The rise of zombies in pop culture over the past number of years has been significant. I find myself hardly raising an eyebrow when it comes to reading about events like zombie walks, the zombie apocalypse or even zombie survival camps. Videos games, novels, television series and motion pictures have helped to cement zombies in the vernacular of the modern day.
Last year University of Toronto President, Professor David Naylor, addressed the Empire Club of Canada and spoke about the Canadian Federal Government’s “zombie policies” towards secondary education. I have read about a memorial service for a young man that included a zombie walk. Even the recent Ebola outbreak can be heard echoing the contagious nature of pop culture zombies.
What do we make of the rise of the zombies? In many cases, zombies help people to identify with what they are not. Zombies are those who are “unfeeling and unthinking.” They possess a mob mentality and eat brains. They are dangerous, contagious, untouchable and unholy. They are less than human. They threaten what is human. Notice the “they” that often exists when referring to zombies. Zombies give people a point of reference. It defines not only what it means to be a zombie or even to feel like a zombie, but in the process helps to define what is human.
Jesus of Nazareth came into a world where there may not have been zombies per se, but there certainly were the untouchable and the unholy. No less than his very self that “was crucified, dead and buried and on the third day rose again from the dead.” Yet in his rising again we see the rejected one who is loved by God. Loved and redeemed with the same love Jesus extended to the untouchable and the unholy in his earthly ministry. In him we look upon one who is not “less than human” but one who is the true shape of our humanity. One who has come not to differentiate but to reconcile.
Would Jesus love zombies? I hope so.
Dale Skinner is minister of St Stephen’s-on-the-Hill United Church in Mississauga, Ontario.