So my brother made an offhand comment, and the comment got me thinking, so here I am up at night answering a question that few people probably care about. I’ve heard it said a number of times that Christianity is just the first “Zombie cult”. We follow a guy who died & then came back out of the grave…. people are just lucky that Christians don’t want to eat their brains right?
But there are three solid reasons why we’re talking about something very different with Christianity…. though, as I’ll point out afterward, the zombies are on to at least one good thing. So… here we go.
- There is a difference between reanimation and resurrection: Of course, there are a million different zombie stories with a million different reasons why they end up zombies. We’ll assume I’m talking about the generic zombie stories here. Almost all zombies require a body. That body is a dead body (sometimes before it’s infected, but always after it is). A zombie is a dead body that has been reanimated in some way. This is why zombies are so stupid. There is basically no mental function other than the virus that is driving it to eat brains/kill people.
When we talk about Jesus, it’s a very different matter. The story of the resurrection is not a matter of a dead body being reanimated, so it is a dead, but moving body. The story of Jesus is about someone who was dead and three days later is alive again.
- Decay vs. Eternity: The difference between the two is no clearer than when we look at the long term consequences. Jesus, resurrected, ascended into heaven and calls us to experience eternity with him. Zombies, on the other hand, slowly decay, break down, and at some point in time cease to be. The closest you get between the two is poor Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead at the request of his sisters Mary and Martha. But Lazarus was doomed to die again. Even here, he was dead, then he was alive, and then one day he would have died again (where, presumably, he was called to be with Christ his saviour). C.S. Lewis picked up the sadness of the story in his poem “Stephen to Lazarus”But was I the first martyr, who
Gave up no more than life, while you,
Already free among the dead,
Your rags stripped off, your fetters shed,
Surrendered what all other men
Irrevocably keep, and when
Your battered ship at anchor lay
Seemingly safe in the dark bay
No ripple stirs, obediently
Put out a second time to sea
Well knowing that your death (in vain
Died once) must all be died again?
- Thoughtlessness vs. the Open Mind: As noted above, the zombie is noted by his lack of mental function. For the zombie there is no great meta-narrative that they are seeking to be a part of. They are not asking any great existential questions. The sum total of their thinking is “brains”. Of course, the critic may argue that this is a fair representation of the Christian (minus the desire for brains) also. But the gospel that the resurrected Christ professed was a different matter. Jesus was constantly challenging the chief priests and teachers of the law to engage their minds and consider the ramifications of their beliefs. Jesus was passionate about following the relational and logical conclusions of people’s beliefs.
The mind of the Biblical Christian is the mind that is open to asking questions, to being challenged, and to growing in understanding. Read John 20-21 & you’ll see Jesus asking deep & helpful questions after his resurrection.But The zombies do get something right! A person gets infected by a zombie (bite, death, or whatever) and once they make the turn, their focus is a singleminded one. Everything else is forgotten and their focus is only, completely, absolutely on brains. They have one passion and it drives all that they are and all that they do! Zombies naturally beget more zombies, because they want to get out there & bite people. They understand it’s their purpose!
I’m not saying Christians should be so focussed that we lack any nuance, or capacity to think about, or talk about anything else, but we too need to realise that the relationship with have with God is one that is of ultimate importance, and in the end, is worth paying any price for. We can look to Church History and see hundreds of people who have grasped this reality and acted on it! In the end, Christianity, like Zombism, is a life and death matter. But praise be to God, the life we are offered in Christ is one that will last forever, will never spoil, perish, or fade.
And I believe, it’s a faith where we also get to keep & exercise our brains!