Easter Zombies

You never thought you’d hear those two words together, did you? I determined to put that sentence down as my lead, and then thought it might be fun to do a Google search for that phrase. And it turns out that “easter zombies” has appeared in several guises including on an anti-religious “deist” site, which mocks Matthew 27:52-53:

The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after his resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.

In fairness, that is a surprising pair of verses, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard a preacher take that as his central text. We shouldn’t be surprised that a skeptic, someone leaning wholly on human reason, would fasten on this as a problem point in the gospels.

But those are not the “zombies” I’m talking about. In popular culture, zombies are the bodies of dead people that are reanimated, somehow, inexplicably, and that wander around the countryside attempting to eat people who are still living. In many versions, these zombies are obsessed with eating brains.

These aren’t my Easter zombies either. The Easter zombies are those people staggering into the church on that one spring morning, more out of a sense of habit or compulsion than from any true devotion to God. Maybe going to church is the price they pay to enjoy peacefully a family dinner and Easter-egg hunt during the afternoon.

The problem with these people is that, like the zombies on TV, they’re dead. Maybe they’re truly spiritually dead, or maybe they have that spark of Christian life within but they’re so wrapped up in dead works that they might as well, from an outward appearance, be still lost in their sins.

Two times in Hebrews we read about people who are dealing with dead works, and in Hebrews 9:14, the writer urges us to “cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God.”

The Easter zombies don’t serve the living God. They’ll think more of jelly beans than Jesus, more of Peeps than God’s people.

While some of them are, as noted before, spiritually dead, some of them are technically believers but the sort who Paul describes, in 1 Corinthians 3:12, as building on Christ’s foundation with “wood, hay, or straw.” But then don’t we all do that now and again? Sure I might build with precious materials, I might serve the living God 90% of the time, but what of the other 10%. Should I look at your 80%/20% split or the bona fide Easter zombie’s 5%/95% split and boast? Aren’t we all really zombies to one degree or another?

I will walk into my church service this morning with a grateful and joyful heart because I am, like every other person wrapped up in this body of death, a little bit zombie. It is not for me to judge those who are more zombie, more far gone than me. It is for me, for us, beloved, to pray for them and to love them. It’s our place to believe in the truth that these bones can live again.

You will know that I am the Lord, my people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.–Ezekiel 37:13

He is risen! And He can make the dead alive again. Praise the Lord of the Easter zombies.

Benedict Arnold, American Hero

Benedict Arnold, that ultimate American traitor, made one big mistake in his career during the American Revolution: he didn’t die soon enough. Had Arnold possessed the good sense to, say, die of blood poisoning after the victory at Saratoga, he would today be held up as an American hero  of the second rank. No, he wouldn’t challenge George Washington’s primacy, but honestly who could? On the other hand, he would sport a greater claim to fame than several others who true history nerds know: Nathan Hale or Dr. John Warren. Nathan Hale, had he possessed more than one life to give for his country, might well have done something ignoble with the second one. Arnold, to his detriment, got that opportunity.

Early in the war, Arnold, while a bit reckless and self-promoting, enjoyed a string of bold actions that were mostly successful.

  • When the town fathers in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut dithered, he forced their hand, broke in to the armory, and led his militia unit off to help around Boston.
  • He famously helped to capture Fort Ticonderoga and was instrumental in bringing the fort’s cannon down to Boston, which proved key in driving the British from the city.
  • To take the battle to the enemy, Arnold led a group through the wilderness and made an ill-fated but incredibly bold attack on Québec.
  • Later, he proved instrumental in blunting British efforts to recapture Fort Ticonderoga and, with it, control of Lake Champlain and the north end of the Hudson valley.
  • Finally, it was Arnold who led the successful fighting in the victory at the Battle of Saratoga, a battle that Arnold and many historians believe would have been an even greater win had General Gates heeded his subordinate’s call for further attacks.

After that, Arnold’s triumphs were over. He grew disillusioned and bitter about an array of slights, both real and imagined. Eventually, he got into contact with Major John Andre, and the rest is history.

How sad is it that many Christians enjoy a Benedict-Arnold-like career serving God’s kingdom. We may spend years doing all the right things, teaching Sunday School or passing out bulletins. We might be married for decades or raise a string of godly children. We might, like the prodigal son’s older brother, make all the right moves.

But then, nearing the finish line, we can foul things up. We can wind up damaging our family or dividing our church. What a shame to transform oneself from the hero of Saratoga to the archetypal traitor. That’s why we are warned in Hebrews 12:1-2 to run the race with perseverance. It’s why, in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul doesn’t look back at how he started the race but remarks that he has “finished the race.”

It was at Saratoga that Arnold took a musket ball to the leg that left him limping for the rest of his life. Never given the credit he deserved from that battle, passed over for promotion, and not reimbursed for large personal expenditures, Arnold grew increasingly bitter and eventually conspired to betray the defenses of West Point to the British. If only his wound had proven fatal.