The Zombification of America

The Zombification of America August 15, 2023


Jacob Howland, the provost of the new anti-woke University of Austin, has written a searing critique of our times entitled America is now a zombie state. I’d like to consider the metaphors that he uses.

A zombie, of course, is “the walking dead.”  According to, a zombie in the original Voodoo is “a mute and will-less body, robbed of its soul and given the semblance of life by a supernatural force, usually for manual labor or some evil purpose.”  By extension, it is “a person who is or appears to be lifeless, apathetic, or totally lacking in independent judgment; automaton.”

Howland describes the old, decrepit, senescent leaders of both parties as emblematic of “the approaching death by senescence of the American experiment in ordered liberty.”  The general lifelessness of our leaders and their  ideas reminds him of zombies:

The zombification of the Capitol — not to mention our city streets, which have become permanent encampments of the dazed and disturbed — is merely a symptom of the underlying disease.

Howland uses other metaphors of what happens to something that was once alive but then dies.  It decays.  And rots.

This drama of political decadence defies easy categorisation.

A wasting tide of bad education and corruption is rotting the cultural and constitutional piers that, since the Civil War, have kept the US above the waters of chaos.

He uses other metaphors as well:

The American regime has become a tawdry theatrocracy in which political actors, hypokritai in Greek, play stock characters in a loathsome farce.

Theatrocracy!  Government by actors who are just playing a part!

Here is a sample paragraph of his invective, which continues his survey of our culture’s lifelessness:

It’s not just in politics that the wellsprings of individual and social vitality have dried up. Americans are marrying less and later, and having too few children, to reproduce themselves and the families that nurtured them. What is more, our public schools have largely ceased to transmit the accumulated knowledge and civilisational wisdom of the past to the children we do have. A taste for historical repudiation has taken hold across the culture, leading curators to “contextualise” art, city governments to take down statues, colleges to rename buildings, and publishers to censor or rewrite books. But creativity withers when it ceases to be nourished by the oxygenated blood of the tradition. Little wonder that Hollywood increasingly cannibalises its legacy by pouring old films into new plastic scripts.

Finally, he names what he has been describing:

Cultural exhaustion, social withdrawal, and the general enfeeblement of life forces are the practical expression of a will to nothing. There is a name for this spiritual and intellectual condition, and it is nihilism. Nihilism is demonic to the extent that the will to nothing is still a will, a life force. That it is only a negative one is by no means reassuring, because it is easier and more economical to tear down than to build up. Destruction is dramatic and accomplishes the illusion of vitality with relatively little energy. And who in this apocalyptic time, including the nihilist, doesn’t want to feel even a little alive?

Nihilism!  That’s exactly why we have such disregard for truth, morality, and other people.

I would add this to Howland’s diagnosis:  Surely the nihilism, the death-in-life that permeates our culture, is related to the decline of religious faith.

When we think of the “Nones” and the rise of secularism, we tend to think of what that means for our churches, the lower rates of attendance and the growing hostility to faith.  But surely there are intellectual, moral, and cultural consequences when a society loses its religion.

And a living death–zombification–is exactly the right way to describe what happens.  (See, for example, Romans 8:6 and 1 John 3:14.)

What is the solution to this death-in-life?   New life.  Being born again. Resurrection.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  (John 5:24-25)


Photo by form PxHere, CC0, Public Domain

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