The Undead: Vampires, Zombies and Christians?

On September 30 I posted a brief comment on how much I love October on my face book page.

“Tomorrow is the first day of this Pennsylvania native’s all time favorite month. I speak of course of October, in case you have not been keeping track of the passage of time lately. October 3 is Murry’s and my wedding anniversary and October 7 is son Matt’s birthday. Plus it’s just a gorgeous month in Texas. Add in pumpkins and cider and candy corn, and I can wait until November for the autumn leaves to turn and fall…”

I got 50 quick responses, which seems like a lot of October lovers. People listed various reasons for loving October.

They included their own and family birthdays, anniversaries, Pink lady apples, OU-Texas at the Old Cotton Bowl, The Texas State Fair, and the holiday at the end of the month otherwise known as “FreeCandyEve.”

My friend Anna Murdock, a writer from North Carolina, posted this message about October and fall in general.

I am right there with you, Alyce. I stumbled across this beautiful little thought this morning: “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” (George Eliot, aka Mary Anne Evans, 1819-1880 English novelist).

Yet another face book friend commented about October “It is a good month to be alive.”

He’s right. Even though it is a month whose bright leaves are signs of death and decay and the onset of winter, it is a good month to be alive.  I just finished reading Undead  by history professor and pop culture commentator Clay Morgan (Abingdon, 2012). It’s a good book to read in October, with falling leaves and gangs of Halloween ghouls, because it’s all about how to be alive in the midst of the reality of death. And how we are often spiritually dead amid the reality of Resurrection life.

Morgan explores our historical, biblical and pop cultural fascination with the undead, those who cannot be stopped by death. In pop culture these are zombies and vampires.

Through the years, Morgan says, we have created fictional scenarios in which life beyond the grave happens right here on earth. (183)  Vampires, zombies, ghosts and undead creatures appeal to us because eternity has been set in our heart. We feel there is something more, as the author of Ecclesiastes hints at, (Ecc 8: -17) but don’t know what. We hold a longing for life together with a struggle with mortality

Morgan’s book is directed at those who are physically alive, but spiritually dead. Zombies and vampires are intriguing to many people because we see ourselves in them, like it or not. Interestingly, zombie and vampire movies thrive in times of economic and social crisis. They were big in the 30’s, not so much in the 50’s. And they have multiplied since 2001.

Zombies are regular people in bathrobes and Dockers, only they’re ambling in a mindless, flesh hungry mob down Main Street. Vampires, especially lately, have become more glamorous, but they have always been loners. Morgan says there is some of both kinds of death in each of us. The mindless appetite of the zombie horde means spiritual death. The isolation of the vampire likewise brings about a state of spiritual death because it kills off hope. “Isolation kills,” says Morgan. “Feelings of meaninglessness grow strongest in isolation just as bacteria grow best in darkness, away from sunlight and its purifying ultraviolent rays.” (165)  Spiritual death means living in the emotional tombs of anxiety, anger, depression, addiction, hypocrisy, and temptation.  We live, says Morgan, in emotional tombs of fear. He quotes Marcus Goodyear, senior editor of The High Calling webzine that “What we fear says a great deal about what we worship.”

To us Jesus asks the question he posed to the man by the pool in John 5 “Do you want to get well?” And if our answer is yes, he calls out to us as he did to Lazarus,  “Come forth!”

When we do we meet a Savior who is the only one who is actually unstoppable in the face of death. Says Morgan, “Maybe we’re so fascinated with undead beings, like zombies and vampires, because we inherently understand that the solution to our problems comes from someone coming back to life in perfection and actually defeating death.” 117

Ecclesiastes’ vision of the inevitability of death is replaced by the Resurrection reality of the inevitability of life. (127)

Morgan compares our coming to life from death to the 33 Chilean miners trapped for 2 months underground. As one of the miners emerged from the darkness, he was greeted by President Pinera who said, “Welcome to life.”

We Christians, says Morgan, are like those miners. We were trapped in a dark tomb, but God rescued us. We don’t have to wait until we are cleaned up or able to clearly see what happened. We just have to reach up and embrace the cross as it is offered to us. And when we emerge from that black pit and into the light, it’s like God gives us a great big bear hug and says, “Welcome to life.”  (117)

My friend who posted on face book is absolutely right- October is a great month to be alive!

About Alyce McKenzie
  • http://www.theofantastique.com John W. Morehead

    Thank you for addressing this topic. Evangelicals tend to keep horror at arms length, mistakenly feeling that is is somehow incompatible with their faith. Yet the theologian Rudolf Otto argued that their is a similarity between the awe and dread we feel in our encounter with God and our encounter with horror. Beyond that there is historically an intimate connection between religion and monsters, including the Judeo-Christian tradition. For these reasons monsters have much to to teach us, if we are willing to listen.

    I am the co-editor and contributor to The Undead and Theology (Pickwick Publications, 2012), a new volume which looks at vampires, zombies, golems, cenobites and goths as objects for theological reflection. In my chapter on zombie walks and zombie Jesus I look at the zombie walk phenomenon as a reflection of postmodern apocalyptic, fears of death and hopes for bodily survival, and body-self conceptions. I conclude my chapter by offering suggestions for theologians as to how they can positively engage such pop culture phenomena.

    Those interested can explore the book now available in digital and hard copy forms. It will serve as a compliment to Morgan’s fine work. Interested readers can see a description here: https://wipfandstock.com/store/The_Undead_and_Theology

  • http://tiny.cc/bostonreaders ounbbl

    So?
    What all these have anything to do with being Christians? On an extra-christian trip?

  • kalim

    What is death?

    I want to share this sentences From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi

    Death is not destruction, or nothingness, or annihilation; it is not cessation, or extinction; it is not eternal separation, or non-existence, or a chance event; it is not authorless obliteration. Rather, it is being discharged by the Author Who is All-Wise and All-Compassionate; it is a change of abode. It is being despatched to eternal bliss, to your true home. It is the door of union to the Intermediate Realm, which is where you will meet with ninety-nine per cent of your friends.”


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