Happily Declaring The Walking Dead To Be Fully Catholic…

… Who would choose Hell if given the choice?

I hear Hell’s lovely this time of year.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says;

CCC1037 — God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.

I’d always wondered what that looked like, being so willful to choose Hell and so lost in your own sins that accepting mercy seems like an impossibility. This past Sunday night, we were given a dark glimpse of a soul forever lost.

***WALKING DEAD SPOILERS*** Stop reading right now if you aren’t up to speed with Season four of The Walking Dead. Look away.

The Walking Dead is more than a zombie show. It’s a show dripping with themes of redemption, grace, forgiveness, turning away from the past and coming back from wrong doing. It’s the damaging effects of sin, and the corrupting nature of evil. It’s humanity stripped down to is barest forms.

Season four has been all about “coming back” from a self imposed, soul devouring darkness of despair. In the mid-season finale we hear Rick, echoing the words of Hershel Greene in episodes past, tell the Governor…

We’ve all done the worst kinds of things just to stay alive. But we can still come back. We’re not too far gone. We get to come back. I know… we all can change.

Through humility, the forgiveness of sin, and the acceptance of grace we all get to come back from our past sins. This is what Hershel tried to impart on Rick when Rick was in his darkest moments, and this is what Rick tried to express to the Governor. The only difference is Rick accepted the second chance, the Governor chose Hell by murdering Hershel and attacking the prison, thus sealing his fate.

This is what sin does. It warps and destroys. It reveals the evil we are capable of doing and changes the perception we have ourselves. When we start to view ourselves through the ugly lens of sin, we begin to hate ourselves and what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. This self loathing fuels the cycle of evil doing.

There was a moment in season four when it looked like The Governor might come back. We saw him tired and beat down from the weight of it all and ready to give up. The affection of a small girl seemed to spark in him a desire to be more than evil and vindictive. Briefly, he desired goodness. The viewer was given cautious hope as we watched The Governor struggle internally. But it was being confronted with Rick’s goodness, at the final show down, that pushed The Governor completely over to the dark side. We watch a wretched soul refuse any form of absolution. And it was terrifying.

When confronted with goodness, a soul drenched in sin has two reactions, repulsion or attraction. Some souls desire to emulate goodness and embrace the chance to be forgiven and accepted. Some souls feel so much hatred and self loathing that goodness burns like a fire and they recoil from it. They want to stamp it out or run from it completely. The pivotal scene between Rick and The Governor at the gate of the prison gives us a look at the corrupting nature of evil. It’s ugly and sneering “liar”.

And then there’s Hershel. Kind, thoughtful, moral compass Hershel. Hershel of the Happy Death.

Hershel had a brief moment this season, when an illness seemed like it was going to wipe out their small band of survivors, when he started to doubt. He sits down to find comfort in the Scriptures, only to dejectedly set his Bible down unread at his side. He wonders if it even matters, trying to do good and make a difference under these circumstances — like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.

But in Hershel’s final moments, he sees that goodness will live on. Rick absorbed Hershel’s wisdom and so, Hershel of the Happy Death, smiles on as The Governor kills his body but not his soul.

You see, it’s not a zombie show at all. The zombies just provide a backdrop and their menacing nature lacks intent and malice. No, the real horror is human evil and the corrupting nature of sin. Therefore, for it’s themes of redemption and Happy Deaths, I happily declare The Walking Dead to be fully Catholic.

Related: Theology of the Dead Body.

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  • AMoniqueOcampo

    The only problem I have with The Walking Dead is that there doesn’t seem to be any long-term hope. The atmosphere of the show is seriously depressing and unless they find somewhere in the world that’s completely zombie-free, they still have to deal with the fact that they could eventually become Walkers themselves.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Which perfectly reflects the very real fact that you cannot run from death. We all end up “walkers”, metaphorically speaking.

      • Agni Ashwin

        Some of us “walk” into eternal Life; others into eternal damnation.

    • Julie Haugh

      They all will become walkers, per Jensen @ the CDC. There’s no avoiding it, you die, you turn.

  • http://www.TotusTuusFamily.blogspot.com/ Allison@TotusTuus

    WOW…superb and insightful. Luved this! The Governor was at the gates of hell and couldn’t cross to the other side. Who will read the bible and turn to the scriptures and be the moral compass now? Herschel was hope….

  • Michelle P.

    Nice quote from the Catechism to link to The Walking Dead – it truly is a hell on earth and hard to watch at times. But I love the show and have tried to convince my friends that it’s way more than blood & gore – that it’s actually a great morality play. I too saw the concept of original sin within the context of “we are all infected.” However, unlike the show, we have an antidote – the Eucharist. So glad to see a Catholic chiming in on this show, and to see one of the Executive Producers, Gale Ann Herd, sharing this on twitter :)

  • Nightsong

    There’s unfortunately no redemption in TWD. It’s a bleak gore-fest that relies on shock value to keep viewers invested. I say that as a fan of the show, but it is what it is.

    Again and again, the show rewards good-hearted characters — Herschel, Dale, Patricia, Patrick, Karen, T-Dog, Otis, Dwayne, Axel and many more — with increasingly awful deaths. No good deed goes unpunished in the worst possible way.

    Rick, our hero, has blood on his hands too. Let’s not forget how many people he’s killed, or the fact that he sentenced a teenager to death by hanging and only backed off his decision when he didn’t want his son to watch him commute the sentence. His back-up plan — dumping the teenager in the middle of nowhere with a backpack and some Ramen noodles — wasn’t exactly merciful either.

    And then there’s the Governor. This column has an artwork panel of the Governor as he appears in the comics, and it’s hard to argue there’s any Catholic influence or moral merit in the comic book version of the storyline, with all its rape, torture and mutilated genitals. Maybe that’s why former showrunner Glen Mazzara was canned in part for his refusal to kill off Judith in the gruesome way the show eventually did.

    Instead of stretching to make a gore fest with irredeemable qualities appear Catholic, I think we should all admit we enjoy watching a show that isn’t much more than an extended George Romero or Lucio Fulci flick.

    • http://romishgraffiti.wordpress.com/ Scott W.

      Instead of stretching to make a gore fest with irredeemable qualities
      appear Catholic, I think we should all admit we enjoy watching a show
      that isn’t much more than an extended George Romero or Lucio Fulci

      Agreed. I enjoy the show but can’t pretend it is anything other than a diverting pleasure. Sure, there are moral dilemmas that are fun to parse with a Catholic view, but let’s not Harry Potterfy a splatter flick.

  • Darryl Harb

    How does that guy in the top picture manage to use a right-handed weapon with his right eye covered?

    • Eugene Edward Yeo

      He’s right handed but left-eye dominant. It can be done, just gives you weird head placement.