The Resurrection and the Zombie Underclass
We haven’t spent much time in this series speaking about the Bible and the place traditional monsters: vampires, Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, werewolves, zombies, etc… might play in our reading of Holy Scripture. Part of the reason for that is in most cases they are not only wholly made-up, but more science-fiction than based on real world experience (though Doc Frank will be on our radar next week).
However, today we are going to get into a couple of those listed above, and maybe not in the way that you might think. Evil takes many forms. Often the most wicked aspects of it appear the most nonchalant, in a way that does not immediately suggest that there might be danger ahead.
I’ve noted before in this space that Hitchcock and his contemporaries writing the original episodes of the Twilight Zone believed that what you don’t see and what you can’t rationally explain is where true horror lies. One of my favorite episodes of the latter features a man on death row who convinces himself that everything he is experiencing is a dream. You, the viewer, know that it is not, yet you become more and more convinced that maybe it is, part of Serling’s genius production…and I won’t spoil the ending of a sixty year-old tv show. We are good at being able to convince ourselves of the way things are, and when confronted with information that might contradict that we become antsy and/or defensive. Our certainty is our biggest enemy, until it is too late. Pride goeth before the fall indeed.
There exists in our minds a fear of death, both as a concept and as a source of truth. For our subject today this has taken on many forms throughout time. Mostly showing itself through a being which not only has an almost unlimited super-human strength, but is nearly robotic in its desire to destroy. There is no reasoning with it. It must kill.
Like most tales of the unknown there is not one single origin story for the worry about the undead. Nearly every culture, whether we speak of Greeks or the filtration of sub-Saharan African folk tales into the deeply held beliefs of Haitian voodoo, has provided a similar modus operandi. A recently departed human being coming back to “life” and then ravaging small towns and villages where the only way to dispatch the threat is by in some form or fashion doing head damage to the animated corpse. However, it is not just zombies (a word first applied to this question by George A. Romero in the 1970s) that historically have been a part of this fear. We can also place the vampire into this species of thing that goes bump in the night. There are scores of stories from medieval and even Reformation Europe that speak to the phenomenon. Everything from driving stakes into the heart of dead men blamed for unexplained killings to examining rumors of noises heard in graveyards. Yet, we see something that actually has a biblical explanation, which is why we are talking about them. Christianity has an answer because it is the source of truth about how the world works as designed by the one Creator.
Of the funny stuff one finds on the internet when you search for resources on the subject is the number of secular blogs which rank the stories of resurrection in the Bible as support for the existence of the undead, which in a sense is true, because we do believe that people come back to life after they die. There are also pertinent examples, not just Lazarus but the curious telling of the events immediately after Christ’s death in Matthew 27:51-53:
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
This is one of those stories in the scriptures that modern exegetes don’t know what to do with. Their anti-supernatural bent can’t process something like this happening in the New Testament. I mean it would be one thing to see this happen in antediluvian times, but in the rational part of the Bible? Balderdash. However, what exactly is taking place at this point? Well, I hate to be captain obvious here but many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. Yes, in the moment of Jesus’s dying on the cross God in His providence opened the graves and the previously dead walked out. Some atheists like to mock our Lord in their childish attacks on the Christian faith by describing His resurrection as an appearance of a zombie. Kind of like the ignorant metal bands who use an upside down cross as some kind of attack on the Religion of the Bible we can only say yeah and amen to such an epithet. We do believe the dead rise from the ground and that there is movement of the flesh in the time after the heart ceases to beat. These echoes in Pagan beliefs merely confirm the veracity of what is taught in the word of God, though there is more than just a return to an existence for those raised by the Holy Spirit in the promise of the Father.
The problem of course with non-Christian ideas of vampires and zombies is that they miss the most important part of being undead, and that is when we are raised we are glorified. The state of our soul and body shines as the noonday sign because we reflect the glory of the Lord. In essence the existence of an entire subculture of popular television, movies, and graphic novels depicting the grossness and pure evil of a vampiric and zombiefied world is a good analogy for life lived outside the beauty of holiness. Much like when we discussed and confirmed the existence of demons their knowledge of God merely led them into more and more rebellion against Him. It is the case of the wider culture’s interest in the depravity of the flesh that has led it to wish for an apocalyptic world where death and life mix. There have even been attempts (izombie and Santa Clarita Diet) to humanize the undead. Yet the irony of course of the Walking Dead, which is not exactly subtle, is that the real worry is not the walkers, its humans. The constant fear of becoming undead is not the undead part, its the end of consciousness it portends. However, we have a better testimony.
In closing, the interest in the twenty-first century in these matters is less fear of the unknown than a denial of the world as it is. Much like the gentleman above trying to convince everyone that they were in a dream where he was the star, so to humanity does all it can to ward off the reality of death by making it seem absurd. The best thing the church can do in this situation is use the opportunity like Paul at Mars Hill to present an apologetic for the true hope the undead have in the blessed resurrection body, which neither decomposes nor is unintelligible, but rests forever in the praises of the Most High God where death is no more and life is eternal in bliss.
A word more:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church