"Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope." From Psalm 71
Sociologists say horror stories reflect our greatest fears. During the Cold War, movies like Godzilla and Spiderman indicated a fear of radioactive mutation. Today, we are inundated by zombies and vampires - TruBlood, Twilight, 28 Days Later - indicating we are most afraid of… ourselves.
Think about it: the pseudo-dead "live" solely for consumption – excess money, excess drink, excess sex. Without morality or mortality, zombies and vampires are pop-culture's greatest fantasies, viewed through a fun-house mirror.
As far back as 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer asked: do such creatures have souls? It is unclear whether the question was directed at the vampires – or at us.
In the movie Shaun of the Dead, it takes the hero a full day to realize that the people around him are becoming zombies. It is clear: fighting the zombie apocalypse is a metaphor for fighting his own meaninglessness. He has been Shaun, living dead.
In Zombieland, apocalyptic survivors search desperately for meaning. For Woody Harrelson's character, life's purpose is simple and finite: "Believe it or not, Twinkies have an expiration date. Someday very soon, life's little Twinkie gauge is going to go empty." The survivors aren't dead, but they aren't really alive, either.
Surely, like the psalmist, we still need deliverance from the wicked. But, perhaps, in 2013 (as, most likely, in the time of the psalmist) what we are really asking is to be delivered from ourselves. At the very least, let us pray to be delivered from the (all-) consuming fantasies – the ones that pervert our desires, and distract us from putting our hope in anything other than the living God.
You know – the one who rose from the dead – and who promises that we can, too. Starting now.
Dear God, help me love you so much I love nothing else too much. And help me fear you just enough that I need fear nothing else at all – not even zombies. Amen.
Elissa Johnk is the Senior Pastor of The Old Meeting House, East Montpelier Center, Vermont.