Why ‘The Walking Dead’ zombie apocalypse is like faith and rooted in a hope for humanity

walkingBy Kelly J. Murphy

Scholars who think about monsters have long noted that vampires and zombies reveal something to us about ourselves and about our humanity. And during AMC’s “The Walking Dead” Season 5 finale, viewers will have an opportunity to ponder life during a post-apocalyptic world.

Flashing back to an earlier season, though, a profound scene captured the existential quandary that survivors face in an upside-down world. During an episode in the second season, a herd of “walkers” (read: zombies) had just destroyed Hershel Greene’s family farm, where his family and Rick Grimes and his people had managed to establish a community free of flesh-eating zombies.

Standing on the highway, crowded by abandoned cars and rotting corpses, Hershel urges Rick to find a safe place for his son Carl. But Rick turns to Hershel — a self-professed Christian — and responds, “You’re a man of God. Have some faith.” Hershel replies, “I can’t profess to understand God’s plan. Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”

Hershel’s sentiments reflect an obvious reality: The resurrection of the dead means something entirely different in the biblical texts than it does in the context of a zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic Georgia.

Sure, the book of Ezekiel brings to life a valley of dried bones (Ezekiel 37), the book of Daniel promises that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2), and Jesus revives Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Most famously, all four gospel accounts say that Jesus appeared in resurrected form following his death.

Still, there are no almost-but-not-quite human monsters hungering for flesh in the Bible. Neither Lazarus nor Jesus, nor any other biblical character, is a zombie. The idea of a zombie (in the Western brain-eating sense) dates long after the worlds of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. A zombie, after all, is a word that derives from a specific historical context — slavery and colonization, especially in Haiti — and a different religious tradition — voodoo— than either the religion of Jesus or the religious tradition that emerges from his followers.

To read Murphy’s entire article in the Washington Post, click HERE.

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