[Spoiler Alert: This article includes major plot points from The Walking Dead]
The Walking Dead (TWD) is the most highly-viewed cable television series in history,¹ having won numerous awards and receiving great critical acclaim.² It is set after a zombie apocalypse, featuring various groups of humans who are brought into conflict while attempting to ward off a never-ending supply of zombies, known as “walkers.”
In standard zombie lore, anyone who is bitten by a zombie then becomes a zombie. TWD turns this on its head, however, and we learn in the season two finale that everyone is infected. Upon dying, all humans come back as flesh-eating zombies, making survival even harder, as anyone and everyone is a threat. Thus, the remaining humans are in a very dire situation:
As we see, the title of the show refers not just to the undead, but also to the living. Their days are numbered and they all know it. This is true for us as well. The notion that every human in TWD is infected with the zombie virus is a great parallel to the Christian doctrine of original sin. Thanks to Adam and Eve’s disobedience, all of humanity is infected by sin. Sin affects our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. We must recognize that our sin nature is constantly threatening to derail our lives. Like TWD, the threat is not just out there, but it lives within each and every one of us.
There are two nagging questions about the zombie plague, however: 1) How did it begin? and 2) What is the cure? Unfortunately, it seems we may never find out those answers, as TWD’s creator, Robert Kirkman, does not believe that they are the point of the show.³ However, this causes serious worldview problems for the series.
Most stories have three stages: beginning, middle (usually involving some sort of crisis), and conclusion (restoration or catastrophe). In Christian worldview terms, the three stages are creation, fall, and redemption. The creation phase of a story is the introduction of the characters, setting, plot, etc. The fall is the main crisis, which then drives the story.
While we know that TWD takes place during a zombie apocalypse, which is obviously the crisis, we don’t know how the outbreak occurred. The world of TWD contains fallenness, but there is no known Fall. And if we don’t know what is wrong, how can we fix it? This leads to the second and most crucial problem: there is no redemption. The survivors seem to have given up on finding a cure to the zombie virus, they are simply committed to establishing some sort of civilization.
Now, the show has many instances of individual redemption, of the cowardly developing courage and the selfish learning to be selfless. But there is no ultimate redemption. Remember, everyone in TWD is infected with the zombie virus. Their ultimate fate is to reanimate as a flesh-eating zombie, becoming a threat to civilization—and there is no cure. There is no lasting hope. The whole purpose of TWD is survival.
Thus, instead of TWD being a story of good vs. evil, it is really about order vs. chaos. The “good” survivors wish to rebuild civilization. But there are plenty of “bad” factions who are simply agents of chaos, enslaving and terrorizing other humans. The greatest agents of chaos are the walkers, who seek only to devour and destroy. So our “good” survivors have the odds doubly stacked against them. And don’t forget, everyone is infected, so even the “good” guys will reanimate as chaos-seeking monsters.
In TWD, the threats are constant and obvious: zombies and dangerous human factions. Whenever the survivors get complacent and let down their guard, that’s when disaster inevitably strikes. But what about us in the real world?
Maybe you have a good life in a nice, safe neighborhood. It’s easy to slip into autopilot, getting lost in our daily routines with no greater ambition or purpose. Like the humans in TWD, we’re simply surviving, not thriving. We aren’t seeking a cure, because we don’t even realize there’s something wrong deep down. Other people have problems, we don’t. And those big problems facing society? Someone else can fix them. It’s so easy for us to fall into hopeless, meaningless lives and not even realize it.
Reanimation vs. Resurrection
“Christ promised a resurrection of the dead, I just thought he had a little something different in mind.” — Hershel Greene4
This quote may put the nail in the coffin for TWD’s worldview. The reanimation of walkers after death is pretty much the antithesis of the resurrection of the righteous dead in Christianity. After all, this show is named The Walking Dead. Walkers are rotting, decaying, revivified monsters who mindlessly seek to consume and destroy. The image of God is nonexistent.
Thus, zombie reanimation is the exact opposite of resurrection. The Bible teaches that the dead in Christ will inherit eternal life, raised into incorruptible bodies full of glory and power (1 Cor. 15:42-44). In heaven there will be no more sadness or sickness, just pure joy and abundant life. We will reign with Christ, enjoying his beauty and goodness forever.
TWD is very well written and may offer some entertainment for horror fans, but the incredible amounts of death and gore can be extremely disturbing. And while characters who display courage, resilience, and sacrifice can bring about a temporary good, eventually, they all will be consumed by the zombie virus. The world of TWD is literally Hell on Earth.
TWD is bleak and hopeless. Thankfully, in our world, Jesus came to heal our sin infection and bring abundant life to us. He offers us meaning and purpose here and now. Even when we face great difficulties in this life, we have the assurance of eternal life. We are not mere survivors trying to make the most of a dead, hopeless world; we are called to establish the living Kingdom of God.
- Do you think you are thriving or just surviving? Why do you think this is the case?
- What can we actively do to ward off the “infection” of sin?
- If being a “walker” isn’t the kind of resurrection Christ promised, what is eternal life? Why is that exciting rather than terrifying or depressing?
- “Why the Popularity of Horror Movies Might Encourage Christians” – Mike Duran
- “The Walking Dead: Zombies, God, and What Makes Us Human” – Brian Godawa
- “Salt & Light Are More Than Simply Agents of Survival” – Justin Taylor
- “The Four-Chapter Gospel: A Story of Significance” – Hugh Whelchel
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