Monday, June 23, 2014

On the Zombie Apocalypse

An important lesson to remember in life is this: Follow-up is key.  My last post, On Being a Pastor's Wife, was my most-read post so far this year. So it only makes sense that I would follow up that post with a topic I'm equally passionate and expressive about: the supposedly inevitable zombie apocalypse. Yes, there is some sarcasm there. I give you permission to groan.

I've never understood our culture's obsession with zombies, vampires, ghosts, and various other paranormal undead/immortal creatures. I like to keep my fiction and reality very clearly separated, for the sake of my own sanity. It drives me crazy when people bring up this zombie apocalypse thing like it's something that will actually happen, as though we need real strategies for how to survive it and conquer the walking dead that are out to eat our brains or whatever it is that zombies supposedly do. The images are horrible, the very thought makes my stomach turn, and I generally like to point out Hebrews 9:27, "...it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (ESV). So there. Clearly, zombies are completely fictional, made up by some crazy people for some sort of sick entertainment or to horrify children and women with appallingly vivid imaginations. The "inevitable" zombie apocalypse will never, ever happen, as I have frequently and emphatically declared in conversations and on social media.

Then, as part of my daily Bible reading, I came across this fascinating description in Zechariah 14:12, "And the Lord will send a plague on all the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Their people will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away. Their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths" (NLT). Eek. I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds a lot like zombies. I should probably note that when I pointed this verse out to my husband, a pastor and Bible scholar, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. However, that verse has forced me to rethink my dogmatic belief that the zombie apocalypse will never, ever, happen.

And now for a word on biblical interpretation. It is possible to take any singular verse of Scripture, or an isolated passage, or a few scattered verses that seem to deal with the same topic, and make them say just about anything. In support of zombies, one could also point to the passage in Ezekiel 37, where the prophet records his vision of a pile of bones becoming a great army, or the brief, strange account of graves being opened and many bodies coming out and appearing to people immediately after Jesus' death in Matthew 27:52-53. I think it's important to point out that none of these passages (or any others you might know about that I've missed) are actually about zombies. I believe Ezekiel is painting a dramatic visual of the fact that when it comes to restoration, God is capable of anything. The passage in Matthew shows some of the immediate, powerful, literally earth-shaking effects of Jesus' death on the cross. And Zechariah is pronouncing judgment on the nations and restoration of the nation of Israel. Of course, that passage is actually apocalyptic, so the zombie plague is, in my opinion, a possibility. It could be suggesting something like biological warfare or nuclear fallout, which Zechariah obviously would not have understood, but he could have described the effects. Or maybe it's symbolic, a picture of something that won't actually happen, but which warns of the seriousness of opposing the people of God. Zionists could read the passage and declare, "See! Don't mess with Israel!" The fact is, the Bible talks about a lot of things, but it's not about zombies. So to build an entire zombie doctrine on this one verse would be foolish. This is why my husband rolled his eyes. It's important to be very careful when interpreting Scripture.

That said, the Bible does provide abundant fodder for a fertile imagination. I've also caught references to what I believe are dragons and unicorns (prompting additional eye-rolls from Greg). It's amazing what you catch when you actually read it. I'm just a few days from finishing my latest year-long read-through of God's Word, and it's always interesting when I find things I don't remember ever reading before. The book of Zechariah has some fascinating parts to it. Even if you don't have time for careful analysis and and study, reading through the whole Bible every year is a worthwhile endeavor, and I highly recommend it. I'm going to start a new plan on July 1st. I'll post the link if anyone is interested in joining me.

So, I have to admit that a zombie apocalypse might actually happen someday. Does it matter? Probably not. Do I care? Definitely not. Am I going to start stockpiling weapons and planning how to defend my family and my brain? No. If it does happen, or if something similar happens, from what I read in Zechariah it will be part of God's judgment on his enemies, so I'm safe. Whew.


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