I’m mildly obsessed with The Walking Dead lately.
I’ve never been one for scary movies or suspense thrillers, but after a group of friends coerced me into watching Night of the Living Dead last Halloween I haven’t found zombies to be quite as terrifying. So I tuned into a random episode of The Walking Dead back in November out of curiosity. Hooked, I’ve since gone back and watched it from the beginning, and have gotten as far as Netflix will allow me. If you know where I can catch old episodes of Season 3, please let me know.
Working my way through The Walking Dead during Lent has been a fascinating experience. The thematic push of the show and the reflective focus of Lent run parallel While I wouldn’t go so far as to call watching The Walking Dead a Lenten discipline, it has served to highlight the universal need for the serious reflection on mortality that Lent is designed to inspire.
What does it mean to be human? This seems to be the central and underlying question of the show. When the lines between life and death are blurred, and dead bodies get up and walk, what is it that separates these animated bodies from the essential human character that was known and loved by friends and family? The answer it seems is surprisingly spiritual for a show known for its blood and guts.
The characters in the show are in a very literal way being chased by death. The walkers in the show are not the main characters, nor are they the “walking dead” of the show’s title; they only serve to act as a foil, highlighting the remaining humanity in those who still live. The focus is on those few remaining humans who have, so far, escaped death at the hands of death embodied, and who are wrestling with their impending demise, their belief in God, and their need for one another. They are always dodging death, frequently losing loved ones, questioning the meaning of life with death so certain. And, as it was revealed late in the second season, the problem is not only death out there, but also death within each of us.
Daily reminders of mortality, facing questions of life and death and God, needing a community for meaning and safety, dealing with death around us and within us? Sounds a lot like Lent. More thoughts to come…