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Oct 2014

Zombie Church

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus – Ephesians 2:1-6

Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead! – Jesus Paid It All by Elvina M. Hall with bridge by Chris Tomlin

As we once again approach the end of October, I find myself as a Christian once again fascinated by the horror genre. Because of this, I hear this subtle, and poignant, question a lot: “What are you thinking!?!” And I get it. Believers are told to “fix [our] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). So how does one reconcile an instruction like this with my interest in the macabre? An interest that includes such classics such as Alien, The Thing, numerous “Dracula” films, and more recent offerings like The Conjuring, World War Z, The Walking Dead, and 28 Days Later. How can I submerge myself in this bloodbath and come out clean?

First, let me say that I don’t believe in divorcing the “spiritual” from the “secular.” This world is God’s world, my life is God’s life; and everything I do is done in light of that knowledge. For me, there is no way to engage creativity (music, movies, visual art, etc.), or to even BE creative, without looking to the One who created all things. Every aspect of creation declares the glory of God.

Second, God is not some one-dimensional, feel good, sentimental being in the sky; and this world he created perfectly, tarnished by man’s sin, isn’t always a beautiful, kind, climate controlled bubble. So why would I restrict myself to watching love stories with happy endings, hanging pictures of sunsets and lighthouses, or playing easy-listening stations on my radio? This life is anything but easy. So it’s really not that shocking that, when I seek the Sacred in horror flicks, I find Him.
An eternity before Wes Craven was dubbed “the master of horror,” there was Jehovah. God pens the first zombie movie in Ezekiel 37.

Opening scene: We’re transported to a desert valley filled with dried-up bones. The prophet Ezekiel is grasped by the Lord, who takes him on a tour of this land, with the dusty cartilage scattered everywhere. This is no scene from a Western, where flighty tumbleweeds dance among cow skulls. These are human remains: human skeletons everywhere, broken into pieces, decaying, like a mass grave unearthed years after its inhabitants were slaughtered.

God tells Ezekiel that he needs to speak to the pile of skulls and femurs and tibias and disconnected spinal columns; and they will come alive! Indeed, when the prophet speaks, there is a huge, loud rattling in the valley. The quake is caused by bones, flung suddenly together as if they were magnetic, forming thousands upon thousands of full human skeletons.

Suddenly, out of the newly attached bones grows bloody, raw flesh. Tendons attach, sinews wrap around joints like carnal vines, muscles build, blue veins are threaded through, and finally, skin begins to cover the carcasses–like watching a burn victim on rewind. Still, though they lay on the dirt fully formed, these bodies are not alive.

Ezekiel stands before this valley of corpses, this overturned graveyard, and obeys the Lord’s command to speak again to the lifeless bodies. When he does, breath fills their lungs, their inhales and exhales stirring up dust. Then, “they all came to life and stood up on their feet…a great army!” (Ezekiel 37:10)

Tell me George Romero wouldn’t be inspired by that scene!

Though the Lord uses some fantastic, horrific imagery in this scripture, the point isn’t to frighten us or cause us to quiver at dead bodies or decaying bones; the purpose of this passage is to show that the people were spiritually dead and decaying without the Word of the Lord. Before breath entered them, these bodies were nothing but living dead; it was God who gave them true life.

ShauncovIn the same way, God has raised lives from the dead for thousands of years, sometimes literally. When I read Ephesians 2, I can’t help but imagine a zombie version of myself, one who is afflicted, dead, who should be utterly motionless, but is imitating vitality by walking around, seeking, searching, as if there were still a heart beating inside his chest. He is scary, and pathetic, making only bad choices. He has a one-track mind. He is selfish, and determined to seek out satisfaction in things that will not ultimately fulfill. He follows other lifeless bodies, hoping they’ll lead to fulfillment, but they only guide him toward more death.

I laugh at my undead doppelgänger, until I realize that I am that zombie.

I can see my zombie self as he stomps through the streets, pounding the pavement with straight legs and heaviness of spirit, arms limply guiding, numbly mumbling for false satisfaction: “Seeexxxxx…Druuuugggsss…Priiiiiiiide…Braaiiiins!” His glazed eyes trace the dark alleys for instant gratification and cower painfully at the street lights. Thank God that, unlike the fate of most horror flick zombies who wind up beaten, burned, or beheaded; in the cosmic metanarrative, a cure was discovered to heal the afflicted.

Our God, the great Re-animator, gives breath to decaying bones and brings the dead back to life. When I watch Dawn of the Dead, I can see my old self there on the screen. But when the screen goes black, I’m reminded of the gift of new life, freely given to me, an undeserving, self-seeking zombie; and as the credits roll, all I can see is my Savior’s name.


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