Surviving the Night of the Living Dead

This is the one that started it all. A low-budget, star-starved film, Night of the Living Dead came along in 1968 to change the landscape of horror films and introduce the world to an apparently endless stream of additions to the genre. The Fount of All Knowledge has a list that includes over 400 such movies, and that doesn’t include the various television series.

In the original George Romero film, which referred not to zombies but “ghouls,” seven people find themselves holed up in a farm house as an inexplicable number of recently deceased people find themselves laying siege to the place. As you might imagine, there are internal squabbles and–a cliché of later zombie flicks–the living wind up being just as dangerous as the dead.

An after-action discussion could have been held by the people in that farmhouse. “How could we have been more successful?” That’s what you do after a major project, right? So how might they have avoided the problems that they eventually had. [Shameless spoilers ahead, but the movie’s over 50 years old!]

We find our cast assembled around a table discussing the situation they have just endured.

Harry Cooper: If you had all just listened to me and come down to the basement, everything would have been just peachy.

Helen Cooper: Harry, they might have taken you more seriously if you had helped them when they first got here instead of hiding downstairs.

Harry: Shut up, Helen!

Helen: That’s right. You’re a bully until you face something truly frightening. Then you’re a coward.

Barbra: Johnny has the keys.

Judy: You could have kept your wits about you, Barbra.

Tom: Give her a break, Judy. You shouldn’t have panicked and come to the truck.

Judy: And you shouldn’t have slopped gasoline around to make the truck explode.

Ben: Now we know that Tom didn’t mean to start that fire and barbeque you two.

Harry: This wouldn’t have happened if you had all come down to the basement.

Ben: Why should we have listened to you, because you’re older . . . and white?

Harry: Why should we have listened to you, because you have a full head of hair?

Ben: You’re a racist!

Harry: And you shot me.

Karen: I ate Daddy.

Helen: Quiet dear.

Tom: Actually, let her talk. What would have happened if we’d all been in the cellar when she turned into a ghoul?

Harry: Uh . . .

Judy: That’s right, Mr. Cooper. Would you have killed your own daughter?

Barbra: Johnny has the keys.

Tom: Maybe we should have found Johnny, gotten the keys, and then made a break for it to the cemetery to find the car.

Judy: I can’t believe I ever liked you, Tom.

Ben: Maybe you should have all listened to me and strengthened the house.

Harry: We see how well that turned out.

Ben: It worked out fine for me.

Harry: After you shot me and after you hid out in the cellar, just like I suggested from the start.

Helen: He does have a point there.

Ben: But then I got shot.

Judy: Did you never think to say something to those men? One word would have kept you from being shot.

Ben: But . . . uh . . .

Karen: I’m hungry.

So as we leave the Farmhouse Seven to squabble, what have we learned here? Ultimately, we all die. But when we die, we do not spring back into motion seeking out human flesh. Instead, the dead will all rise, not as a terror but some in rightful terror.

I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.–Revelation 20:12

None of those who took refuge in that farmhouse can hope to remain standing, judged positively on their merits.

  • Harry is not sufficiently decent.
  • Helen is not sufficiently maternal.
  • Judy is not sufficiently loyal and loving.
  • Tom is not sufficiently fearless and forthright.
  • Karen is not sufficiently young and innocent.
  • Barbra is not sufficiently clueless and damaged.
  • Ben is not sufficiently noble and brave.

All of them have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. They were, from the outset, the living dead.

I Have a Zombie Problem

I’m pretty much convinced that the zombies are after me and that they want to eat my brain. Yes, I know that you think I have a zombie problem, what with my “Easter Zombies” and observations on Night of the Living Dead. But bear with me.

Not too long ago, I accomplished something truly worthwhile, finishing the entire run of the now-cancelled TV show Z Nation. Think of this program as a less somber, less serious The Walking Dead. I’m not sure exactly when I started watching Z Nation, but I do know that I wrapped it up about two weeks ago. I’ll assume that I ran through the series in about two months, but I rather suspect it was quicker than that.

There were 69 total episodes of this program, spanning five seasons. With each episode weighing in at about 40 minutes, that’s a total of 46 hours of my life that I dedicated to Z Nation. What a great investment of my time those 46 hours represent!

What could I have done with those hours? At my normal reading speed, I could have read six 300-page books and still had time to watch Avengers: Infinity Wars to make my Netflix subscription seem worthwhile. At my normal writing speed, I could have probably gotten somewhere near 40,000 words on the page. Instead, I watched a ridiculous TV program about zombies.

What if I invested that time in reading? If I did, I could read three more books each month. That’s 36 extra books a year. Who could I be if I processed 36 extra books each and every year? What could I accomplish?

I ask this because I’ve been thinking over my Netflix subscription and feeling uneasy about it. The Puritan writer Richard Baxter proposed four questions to consider when deciding on reading material. (I find these questions repeated in numerous online spots, but I haven’t located the original Baxter source.) While all four of these questions seem relevant, I just want to focus on number one:

Could I spend this time no better?

How many better things could I have done with those 46 hours than to have watched Z Nation? I’ve already mentioned reading several books, but are there some other things I could have done? How about these:

  • Study Latin
  • Refresh my Spanish skills
  • Create several teaching videos
  • Work on the ramp from my deck
  • Build steps into the root cellar
  • Meet my neighbors
  • Perform some genealogy research
  • Write a bestselling novel

These are some crackerjack ideas. I know they aren’t your ideas, but they are perfectly good. And having watched Z Nation, I have allowed the opportunity to achieve these things to fade forever into the past. I can always do them next week or next month, but that’s not the point. My Z Nation side-trip sets back my accomplishments and leaves me with pretty much nothing to show for the time.

It turns out that I do have a zombie problem. By wasting my time on mindless video, I’m turning myself into a zombie.



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.