Friday, February 3, 2012

Christian Century Ignores Bible – or – We need a film about Judeo-Christian ZOMBIES!

Rodney Clapp helped me out this week in explaining the increasing presence of zombies and their meaning in American culture. But not a word about zombies in the Bible! Isn’t that what resurrection is about???

In 1 Kings 17:22 Elijah raised a boy from the dead. In 2 Kings 4:34-35 Elisha raised a boy from the dead. In 2 Kings 13:20-21 a man is raised from the dead when his body is tossed into Elisha's grave and his body touches Elisha’s bones. Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter in Matthew 9:18–26. Even Peter raises a woman from the dead in Acts 9:40-41 and Paul raises a man from the dead in Acts 20:9-20. Of course Jesus is top zombie. The problem is that these are single events of the resurrection of individuals. You might think this is because it is miraculous and doesn’t happen every day.

But in the movies and on TV zombies come in HORDES! Here they are: Ezekiel raises the bones of all Israel in 37:1-14. In Matthew 27:52 we have the ultimate Bible Zombie story, that rarely is preached: When Jesus dies the graves around Jerusalem open and “many saints” were raised. Jesus was the preeminent Zombie!

In these Bible zombie stories nothing is said about the “second life” of those raised from the dead. Except for Jesus, who was “raised” for only 50 days and then was seen “rising” into the heavens (sky). Resurrection is supposed to be about life, not death, the subject of zombie tales. Such stories raise questions about life and about being human. Do resurrection stories do this? Those raised from the dead in the Bible had to die again, right? How did they deal with this? Or are they still with us?

Why are zombies dangerous to us? Only in certain 20th century films do we learn that zombies crave human flesh or even brains. We shouldn’t read that back into the Bible. It turns out that zombies live even in other cultures, such as Tibetan “lo-rings,” who walk stiffly and can’t bend over, leading to the construction of low doorways to keep them out. This in a culture that believes in reincarnation. There used to be a series of beer commercials that said “You only go around once.” It made for great sermons against reincarnation. Maybe we need to dig out those sermons to explain or counter belief in zombies. Are they“living” dead or only “walking” dead? Zombie characters are soulless, which has led now to “philosophical zombies.” Where will it all end??

Shame on CC for missing all of this. It is a test for Biblical literalism. It is also a test for all who disparage Jesus Seminar scholars who study the texts for actual history. Bob Funk said he always carried Mt. 27:52 in his pocket, so to speak, with some other verses. When other scholars would tell him that he no right or ability to decide what Jesus said or did, or didn’t say or do, he would ask them which verses they would leave out of the gospel narrative or of the red letter words of Jesus. If they had no answer he would ask about the zombie stories, or about Jesus riding both a donkey and a colt in Matthew 21, or the more mystical discourses of John.

For years I quoted John Cobb: “The resurrection is a symbol for the possibility of our own transformation.” Later I discovered that quote almost word for word in David Freidrich Strauss, from the 1840's. For me it was one of those explanations of a symbol that warmed my insides, but I admit it doesn’t have any magic about it. It has never been well received, and it convinces others that I am a muggle vis a vis religion. Maybe we can alter it for the living dead: “Zombies are symbols for our fears that we may not be fully alive or become fully human.”

At least it's not a problem that people believe in zombies. But maybe I'm wrong.

No comments: