Note: I love zombie apocalypse stories because they are a great metaphor for life crises. This blog series on the topic has four parts: 1) waking up in the crisis; 2) defining “alive”; 3) abandoning self-sufficiency; and 4) spiritual weapons and sustenance. All scriptures are NIV unless otherwise noted.
The Walking Dead, a zombie show based on a serialized graphic novel, is one of the most-watched shows on TV, while other zombie books and movies continue to sell like hotcakes.
Why is the zombie genre so popular?
I think one reason is the compelling question at the heart of it: In a zombie apocalypse, what would I do? Or more specifically, excluding the suicide option, what would I do to survive?
This question faces all fictional people in zombie stories, and stirs such passionate interest in actual people that a real-life industry has grown up around it. Amazon.com sells a survival manual, and other websites offer real-life training camps on the topic. In 2011, even the History Channel aired a special (Zombies: A Living History) about outlasting a zombie takeover. The History Channel!
The question of survival can be broken down into more specific questions, such as: Where would I go? With whom would I associate? What about weapons for self-defense? And what about sustenance (food and water)?
Each of these questions has spiritual applications. Let’s tackle them one at a time.
First, where would I go?
Would I go to a city or to the country, and would I settle into a secure, well-equipped home base or stay on the move?
A city contains more scavengeable resources for greater self-sufficiency (or the illusion of it), but it also has more zombies. To get around the zombies to the resources, I’d need massive courage and ninja-like stealth – attributes rarely possessed by a guy of my size and agility. Also, in the city, there’s more danger of getting trapped in tight spaces (narrow streets, tall buildings) with no escape, whereas in the country there are fewer zombies and more escape routes. As for establishing a well-equipped home base, doing so could attract other survivors who’d kill for it; better to stay mobile.
Zombie wisdom says: Don’t follow the crowd to the cities, and don’t settle in one place. It’s safer to keep moving through open country and live off the land, even though resources might be scarce. At least, according to my sources.
In the Old Testament, the dichotomy was the same. As people built cities, they began to “follow the crowd” and develop wealth, resources, and delusions of self-sufficiency, all of which laid the foundation for many evils. Think of the people of Babel building a tower, seeking to become almost godlike: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). Or think of the Hebrews establishing cities in the Promised Land, then rejecting God as their leader and demanding a human king like “all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).
In actuality, a city in itself is not evil. But symbolically, it is a monument to human strength. Living in a “city” (metaphorically), we can forget our dependence on God and find ourselves trapped in dangerous places, like in the delusion that we are self-sufficient.
Perhaps this is why, before the Hebrews became a nation, God led them away from the cities and toward complete dependence on him in the wilderness, where they had to trust him to provide manna every day (Exodus 16).
Personally, in the real world, I prefer books and computers to rugged outdoor life. But metaphorically, I believe that living in daily dependence on God’s provision – to me, represented in zombie literature by living off the land in remote places – is the way to go.
Second, with whom would I associate?
Would I remain a lone individualist, join a small group, or become part of a large group?
On one hand, a loner requires fewer supplies and can escape more quickly and easily—again, creating an illusion of self-sufficiency—but she has no one to watch her back or cover her blind spots. On the other hand, a large group poses logistical problems and offers little sense of true closeness. The third choice, a smallish, close-knit group, offers real interconnectedness and the best chance of survival.
Zombie wisdom says: Go with a small group. Small groups are stronger and safer than large groups or loners.
Jesus supported this model by forming a small group of disciples who knew each other intimately. He prayed that they, and we, would experience true unity (John 17), which is essential for spiritual strength.
I’m an introvert and I’m also from Montana, where personal freedom is a core value, so I tend to favor being “on my own.” When my world imploded in 2008, I just wanted to withdraw and be by myself. Thankfully, though, my church stressed the scripturally-based point that everyone, even an introvert like me, should join a home community for close relationships. So I found the nearest one and started attending. And this ragtag band of Christians surrounded me and lifted me up. They bound my spiritual wounds and defended me from further attacks of the enemy. They cared for me through prayer, encouragement, and many other forms of support. Had I stayed alone, I might still be living, but I probably would be more dead than alive. In the zombie apocalypse and in real life, living in a small, caring community is best.
So depending on human self-sufficiency, whether in a “city” or on one’s own, is not the best way to survive the zombie apocalypse. Instead, it’s better to depend on the strength of God and a few believers who know you very well.
In my next blog, I’ll wrap up the last two questions: What about weapons for self-defense? And what about sustenance (food and water)?
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