October 3, 2014

The Walking Dead...and Staggering Sin

Since the Season 5 premiere of AMC's The Walking Dead is here I chose to re-post this because it struck such a powerful chord with people when I posted it last year. I got agreement from some folks on what I've written here but I also got a load of kickback from people telling me that they did not believe that humans are inherently bad or evil. I of course being theologically oriented pushed back with Scripture and doctrine to remedy diseased thinking that could spread like airborne Ebola in the Church and in the world at-large.

Yes, all people are capable of doing decent morally upright things but man is fallen and a sick creature without God. Humans left to their own devices are not good but unrighteous, deadly and frankly...dangerous as Hell. Many people want to believe in an inherent goodness of men but the biblical concept of indwelling sin or imputed sin tells me otherwise. All have fallen short of God (Romans 3) and all are sinful in Original Sin (Genesis 3). 

There is no escaping this fact. It is congenital. We are born with it and will have it until the day we die. It is a Phase 6 pandemic. All are infected. All are going to physically die from it. There is only one known cure and it only works spiritually. Physically you will still die. What is truly frightening about this sickness is that it is so dangerous it will warp the minds of the infected in a form of psychosis. That psychosis is so pervasive that many of the infected will chose not to accept the cure. Unless God reaches in to save the infected subjects, they are unconscious to their need of saving. It is as if they are merely animated corpses. They become the walking dead.

How else does this tie into AMC's The Walking Dead

I have to admit, at first the premise for the Walking Dead repulsed me. The premise seemed to play to people's depravity and love of savagery. At first it all seemed like glorified violence, dead people and the worst of humanity. But I got sucked in and began to see the show in a less legalistic light. In a way I was right, it is indeed gratuitously violent. In a way I was seriously wrong, the violence and depraved nature is usually not coming from the reanimated corpses. At times the zombies come across as nearly commonplace. No, the real depravity and distress is found in the "normal" living humanity within the show. I use the terms normal and humanity loosely here. In this way, the show somehow speaks (or groans) from the dark side of the human condition (Romans 8).

In the show I see two things that stand out at me in a forceful manner. In the show it is not glorified violence so much as it is un-glorified violence. It is a violence that is perpetrated many times in the need of survival and dying in another’s stead to save another person’s life (John 15:13). In some cases they are sacrificial deaths. Of course many of the deaths are not "necessary" but the violence points us to some severely unsettling truths about ourselves, the viewers. It points to a latent indwelling evil that strikes a chord in us all. The note that resounds within us makes us uncomfortable in its truth.

There is of course the issue with the show's viewers. The one thing that troubles me about the show and still does to some extent is the possible effect it might have on weak minds prone to violence. In this show there is an overt violence that fills the screen. People can say the zombies are already dead or they are essentially monsters but this skirts the issue: They are humanoid in form. There is a potential here for devaluation of human sanctity by the blatant violence for those that cannot see deeper than the shell of skin on the zombie (if they have skin).

At times I believe graphic violence and malevolence dulls the edges of humanity  and compassion for a being that is strangely akin to a human being…dead or not. There are terms for people that do not have empathy for others, cannot feel for others or are self-consumed: Narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths. The character of Gareth and The Governor are great examples of this. That being said, the only thing that separates these actors from real people is a God-fearing conscience. It is strange but I see the potential from this show for people in real life to act out in similar ways as the actors on the show following on impulses/motives or lack of them…just like the zombies and evil humans. In this way I could see unstable or sinful people who have had the conscience seared or "deadened" (Romans 1) watching the constant violence becoming the exact type of people that we wince at watching week to week in the show. The root cause of both being a lack of conscience and deeper down...unrepentant sin.

We must never ever forget that humans are valued by God. God gives humanity its value not men. We must also realize that everything in God’s creation was instilled with value and it is only through the tainting of the Fall and the curse that things are capable of sinking to the level we see on The Walking Dead. It is therefore only God that separates us from the good and the bad of this show both in the show itself and in real life. The similarities between the show and our lives are frightening. 

The zombies have lost the image of God. Whatever "it" is, it is clear the Imago Dei involves the consciousness aspect of humanity. Our ability to reason and be intuitive. It is the same thing that separates us from the beasts of the field. Science perhaps may one day be able to reanimate corpses but only God could ever give mankind their humanity, love and the things that make us in His image. The dehumanized zombies removed of their humanity are nothing more that beasts. Devoid of the Godly image people end up nothing but monsters or deadmen. This seems to be examined first in the zombies, then the evil people like the Governor / Terminus members and then even in “good” people when they lose touch with their humanity (Rick, Shane, Carl, Daryl, etc). The Bible speaks of this godless wickedness…

Isaiah 56:9-11 ~ “All you beasts of the field, come to devour-- all you beasts in the forest. Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around …they are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, they seek their own gain.”

This then leads to my next point about the show which is even more morbidly ironic than the first point.
The second idea is that all of humanity could possibly be infected with a virus or disease that can overtake humanity turning them into mindless monsters. What is worse is the fact that when you actually die there is no cure, the virus being dormant within all of humanity… will bring you back as part of the horde of walking damned or “Walkers” after death. What is interesting about this description is that it is a perfect description of unrepentant sin in humanity. Let me re-phrase the above paragraph and put the word sin in place of disease, disorder, etc.

All of humanity could possibly be infected with sin that can overtake humanity turning them into monsters. What is worse is the fact that when you actually die and have no salvation, because of the dormant (or not dormant) sin within… you will become part of the horde of walking damned or “Walkers” after death.

The thing that is most frightening about this show is not the zombies. It’s the people that are still alive. When the restraints of civil society come down (and God’s mercy and grace are removed) we see exactly where reprobate people are capable of going (Romans 1). Some of the places the psyches of the characters go (Gareth, Governor) are pathological and evil incarnate, just like the real world around us. The actual evil and sinful nature of “living” characters in this show is where the true terror or horror lies. It is the "terminus" of sin run rampant in a person's life. The zombies themselves are almost comical at times in their banality. True living humans are capable of much more horrendous evil because they can think through and devise their evils. Deep in the heart of their sin we see true repulsive nature of natural man whose sin has been given free reign.

I believe that is why even Christians stare week after week in morbid fascination of the unspeakable dreadfulness exhibited on this show. Inside we tell ourselves that, “It’s only a show and this nastiness could never happen in real life.” In reality many of us know that not only are we lying to ourselves…we might only be one catastrophic societal event away from that which would put us into the world of this freak show and the nightmare would become real for us all. Worse still...some of us sense that we could potentially become one of the "bad guys". We need only look at places where societal restraints have come off in the past and either genocide, religious persecution or just plain old societal breakdown ensues…Khmer Rouge, the Holocaust, Somalia, the Balkans, Orissa/Odisha, New Orleans after Katrina, etc. We are all only one decision away from becoming monsters ourselves.

The truth is there is not only a risk of being contaminated and affected by other sick people which happens every day but we are indwelt with the very "illness" that could make us a monster. We are all dead in our sin. Sin is death, because the wages of sin is death. We don’t need to be bitten or die. As a matter of fact, dying with this disorder of sin without the cure (salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ) not only condemns us, it forces us to walk in a damned state for eternity.

Ephesians 2:1-2 ~ And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

We in our sinful state are walking dead. In a sinful state we mindlessly destroy lives including our own and contaminate others. Frankly, I find this more horrifying than being reanimated and violently stabbed in the head with a screwdriver or killed with a shotgun blast. Actually, I would prefer the shotgun demise over the doom of walking dead in Hell forever.

The fact is that we will all be brought back from the grave. The question is: How do we want to come back? Do we want to come back in glory in a Resurrection body in the presence of Jesus or do we want to be resurrected to torment similar to the zombies?

Sometimes reality is more horrifying than any horror show could ever be.


Shawn said...

Excellent point. I never thought of it this way...the more I do, the more it fits as an excellent analogy, thanks.

Andy Pierson said...

Thanks Shawn. Yeah, the show is one of the few exceptions I make about TV viewing. I am not really a TV guy. It has interested me enough to watch it like I used to watch the X-Files. I guess I just like the offbeat stuff that makes me question the answers sometimes.

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