Where I live a nearby town has adopted what seems to me a rather odd annual custom. Each fall a local nonprofit organization sponsors an event referred to as the “Zombie Walk.” It’s a simple idea really. People sign up to participate in the walk and they recruit others to sponsor them. On the appointed day participants don elaborate makeup and gruesome costumes, meander down city streets, and masquerade as the walking dead among the living. It is of course all in jest, poking fun at our own mortality as it were, and for the benefit of a number of good causes. The money raised by participants is donated to a number of local charities several of which are, ironically, supported by my own church. Thus one might suggest that the “Zombie Walk” serves notice that even the culture at large is capable in some small way of redeeming the unfortunate reality of death…
…Except I don’t believe so. One of the less appealing aspects of Christianity, initially at least, is that it compels people to live in a manner at odds with the culture at large. “In the world, not of the world” is how the phenomenon is often described in Christianese language. If not immediately then over time faith in Jesus changes a person’s thought patterns, priorities, and ways of looking at the world. It’s like taking off one pair of glasses and putting on another with a different prescription. Whether or not you would describe yourself as a follower of Christ you may have, at one time or another, been witness to a strange compunction in one of your Christian friends to act or speak differently than he or she would have previously. If you are a Christian you yourself have probably, hopefully, experienced the anxiety brought about by the realization that there are thoughts and practices you no longer hold in common with your peers.
That can be hard. If middle school taught all of us anything it was that no one likes to feel awkward, different from everyone else, or singled out. Thus a great portion of our lives are spent trying to find things we have in common with those around us so as to keep from being shoved in a locker and forgotten. I mean, unless you suffer some sort of pathological disorder, you simply want to be accepted …by at least a few people. As such, Christians find themselves searching for things they share in common with those around them, even if those people, and in some instances especially if those people, are not Christians. Surely there are things both Christians and normal people can affirm together, and none are more obvious than one simple assertion. To put it bluntly, death sucks. Pardon the indelicate expression, but assent to that assertion is the reason most of us, whether we care about the Ten Commandments or not, feel as though we have ol’ number six, “thou shalt not murder,” pretty much on lockdown.
I’ve certainly never killed anyone. I know that comes as a relief to many of you who have been wondering. It is equally comforting to me that none of you have ever killed anyone either…at least I think that’s a pretty safe assumption. I can’t really be sure. Even if you are in military service or law enforcement, ideally you are training to take life only for the purpose of preserving life. But restraining ourselves from killing other human beings really isn’t the challenge that the commandment presents for most civilians. Rather, “thou shalt not murder,” by forbidding the taking of human life simultaneously demands the affirmation of human life.
That being the case there really isn’t a whole lot of room for reveling in, celebrating, or glorifying death…or even un-death as the case may be. Human culture has nothing to offer in terms of redeeming the harsh reality of eternal separation from God. No matter how many vampire movies or zombie apocalypse television series…it’s got nothing. Not a thing. And yet we eat that stuff up.
Now granted, I understand that the Twilight Saga is a fictional deal. The Walking Dead is based upon a series of comic books. I get it. Really. And I’m not calling for a moratorium on the local “Zombie Walk.” When little ghouls and vampires show up on my front porch next Halloween, I will happily give them candy, and not just to protect against their eggs and toilet paper. I simply understand not everyone will share my convictions on the matter, particularly if they do not share my beliefs. But I don’t see how any amount of happy returns, whether hundreds of millions in box office profits or a few thousand donated to the local food bank, justifies our society’s general fascination, curiosity, and captivation with death, murder in particular.
One, if not the most, appealing aspect of Christianity is the belief that only Christ is capable of bringing life out of death. Faith in him is the only means by which the reality of death is capable of being redeemed. That is the hope upon which I feel the Ten Commandments, among other things, calls me to remain focused upon. As such I am compelled to fix my thoughts not upon the coming zombie apocalypse, but rather the fact that my “life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Walk in life as opposed to death. You might think it strange that I would make such a fuss over something as silly as zombies and vampires, but that is exactly my point.