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“Best hope against the zombies”

“Best hope against the zombies”

Rachel Mann has a provocative article in The Guardian claiming that zombies are an apt metaphor for those who feel the emptiness of consumerism.

Zombies “…represent our most unthinking and relentlessly hungry selves. They are interested in one thing only: consumption. And they can never be filled.”

She then pushes the metaphor:

Words are one of the defining characteristic of our humanity. Zombies are wordless yet constantly moan and make noise. Our consumerist age seems to make words – the very things that should enrich us – become empty, untrustworthy and unsatisfying. They do not nourish us. An ad campaign tells us that vegetables are “flavour-fresh” or invites us to “live the dream” by owning a pair of expensive trainers. But the “flavour-fresh” apple turns out in our mouth to have no more flavour than the trainers.

A mark of our zombified age is the extent to which our words are dust in our mouths and do not nourish us. We multiply words hoping that we will be satisfied. As Barbara Brown Taylor once put it we have a “famine of excess” – we have an excess of words, and yet because they contain no nutrients, no matter how much we seek to feed on them we are not satisfied. Like zombies, we are never satisfied and hunger after the next “meal”.

Mann then puts forth that the Christian church offers the promise of new life and hope:

Insofar as we are living in an age which seeks to zombify us and make us relentlessly hungry, the church – seen so often as wilfully obscure and out of touch – clearly offers the promise of new life and hope. For at the heart of the Christian hope is fullness of life. The “bread of life” is precisely the food which satisfies; Jesus is the “living water” which fills us with a spring to eternal Life. The very nature of the kingdom – which prioritises the poor and the vulnerable and invites us to be our true selves in Christ – is a work of resistance against the emptiness of rapacious consumerism. This is good news in its rawest form.

I can’t help but think of the parallels with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote that I saw yesterday, on the 49th anniversary of the “I have a dream” speech:

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”

Can the church help us turn from the “walk of the living dead”?


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Ironic, in that I so often read anti-theists jokingly disparage Jesus as a zombie (or that “Christian idiots believe in the zombie-god, heh-heh-heh!”).

JC Fisher


Ohhhh, duuuude! Freakin’ awesome! Zombies! Purrr-fect!

Yeah, I mean, ya know?, like when the Zombies finally corner one of the minor movie characters that are marked-for-death?, and they swarm him and pull off the top of his head?, and start to eat his brains?, and he’s screaming until he turns into a Zombie too?, it’s so like when The Empire get ahold of ya?, and you start to get credit cards and things?, and pretty soon you’re so in debt it’s like you got no more brains?, and, ya know, you’re a Zombie too???? Ya know???

I mean, it’s so real, dude.

And astonishingly appropriate, this metaphor.

Kevin McGrane

Kurt Wiesner

That’s a great point John.

I remember a Clergy Day led by Bishop Robinson that touched on this. Just pulled out my notes (which may not be exactly what the Bishop said, but it’s what I heard):

We care for each other on 3 levels:


When we acknowledge someone’s pain:

Pity sees it…but you stay a safe distance (head)

Sympathy you really feel sorry…Might act in some way to help (heart)

Empathy makes the pain yours…My well being is tied to yours…seeks to systematically address the pain.

We CAN’T do it all, so sheer survival keeps us at the pity level a lot…

But we are called to at least be Empathetic about some pain in the world, and to let some of that pain in.

John B. Chilton

Love the quote from MLK. At the same time, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read in the last year (I’ve been reading about racism in America) that MLK chose not to participate in this or that event, rally, or protest. He was in high demand because he’d earned his reputation for standing up for principle. The irony is that he had to choose his battles.

I would do well to remember that the next time I call someone out for sitting on the sidelines and not standing up when I think they should. We each have to choose our battles, and we should hesitate before second guessing someone else’s choice about the battles they choose and which they don’t.


I know nothing about current interest in zombies but I find this a helpful and apt analogy for consumerism and what the church might offer. Thanks!

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