Humanity and ‘The Walking Dead’

Published 8:26 pm Friday, April 5, 2013

By Rev. Chris Surber

The zombie genre is no longer relegated to “B” movies watched on VHS cassettes by aging obscurantists in their mother’s basements. The zombie apocalypse is everywhere.

I recently saw someone wearing a T-shirt at a local mall with a picture of Darryl with his crossbow from “The Walking Dead” television show at a local mall. I watched a few reruns of the show to see what all of the hype is about, and I must say that I have become a sort of reluctant fan of the show.

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I even went out of my way to catch the season-ending episode late Easter night. All of the gory disgusting zombie stuff aside, the show is about the search for humanity. Perhaps that’s why it’s so popular.

After watching only a few episodes, I realized that the walking dead are not the zombies walking around everywhere wreaking havoc on the living. The walking dead are the humans who are not trying only to stave off being eaten by zombies or killed by marauding bands of other humans, but trying to do so while keeping their frail humanity intact.

The show’s characters are well developed and played by great actors. The audience gains deep insight into the ways in which different personality types would likely respond to conditions of terribly high stress and fear. One witnesses the various kinds of group dynamics that arise under conditions of extreme duress.

It’s easy for me to connect with the characters in my own search for humanity these days. Thankfully we aren’t being chased by zombies, but we do have constant pressures ripping at our humanity.

I am a follower of Jesus, serious about moral purity and radical love, but common social and political debates pull at my humanity. For example, my wife and I know people personally who live homosexual lifestyles.

While we don’t affirm that as God’s plan for people, we have genuine love for some of the people who live that lifestyle. We know their hurts. We celebrate their victories. We ask God to pull them, as we do for all of our friends and ourselves, closer to Him.

Similarly, my wife and I have counseled many people considering abortion and post-abortion. We both abhor the practice. Yet we dig deep to find compassion for the people whose lives are utterly broken leading to abortion and whose lives have been broken by abortion.

In these and in countless other ways, I find myself fighting to keep my humanity, to treat people like people. It’s easy amidst the personal and political carnage of our culture to define people by the issues and ideologies connected to them, but that’s not God’s way.

In Deuteronomy 22:4, the Bible alludes to the spirit of common humanity that should define our interaction with others. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.” (ESV) In Luke 10 we see the Good Samaritan praised for helping a man who would have been his ethnic and cultural enemy.

In the culture wars of our day, we’ve got to be very careful not to lose our humanity. Like the characters in “The Walking Dead,” if we don’t make our first fight the struggle to keep our humanity, we can win every other battle and still lose.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at