This weekend a leader will make a sacrifice, the enemy will be defeated, traitors will be revealed and the dead will rise.
Is this about the season three finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead?” Or, is it the remembrance of Jesus’ death and the celebration of resurrection on Easter Sunday? For a culturally-savvy community church in Katy, it is both.
Over the last several weeks, CrossPoint Community Church has observed Lent, a season when Christians mark the passion of Jesus, with a series combining the zombie fiction genre with biblical teaching on death and the resurrection.
“We take familiar concepts and make it possible to look at them with fresh eyes,” said Frank Hart, Worship Arts and Creative Director at CrossPoint. “We want the look and feel of our message series to be provocative and attractional,” he said.
With the popularity of shows like “The Walking Dead,” movies such as “Warm Bodies,” books like “World War Z,” and even games such as “Plants v. Zombies,” CrossPoint feels it is tapping into something that is making the culture tick. While Hart admits zombie narratives are generally nihilistic and hopeless he said that Christian Scriptures speak to such situations and promise life. “We have been sold nihilism for so long that people are resonating in an almost nostalgic way with the bleak emptiness and meaninglessness of the zombie tragic endings,” he lamented, “we need to share the ‘cure’ with all of our family and friends and raise them to life in the promises of Christ.”
John W. Morehead, writing for Religion Dispatches, when “The Walking Dead” first captivated audiences, commented that scientists, philosophers and theologians alike are reflecting on the meaning of zombie popular culture looking for what Peter Berger called, “signals of transcendence,” or windows into the divine in everyday life. John Blake said this is not surprising since, “zombie stories grapple with common religious themes: the end of the world, resurrection and the nature of the human soul.” Morehead predicted that in time a “zombie theologica” would develop.
Today, Hart and the people of CrossPoint are not alone in making connections between zombies and Jesus. There are entire websites devoted to the subject. One is ZombieTheology.com, whose creator Alan Knox asserted, “there are many parallels between zombie lore and Christian theology.”
“The first concept that a person must deal with is the fact that they are actually dead without God,” said Knox. “They are living, but they are dead.”
At CrossPoint they went right for the “head” of “zombie theologica” and asserted boldly that to bring a zombie back to life, you first have to kill it. Drawing on the Christian theme of “dying to self,” CrossPoint preachers such as Pastors Bill Woolsey, David Jung and Steve Wiechman have encouraged parishioners to turn from devouring each other, die to their senseless desire for sin and death and instead come to life in Jesus Christ and the reality of his resurrection. As Knox said, “Even those who are ‘in Christ’ continue to devour themselves and others.”
With all the CrossPoint v. Zombie talk there are those who have hit back at the church for a metaphor some believe takes things too far. A commenter on Facebook said, “What happened to opening up the Bible and learning from the word of GOD?” Bemoaning that this series is just “plain entertainment,” the commenter claimed that such a series may appeal to the masses but never change anyone’s heart. Some asked, “Zombies in church, really?”
“The church needs to stand up and be willing to speak to all of the darkness and ugliness in the world and shine the light of Christ into all of the shadowy places,” said Hart in response to critics, “I believe that cultural fascinations need to be brought under the lens of God’s Word to be truly understood and redeemed.”
Even so, Hart tempers the “us versus them” metaphor of the series and asserts that while in zombie movies it really is all about being an anti-zombie zealot, for the church trying to preach life it is about “us for them.”
“Our hope is that a lot of zombies will stumble into church on Easter and not only join the living, but receive life,” said Hart. On Easter, the zombie series will transition to their next sermon sequence, “A Life that Matters,” focusing on what it means to live life in light of the resurrection of Jesus celebrated on Easter Sunday.
“The resurrection is the pivotal event in the history of the world that gives us that hope,” he said, “so it seemed proper to go from ‘zombie culture of death’ to ‘resurrection culture of life.’”
Hart concluded, “this series, even though it seems silly, is actually a deeply Biblical teaching series that gets to heart of what the Bible teaches on mankind’s love of death and need for resurrection and salvation.”