So some friends and I were talking the other night about vampires and zombies. Have you noticed that vampires and zombies are everywhere these days? Zombie movies have never been so popular (see chart below), ranging from the comedies like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2008) with Woody Harrelson, to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a New York Times best-seller (based on the Jane Austen novel, of course), and to be adapted on screen starring Natalie Portman and scheduled for release in 2011.

Vampire movies are enjoying a resurgence as well. Dracula is the single most popular film character of all time and vampire movies and TV shows feature A-List Hollywood types like Wesley Snipes (Blade movies) and Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). And of course the Twilight movies of 2008-2010 and HBOs True Blood are mega-popular cult hits.

So we were talking about zombies and vampires, but we’re all theology geeks. So we bring in God, Jesus, and theology. Questions arise like:

  • If zombies are un-dead, what would happen if Jesus returned in “the rapture?” Would zombies be able to accept Christ in such a premillennialist scenario?
  • Vampires and Zombies are archetypal “Others.” They are different than us, but they are also human (or used to be); do they not symbolize those dark parts of ourselves we’d rather not acknowledge?
  • Further, do we not demonize and scape-goat other Others in our society and our churches? Don’t we as Christians all too often demonize those who are Other? Whether they are Democrats, Republicans, White people, Southerners, illegal immigrants, or LGBTQ folks, don’t we all put people who are different from us into categories of Other and not experience them for the fullness of who they are, different though they may be?
  • Vampires and zombies (and monsters in general) consume human flesh, i.e., negate life. Literally, vampires and zombies bring death, but metaphorically, do they not represent fear or despair, rather than death? Do they not embody Kierkegaard’s “Sickness Unto Death”?
  • Continuing with Kierkegaard, does the fact that stories of vampire- and zombie-like creatures go back thousands of years tell us that these symbols of anxiety are part of life, are existential elements never to be gotten rid of fully, but are perpetually in the human psyche to be wrestled with? (Thus part of the human condition would be to continually slay one’s vampires).
  • One blogger named Buffy the Vampire Slayer as 2001 Theologian of the Year! Not only is Buffy a theologian, but she is very much a Christ-figure. She fights Death in every episode. When she dies at the end of one season, her tombstone reads, “Buffy Anne Summers, 1981-2001, Beloved Sister, Devoted Friend, She Saved the World… A Lot.” And the next season she is resurrected (or brought back to life, at least)!
  • Is it mere coincidence that the rise of Zombie films, which are almost always set in an apocalyptic world (there’s even a term “zombie apocalypse”), coincides with the rise of the Left Behind books (1995-2007) and evangelical Protestant end-times theology, a la John Hagee?

So what do you think? Zombies? Vampires? Kierkegaard? Jesus?