|Contemplative Chef Zombie by Andrew Braithwaite|
Alas, I didn't review World War Z for my day (and sometimes night) gig at Plugged In. Thus, I cannot tell you whether humanity fended off the zombie plague, whether Brad Pitt was zombified or, if he was, how his hair looked post-mortem.
Which might be a good thing, given that I'd be forced to write about the actual movie instead of discussing the walking dead on a wider scale. Because really, in a faithy-like forum such as this, there's quite a bit to say about zombies. After all, people are coming back to life in the Bible all the time.
Sometimes, these resurrections get a little help from a pious man of God: The prophet Elijah brought a boy back to life with heartfelt prayer and some strange calisthenics (“he stretched himself out on the boy three times,” we’re told in 1 Kings 17:20). Elisha, Elijah’s understudy, resurrected two people—including one after the prophet was just a pile of bones himself. (“When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet,” according to 2 Kings 13:21). Peter and Paul both successfully brought people back to life. Jesus, of course, returned no less than three folks to the land of the living—and, as an encore, He engineered His own resurrection for good measure.
Of course, none of those people qualify as "zombies," as we understand the word. These folks actually lived again: They weren't just pretending, as the walking dead do. And they certainly weren't chewing on people's brains.
But the Bible talks about things that sound an awful lot like real zombies, too.
In Revelation—as an apocalyptic book as there is in the Bible—a couple of hombres are killed and are left in the middle of town, presumably to feed the local magpies. But then, after three-and-a-half days of lying in the sun or rain or what-have-you, they get up and scare the stuffing out of passers-by (Rev. 11:1-14). The Bible doesn’t say they ate anyone’s brains or grunted a lot, but neither does it say they were “normal,” either. And given the fact they had a good few days to decay before they rose again and were snatched up into heaven, I can't imagine they looked too pretty by then.
Or then there’s this charming vision of the future, courtesy that hip prophet of yore, Zechariah:
"This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem (when Jesus comes for a second time): Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths." (Zechariah 14:12-13)
If you didn’t remember Zechariah lived a good 3,000 years ago, you might’ve thought Zechariah just finished watching Day of the Dead or something. And these shambling, decaying mounds of flesh arrive just in time for the second coming. A true zombie apocalypse, if you will.
There's a third sort of "living dead" the Bible talks about, too: Us.
Jesus was pretty adamant that life without Him wasn't much of a life at all. "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life," he says in John 5:24. And as my pastor tells it, Jesus isn't just talking about eternal life, but life in the here and now—"life with a capital L," as my pastor tells it.
Paul and other New Testament authors bought all that, and repeated it to anyone who might read one of their letters. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world …" wrote Paul to the Ephesians. "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved."
But these biblical authors sometimes flipped the whole death-and-life metaphor around, too. Forget shambling around in our living death of sin. Sometimes we need to die and then be animated by another, more mysterious power—but instead of the weird virus in World War Z, it's Jesus. " I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me," Paul writes in Galatians 2:20.
So, if you shuffle off to a local theater this weekend to check out this $200 million epic zombie movie, think about some of these more theological zombies while you're there. Personally, I think they're worth (ahem) chewing on.