I’m scared of zombies.
These are former humans, not quite alive and not quite dead, limited in their function. However, what they can do, they do with ferocity and precision.
If all the movies and TV shows are to be believed, zombies will attack healthy, well-meaning people indiscriminately, looking to entirely devour others in order to survive. Those who are not completely devoured become zombies themselves, joining the horde and furthering the plague.
One can’t negotiate or plead with a zombie. There’s no debate upon the merits of their actions. No, the best anyone who isn’t a zombie can do is run away or fight back – lowered to the same basic brain function as the zombie.
Of course, the type of zombies that I’ve seen showcased don’t exist, but there are certainly zombies that are around us today.
I notice them most when they begin to attack. You may have noticed, too. The moment that someone is perceived as an enemy, they attack in an almost feral way, and there will be no end to the attack until the one being attacked is eliminated or one of the zombies themselves. Pick any spiritual issue, it seems, and the zombies are ready for lunch. There’s no space for exploration, debate, growth. At best, one has a chance to run from the spiritual zombie, or one will fight at his or her own peril.
I often wonder if this is why most of us seem so afraid to discuss political issues within the space of a church community. Do you want to have a discussion about what happened a few months ago with the drag class in Delaware? Curious about how current policies enacted in our governments – local to federal – reflect our beliefs? You might be able to have that conversation with one or two people, but don’t expect a group, because more than likely, a spiritual zombie is amongst your midst! As much as we might plead with a spiritual zombie for grace and forgiveness, or an open heart, it’s unlikely to happen. So why fight when we can hide?
I wonder, too, how often people who have left the church have done so to escape spiritual zombies. When I talk to friends of mine who have left the church, often times I hear stories of hypocrisy, unrelenting judgement, and a perception of limited critical thinking on the parts of some people in the church they attended: a spiritual zombie attack.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not talking about carrying deep convictions. However, when those deep convictions become weapons to inflict damage on each other, they do less to guide our own lives and more to injure the lives of others.
I think that there is an antidote, however. When I look at the gospel, I see how Jesus both stood for his convictions, but made space for everyone who wanted to come close. How he healed people in his presence, even in the midst of their brokenness. How he came back from the dead! If there is anyone who could give us the cure against spiritual zombies, it’s doing what we can to live our lives like Jesus. To try to see everyone the way Jesus does – even the spiritual zombies in our midst, because I’m convinced they can be brought back to life as well.
So, the next time you feel the twinge of feral attack inside of you, I invite you to take a step back and think about zombies. It may be the thing that saves your life.
Rev. Adam W. Anderson is pastor and head of staff at Old Stone Presbyterian Church. For more information, go to www.oldstone.org.