I cannot think of anything more bizarre, more out of character, more ludicrous for me to write on than….
But for some reason, they have arrested my attention. Primarily, I am just wondering why they have become such a pop-cultural hit of late. Let’s face it: zombies are suddenly iconic. So I started doing some thinking, some jotting, some typing… and next thing I know I am pitching an article to online magazines. Mockingbird has picked it up, and it should be on their site by the weekend.
So here I am writing a PhD on Johannine ecclesiology and putting the final editorial touches on a media-theology book. And then I decide to research zombies.
In actuality, though, these projects dovetail quite nicely.
The connections with my theology of media book are probably more obvious. In TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age (due out sometime soon…?), I give some space to pop-cultural media issues (though not as much as I had originally planned). One of my points, though, is that God can take crass rap lyrics and seedy back studio B-movies and use them in some odd way to express truth. He can even use zombies.
My reading in John’s Gospel may seem much less connected to zombies. Yet in this Gospel Jesus assures his hearers that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will be raised up from their tombs. Yeah, I know—the connections are a bit rough and maybe even cliché. But the idea that human beings can be reduced to blood-thirsting, flesh-slavering beasts is quite at home in the Bible (figuratively speaking, for the most part). And their redemption comes from a feast on the life-giving sacrifice of Christ.
I suppose the main problem for me in writing on zombies is that I have hardly seen a single zombie movie.
So I enlisted some help. Matt Godfrey volunteered his expert knowledge of the big-screen zombie species, and my brother hosted a special viewing for me of Zombieland. Ben DeSpain, who helped me with the article coming out at Mockingbird, is one of my fellow PhD candidates at Durham. The man is an Aquinas-theologian by day, but a zombie-theologian by night.
I also read World War Z by Max Brooks. I admit: it was good. Really good (and vastly different from Brad Pitt’s forthcoming cinematic version).
And so this blog post is partially a confession: dear friends, I actually spent time studying zombies. Please forgive me!
But it also is a fun rant about something quite different from anything else I work on here at HR or elsewhere.
Then again, thinking about culture and theology is exactly what I love doing in my writing and preaching. So maybe zombies fit right in….