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A Theology of The Walking Dead
- October 22, 2015
- James Harris
Oh, The Walking Dead. How far it has come. From the beginning, with sweet, naive Rick waking up from a coma and finding the world had gone crazy, to Carol, the former abused wife who now is a coldblooded killer. The progression of our favorite motley crew of characters over the seasons has been steep to say the least.
Strangely, or at least strange in my opinion, God isn’t mentioned very often on the show. It’s almost assumed that when the world as they knew it went up in flames, the God that they knew went with it. What I thought would be a central tenet, or at least a regular conversation among the characters is barely considered.
Or perhaps it is. Here’s the thing: my favorite part, no scratch that, everyone’s favorite part about The Walking Dead isn’t the zombies, or the crazy violence that happens, or Glenn making vague references to being a pizza guy. It’s the interactions with other people, and having to continually answer the question: what happens to morality when the world ends?
The theology of The Walking Dead is simple, but at the same time complex. As far as I can gather, most characters would believe that God is a distant being, or if He is present, then He is punishing the world for assumed wrongs. Pretty straight-forward, and also pretty common in our world today. Within the “nones” or those non-affiliated with any religion, many consider themselves Theists, the belief in a distant God who put the world in motion but does not care for human interaction at all, or they have some type of unaffiliated spirituality, or perhaps they have been injured by the Church and believe that God is the kid crouching over the ant-hill with the magnifying glass. Many of them hold this theology, because they don’t have a category for a God who allows evil to exist in the world.
That is what makes the show complex. The characters don’t have faith in God because evil, which used to just be on their TV screens now looks them in the eye every day. They don’t just see evil. They walk in it, live their entire lives under it’s burden. They can’t get away from it.
And then they do the same thing we do. When we can’t logically understand where God is when evil things happen, we push Him away. We make a new category for God. Distant. Uninterested. Or we go the opposite way. God is up close and personal and is the embodiment of evil himself. He is the harbringer of bad things and what is the point in praying to a God who would allow the world to be like this? I would say the biggest blockade of people coming to faith in Christ is the existence of evil in the world, and that God doesn’t do anything to stop it.
I’m not here to write apologetics. I don’t have the answer for why God allows evil to happen. Why he allows suffering. I wish I did. But here is what I know about God: He is with you in the suffering and feels it as His own. In the fourth Chapter of Hebrews, the author talks about the Great High Priest Jesus Christ, who understands you. Who empathizes with you. Who feels what you feel.
The characters on TWD don’t talk about God much, and you know, I honestly probably wouldn’t care for the show if all they did was sit around and have theological discussions. But we can learn from the show about the human condition, and in that is theology. That is theology, because we know more about God by knowing what He loves. The people on the show are messy. They are selfish, and violent and cruel. The God who loves them and the God who loves us? He is merciful. He is loving. And He is with us– even when it doesn’t feel that way.