Gary Hall, rector of Christ Church, Cranbrook in the Diocese of Michigan, has written a learned and entertaining disquistion on horror movies, what they tell us about our culture, and the questions they pose for the church.
However you think of vampires and zombies, their resurgence in the 21st century suggests some pervasive cultural worries that should make us people of faith take note. While vampires may live beyond the grave, their ongoing existence doesn’t seem to resemble what Christians would understand as resurrection. That younger people find vampires to be symbols of everlasting love should signal to us that the young don’t know much about the Christian hope. And the kind of disintegration the zombies usher in feels like a parodic vision of Armageddon: in zombie land, the world ends in an orgy of mutual predatory destruction, but it does not usher in the City of God.
In the 1930’s horror movies spoke to a shared experience of economic devastation. In the 1950s they expressed anxiety about living in the nuclear age. In the 21st century, the resurgence of vampire and zombie drama suggests another era of cultural dis-ease. Vampires live forever with romantic but without divine love. Zombies bring about social destruction that suggests judgment without redemption. Both visions tell us that many younger people experience the world as a predatory place. They see themselves hanging on in a world with little hope of joy or peace.
As Halloween modulates into All Saints’ Day, those of us who follow Jesus need to remember a couple of things. We should remember what the Christian hope really is. It’s a hope of resurrected life in Christ that redeems and transforms our lives and the world’s. We should proclaim that hope to a culture that confuses the vampire existence with eternal life. We should also remember that we share our world with people who increasingly find it a fearful and hostile place. What kind of a picture of God and human destiny are we in our witness showing to the world? What kind of comfort, care, and ministry are we providing for those who find life a frightening enterprise?