From Mary: Zombies, Vampires and Wizards — all intriguing but do they have a place in youth ministry? We aren’t sure we can answer that question, however my son, who is a youth pastor in Pennsylvania and visiting me for the week, thinks there are lessons to be learned from the stories. The following is his take on the movie Warm Bodies and Zombie media in general.
From William: I have often joked with my contemporaries that Jesus Christ is the ultimate zombie. After three days in the grave he conquered death to become the first of the Living dead. You could even stretch it to say that the goal of holiness is becoming a Zombie — dying to ourselves to receive New Life in Christ. In this new life we talk different, walk different, live different with one true-life purpose infecting others with the truth of the Gospel. People might stare or make fun of how different you are and if you are really dedicated they will hate you and run away from you. No need to write your dissertation on Jesus as he relates to Zombieism, but there are some interesting corollaries. If you frame your perception in this light it can change the way you see and perhaps utilize the current craze of Zombie media. The problem with this analogy being that Zombies are most often portrayed as mindless soulless beings without purpose.
My mother is an old-school youth worker, who really doesn’t get this connection. I recently made her watch the movie Warm Bodies. This is a story about a Zombie named “R,” who falls in love with a human. As the movie progresses R becomes more and more human as love warms his heart and it begins to beat again.
It is no stretch to draw a correlation between the “Zombie state” and the state of desensitization to the deadness of our own souls and the hurting world around us. This is not only true of our students, it is also true for many in leadership as well. Along with this Zombie theme is the ideology of mindless repetition and purposelessness that fleshes itself out in mediocrity. This however is the opposite of God’s design for us all, and entirely contradictory of a life led by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are two predominant messages that spoke to my heart as I watched this movie. The first is to slow down, think, see, and take in life. As a youth Pastor, it is so easy to get consumed in doing “God’s work” that God has no part in my work, and I become much like a Zombie. This shift in “being” requires for me to be still and know who God is, and to know, by the same token, that God is not me nor you.
The second lesson learned is to develop a heart that cares for others. In the movie, the only way for Zombies to come back to life (or be reborn) was through interaction with and love from humans. I feel the same is true for non-believers. We must cast down our racist, sexist, judgmental spirit and be willing to love ALL people, no matter what. This is precisely how Christ loved us, and gave His life for us. If Christ saved me when I was undeserving, maybe there is someone else out there who is languishing like a Zombie and needs to interact with God’s love through me. This is also how the truth of the Gospel spreads, much like an epidemic, when men and women are willing to love, no matter the cost.
Editor’s note: Mary is one of a handful of writers who contribute to the YLO and MVL Resource Books each quarter. We’re grateful to Mary for her work, but more so for her insight and her heart for youth leaders.