I’d like to take a brief moment to write something positive about the entertainment industry. I know what you’re thinking, can anything good come from Hollywood? Believe me; I know. I live in Southern California. We know crazy (Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and the beat goes on). Hardly a week goes by without some kind of celebrity shenanigans (serious or just plain silly) making headline news. After all, we’re still talking about Harrison Ford’s Kessel Run into a local golf course.
But once in a while the entertainment industry surprises you and gets it right. Perhaps it’s even more shocking when the “it” happens to be Christianity.
I mentioned in a previous article (Sundays are for the Walking Dead) that I enjoy watching The Walking Dead because it is a good story, and frequently draws on Christian themes or influences. For instance, in a recent episode (March 8th, 2015) Away in A Manger was playing in the background during a dinner party in Alexandria.
But more seriously, this is a survival story. And one of the things that helps people survive in this world of guilt, fear, and death is religion. Now, I would argue that the most convincing, confident, and comforting answer to humanity’s problems of guilt, fear, and death is Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus’ death and resurrection is a well-told story, beautiful in its meaning, sublime in its consolation, and yet it is also true, verifiable, and veracious. Jesus died in a particular place at a particular time with reliable eyewitnesses that testify to his dying and rising. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Jesus’ death and resurrection is history, but the event does not cease to be a good story.
Jesus did not die and rise in a post-apocalyptic television show. But can his factual death and resurrection be found in such fictional places? I think so. We shouldn’t be surprised to find Christian themes in a show that deals largely with fear, guilt, and death in every episode. In fact I think the opposite is true; I would be surprised if shows like The Walking Dead contained no themes or echoes of Christianity at all.
But in fact, many shows and movies like The Walking Dead do. Earlier in the season, the band of survivors spent several episodes in an abandoned Episcopalian church. On the interior wall of the nave, just to the right of the chancel was a hymn board. Granted, a bit of ignorance is revealed in that the hymn board was used for Bible verses instead of actual hymns. And yet on the other hand, the writers revealed some intriguing biblical proof-texting skills. For upon this hymn board in the wilds of walker infested Georgia, were posted the following bible verses.
This was no coincidence. Whomever it was that wrote these episodes, took time to think about what these verses meant and why they should be included on set. Someone on the writing staff knew that viewers (I can’t be the only one) would take the time to look these verses up and reflect upon them. Certainly, context can’t always be known in one verse. But read the verses and their context. It’s all about dying and rising.
I find it fascinating, and rather profound, that in a fictional show about death and survival, someone was thoughtful enough to find and display several key Scripture passages which, in reality, show how one can indeed survive death.
The answer to the tragedy in the world that is depicted in The Walking Dead is not found in the zombies rising from the dead, but in Christ’s death and resurrection. The answer to the fundamental problem that faces all of us in the real world - guilt, fear, and death - is found in Christ’s dying and rising for you, and in these words.
Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”