and are too mindless to formulate any tactics. They just plod forward toward their victims, and only their numbers, persistence, and resilience to damage make them much of a threat.
And then there is this: The theological lesson here is that it’s the frailty of our human wills that gives the sarx its power over us. When we’re faced by naked appetite, we are all too often defenseless and paralyzed. And of course, the worst fate that can befall the victim of a zombie—far worse than being eaten—is to be turned into a zombie oneself. What seems at first like merely an external physical threat can get inside us, corrupt our humanity, and turn us into just another mindless, ravenous drone... So zombies tell us more than just that Hollywood likes to come up with new ways to show gore. They also tell us about our own souls.
But they were not always Zombies! What happened to them? What happened to us? Who are the Zombies? I have met the Zombie and he is me. In Pauline terms, they are the sarx in its purest form. Without a soul to control it, the flesh is a slave to its own desires.
Could it be that it is not just guiltless, senseless violence that attracts us to Zombies but the recognition of our own weakness and single minded desire? Could it be that the Zombie has become the icon of an age of self-indulgence in which nothing needs to be thought out or well considered but simply acted upon like impulse? Could it be that the Church has become so fearful of this culture that we are like the hysterical figures in these movies -- who forget what is real and simply live in the realm of their own fears and panic?
The hero figures in the movies could have easily withstood the besieging zombies if they had stayed cool-headed and followed their most intelligent member’s plans. But instead they degenerate into infighting and hysteria, and that gives the zombies an opening to overwhelm them. So can we in the Church... unless, of course, we let our fears overwhelm us and hysteria overwhelms us... Doomsday prophets are a dime a dozen (like blogs, like this one) but redemption and salvation have not disappeared. What will we in the Church choose to focus upon and how do we see the resources (read that Means of Grace) that God has given us for redemption and salvation (including our own)?