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Vampires and zombies and Jesus. Oh, my.

Vampires and zombies and Jesus. Oh, my.

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?

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Cristina Cassidy

I have never been an afficionado of horror films of any kind. But the other day I made a fascinating discovery. I was talking with a woman who had lost a daughter in a terrible accident. This woman is a spiritual, church-going woman, who actually has ended up working with families who have lost children. For an entire year, she was unable to watch anything but horror movies. She continued to go to church, she prayed, but she had always loved scary movies from the time she was a child, so watching frightening movies actually had a calming affect on her, perhaps in some odd way, she was able to face the horror of her child’s death by accepting the horror she saw on the screen. In my estimation, there is a psychological need for us to be able to face the “horrors” of the world. Yes, vampires and zombies are fictitious beings that are meant to frighten us. But maybe what they represent are what we do not want to become. Often in the horror tale there is a “good” person, someone fighting against the evil. While I think some horror flicks are strictly gratuitous in the level of violence depicted, I am reminded of this woman and how being able to accept horror in a movie helped her get beyond the confusion and pain caused by her daughter’s death. She is no less a Christian for it. The Zombies and Vampires also may represent those dark sides of ourselves that we refuse to look at. Through fiction, maybe we can take a closer look at man’s inhumanity to man in ways that are more difficult in reality, and on some level become more aware of our own personal need to be more Christ-like, to be more loving, to be more alive in the truest sense of the word.

BSnyder

You go, Gary Hall. Just reading this little excerpt has given me some hope.

I disagree with Michael Russell that there’s nothing in Christianity that addresses issues of primal concern to people. Grace – forgiveness and rest – is what Christianity is all about, in fact. The main problem is that the church continually seems to find the enemy somewhere “out there,” instead of helping people explore the uncharted regions of their own hearts.

And that is an incredible adventure; let’s get on it right away….

Michael Russell

Jesus just doesn’t stack up against Vampires and Zombies with respecting people’s primal needs for safety and adventure. There is likewise little coming of age angst in Jesus like that you find in “Being Human” for example.

Frighteningly,the part of the culture that has people excited about Jesus is that part which is organized around vilifying gays, Muslims, Abortionists and alien workers. There is something adventurous for them to do. They can can stand screaming outside of Abortion clinics and mosques, send patrols along the border, publicly whine about the jeopardy to their marriages and families that gay represent. And all in the name of Jesus.

Those of us not taken with ramping up vilification and hatred are left in the lurch of boredom, talking about peace, love and kindness that the more tolerant Jesus represents.

Those who look at these sorts of things conclude that moderation is so boring people will not flock to it. In the face of immense threats, significant response must come. The President has discovered this; he campaigned on the adventure of a dawning new age but has governed from pablum.

It is no small surprise that the Occupy movement has emerged. Like all emergent things we could not have predicted it. But it has named the big true monsters of our moment and established camps at the foundation of their fortresses. And until we speak and act in a way that connects Jesus to the adventure of righteousness we should not expect to get much attention or traction to the healthy side of his Good News.

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