I’m fairly addicted to AMC’s newest drama The Walking Dead. It’s really an incredible show with in-depth character development, intense story lines and some sick zombies (walkers) that are crawling the earth seeking to destroy all that comes across their path. The show also just got picked up for at third season (!) after only two record-breaking episodes this season.
Simply put, zombies are incredibly scary because they reveal a very innate, natural reflection of humanity. This sub-genre exists in the horror realm to reflect, caution and remind us of what humanity is capable of, particularly in our fallen state apart from God.
What are zombies? Zombies are creatures who are dead, but animate. They exist but certainly would not be called ‘living’, yet they are mobile, active and react from a sort of gutteral instinct that has no concept for morality or conscience. They live and exist from instinct, and have no concept of a greater good or responsibility to God. They don’t think, they do. It’s a scary, carnal existence that causes viewers to recoil in their seats, because there is no rationalizing with a zombie. This is why the zombie sub-genre is the perfect palate to reflect the glaring moral issues of the day, but also to reflect the redemption of our souls.
George Romero did this in the sixties. He didn’t create the zombie genre, but he catapulted it into existence that only an indie movie created in a broken-down barn in the country could do. Night of the Living Dead was an intense, scary movie that was rather difficult to watch. Yet, Romero’s purpose was not simply to make a horror film, but to make a statement about our culture and the racism that permeated it. With an affluent, educated black man as the hero and main character (very uncommon for the time) spoke volumes into the dangers of our country continuing down the degrading path of racism it was on. Romero has always used his films to reflect the moral woes he sees in culture.
Paul actually spoke of humanity in terms of zombies as well, in a sense. Romans 1 opens grandly with a burdened-Paul sharing his excitement and anticipation of coming to Rome to share the Gospel and celebrate with other believers. He then moves into a description of the spiraling process of sin on humanity from v. 18-32. God clearly has displayed his glory and truth, even through natural revelation and the glories of the universe he created, and yet how does much of humanity respond? Claiming to be wise, they exchange worship of the Creator for worship of the creation and in turn, God turns them over to their desires of the flesh, a most horrific picture. Many use reduce this passage only to condemn homosexuality, yet Paul is simply using homosexuality as an extreme example of the degrading, spiraling effects of sin and disoriented worship.
Apart from the regenerating, redeeming work of Christ on the cross, all of humanity is dead in their sin. Paul writes in chapter 5, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…yet death reigned from Adam to Moses.” Because we were born into sin, we are literally the ‘walking dead’ until the Holy Spirit draws us to himself by his grace and gives us new life through Christ. This is a stark reminder of what we’ve been saved from (Rom 1) and what we’re saved for (Rom 5:12-14). Paul reminds us who are in Christ to remember your new identity and ‘let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.’ Before Christ, sin did reign. Just like zombies, we didn’t think, we just acted on our carnal, fallen impulses. Now, our identity and the power of the Gospel must define our life and the choices we make.
This Halloween, if you decide to watch a good scary flick, try looking a little deeper at the message it speaks about our culture, and particularly human nature and the Gospel.