Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Walking Dead: Who are we?

Sunday night over 17 million people watched the Season 5 premiere of the popular AMC show The Walking Dead. For those who don't know, it is a show set in a dystopian world, the result of a "zombie apocalypse." It may seem like one long zombie movie, but it's really a show about human nature, survival, hope in the midst of despair, moral choices in the face of extreme adversity, and community. It is in many ways gruesome, dark, and at times hard to watch. But it also is a story that keeps sending me back to examine the meaning of life and how God fits into the picture.


Leading up to the this episode, Rick and his son Carl are approaching a place where sanctuary has been promised, but the promise is a lie. Those who are waiting for them have gone off the deep end, doing unspeakable things to their fellow human beings. As they walk along, this conversation takes place:

They have been through so much. Done so many things out of necessity. So have they lost their identity?

Fast forward to Sunday's episode. Rick and his friend Glenn have just escaped from one of the most gruesome deaths imaginable, at the hands of the people who had promised them sanctuary but only wanted to use them....for food. That's how low these people had sunk. And as they are plotting their escape, they notice a train car with some fellow human beings trapped. Would they save them, or just look out for themselves? And so the question of identity comes up again:

They're still holding on to their humanity. By a thread, but they are. "That's still who we are...it's gotta be."

As the episode progresses, we learn about the journey of the captors at Terminus. How they started out providing sanctuary and really trying to help people, but were betrayed. Tortured, killed, and assaulted in every way imaginable. And so they hardened. They became determined to never let it happen again. And the end result? Total depravity.

So who are they? Who were they before it happened? Are they different people, or were the depths of sin always there, crouching at the door, waiting to devour them? (And whoever they might trap.)

And what about the supposed heroes of the story? Who are they? Are they on the same journey as the evil captors? Are they becoming jaded, one crisis at a time, until they are just as depraved as the Terminus crowd?

So what about us? Who are we? It's so easy to look at myself as I live my relatively comfortable life (no zombies here) and think I'm a pretty good person. But am I? Or is there a level of adversity where  I would progress into something I don't recognize?

This is where I need the grace of Jesus, the resurrection power to change me from the inside out. Through his death and resurrection, my heart can be changed and the evil lurking there defeated. There is hope...hope that I do not have to become what I hate in order to defeat it.

When the world tried to force Jesus to fight back against its power structures, he defeated evil in a surprising way: by submitting himself to a humiliating death. He defeated evil by taking on sin and allowing it to die with him, and then rising from the dead.

I'm not sure where Rick's journey will lead. It looks like there is a real danger of becoming everything he hates in the struggle to survive and protect those he loves. I look forward to seeing how far down that road he goes...and whether he ever recognizes what's happening to him. But the real question is, do I realize what's happening to me? Do you? And what are we going to do about it?

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