… Who would choose Hell if given the choice?
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.