Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?
Sometimes when I reflect on the impending zombie apocalypse, I have to stop myself from getting too excited. If everyone were honest with each other, I think we’d all agree that it’s going to be pretty sweet. In the end though, I probably won’t survive. And no, it wouldn’t be because of my physical abilities or survival skills. It would be because of my wife. I could just see us on the run and her wanting to stop to get fro yo or something. Plus, she wouldn’t be able to pass up all of those abandoned Prada stores. “But Wade, they’re having a 100% off sale!”
I also wonder what would happen if my wife became a zombie without me. What would I do? Should I let her kiss me? There are so many unanswered questions I have.
You can imagine then, my excitement when I heard that Warm Bodies was coming to the big screen. Having already read the novel by Isaac Marion, I knew that the core of the story centered on a human and zombie falling in love. Finally, a zom-rom-com the whole family can enjoy.
Warm Bodies features a zombie named R (representing the Shakespearean character Romeo) who falls in love with a girl named Julie (Juliet). Initially, their relationship seems doomed from the start. But what begins as fear, eventually turns into mutual respect. I won’t give away too much of the plot, but it becomes apparent that their association might be the key to the whole zombie epidemic. I guess there is hope for my wife and I’s future relationship.
Now most people would smirk at the idea of a zombie love story, but the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. The dialogue and characters are witty and there is even a plethora of 80’s love songs to top it off. R also proves to be a formidable male lead, despite his undead state. Even as a zombie, he still has more facial expressions than Edward Cullen. As the relationship between R and Julie builds, so do tensions betweens the two classes until a battle of ideals becomes inevitable.
Warm Bodies is a lot of fun, though it could have benefitted from some more development between the two characters. A zombie movie that needed just a pinch of more heart.
For its few negatives, the film has many more positives. One of which is the theme of purpose and meaning that the movie tackles throughout. A shot at the beginning of the film contrasts the aimless ramblings of the infected zombies with a pre-apocalypse image of people shuffling through an airport, all with their faces glued to cellular devices. Not much changed in the world.
My favorite aspect of the whole zombie genre is how applicable it is to our time. In someway, the undead apocalypse has already begun. As a people, we often ramble through life, going from place to place with no clear purpose or direction. We live to consume. Accumulate. Buy things. Pay bills. Get promotions. Our lives become superficial, void of meaning. We spend our days accumulating knowledge, wealth, and possessions. In the end though, we find that life is just like the author of Ecclesiastes described it:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.” (Ecc. 1:2)
Deep down Warm Bodies tells a beautiful story. The key to curing the virus that lies inside all of us comes through a relationship. True love causes us to hit pause on our life and evaluate who we really are. What are we living for? What brings true purpose to life?
Ultimately, for the Christian, purpose and meaning come from our relationship with God. I personally believe that the chief evil of our time is misplaced priorities. We are dropped into a world where titles, possessions, and statuses create meaning, purpose, and self-worth. Or should I say a facade of meaning, purpose, and self-worth. We’ve become zombies and it didn’t even take a bunch of infected monkeys to do it. How many times have you met someone who followed their name up with “I’m a _______ (insert job title here). There is nothing wrong with being proud of your work or even loving it, but do we base our identity on our profession? What happens then, when those things don’t work out? What happens when we lose our job, experience disappointment, get demoted?
Do something for me today. Stop and think for a moment on what you want your life to accomplish. Where do you find meaning and purpose? If you were bitten by an infected zombie today, would you say that everything you lived for was really just “meaningless”? It’s important they we develop the things in life that will last, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Just like in Warm Bodies, relationships will be the key to our success as individuals. Because, when you think about it, we’ve got five to ten years max before the zombies come for us.
The Walking Dead & Pastoral Ministry
So what does this post apocalyptic show with murderous zombies and now a power hungry ‘governor’ have to do with the pastoral role of preaching the word and leading a community of believers? Much actually if we understand that all people are human and prone to the same problems.
RICK VS. THE GOVERNOR
We have two leaders in the current season of this glorious show. One the much loved Rick Grimes leads his team selflessly. He has sacrificed, fought, and led by example as well as instruction in a world filled with death. He has brought wisdom and defused situations that needed to be as well as brought unity in seemingly impossible parts. His group is a ragtag group of people from various backgrounds who all understand the danger and have been placed in roles to their strengths.
Next we of course have The Governor. (insert dramatic music) He is a very intelligent, charismatic, and well spoken leader who is leading a newly formed community called Woodbury. This community has built walls and provided security for those inside. He has taken people from various situations and brought them into a seemingly safe area. The community seems by all external standards to be perfect. However as the show progresses we see the motive of the Governor come out. Whether its creepily having heads in his room, still having his daughter as a zombie around, sleeping with multiple women, or having fights that might include loss of life there is a problem. There is even a scene where they mow down a group of military officers with gunfire in order to steal their weapons.
SELFLESS LEADER VS. SELFISH LEADER
See there is a major contrast between these two leadership types. We see one concerned for his people and one concerned for his glory. One is sacrificial and the other requires sacrifice. Rick builds what is good for other people and the Governor builds something that looks good to all other people. Rick makes sure each is equipped and ready on their own whereas the Governor equips a special few to control all.
There is much to learn in pastoral ministry (or even leadership in general) from these two. If we are called to protect our people we cannot use them to build our empire or as a stepping stone. There is a stirring speech where the Governor reveals his motive as he tells his people “when the history books are rewritten they will tell of our story”. He wants to be remembered. He wants to be glorified. He wants to be made much of.
Sadly this is a danger amongst many people in ministry. We think that we are not successful because of the lack of sermon downloads, members in attendance, money given, or new people baptized. Meanwhile forgetting that Jesus poured his life into 12 people who then changed the world. We have exchanged discipleship for attendance, biblical truth for what’s cool, and authentic community for the external appearance of what it looks like.
IMPRESSIVE VS. IMPACT
It is disheartening at times to hear people impressed with the quality of a church service and this alone. Not with the people. Not with the sacrifice for God’s glory and love of other people. But with seats. With food. With coffee. With music/communication style. Are these things bad? Of course not! Do them and do them with excellence I would say. But when we trade what’s important with what feeds our ego then we need help.
This problem was going on in Revelation 3 with the church in Laodicea. Here is the warning from Jesus to that church, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17 ESV) They thought because it looked good and they had money that they were rich and prosperous. Jesus confronts their hearts and says no. You are in deep danger. Here in America if a church is big or nice we think it is impressive. But God’s plan is always people not programs. He anoints men and women not buildings and designs. One will impress and one will impact.
This last message is to non-pastors. Pray for your pastor. There is nothing more needed than love and appreciation. Please understand they are regular people. They are not superheroes equipped with a better ability to handle this. The Governor handles a tragedy by becoming obsessively power hungry to protect. Rick faces tragedy. Faces it intensely hard but has people there with him. People to help.
Our pastors hear criticism constantly and are battling for our souls to lead a people of God. Pray for them. Show love to them. 1,500 leave the ministry every month. 50% state they would leave job if had better opportunity. 80% of seminary grads leave the ministry within 5 years of graduating. 70% do not have close friends. 70% fight depression. Let us pray. It is indeed a dangerous calling as Paul Tripp states it.
So if we want a pastor to move forward and lead us well then pray. If we want him to handle success with humility not arrogance then pray. Young pastor (or more seasoned) be aware of these warnings as God has been driving these into my heart as I move forward in life. Some of these characteristics of the Governor style of leadership are alive and well in my heart. Let us examine our hearts and put to death selfish desire & glories of our own. Pray for me. By the Holy Spirit and God’s grace let this new crop of pastors lead with love, authenticity, encouragement, boldness, and humility.