Zombie Jesus

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee
Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

Do we know the difference between resurrection and the walking dead?

Luke 15:32  "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."

As many of you know, I play World of Warcraft, one of those online games that is happening 24/7 whether you are logged in and playing or not.  Over 12 million people worldwide play WoW, so when you log in, there is always someone there.  There is a public chat channel in the game where players conduct game business, or (more frequently) where verbal exhibitionists, nicknamed "trolls," try to get a rise out of others by saying things ridiculous, offensive, silly, or all three.

If the "trolls" are unsuccessful in getting a reaction with their usual banter, they will often turn to either politics or religion, and so it was that I logged into the game last weekend and saw "All hail Zombie Jesus!" sitting there in the chat pane. Obviously I was missing some information, so I watched the chat a bit more.

It seems that we ended up with Jesus as a zombie because of the claim of resurrection, made by someone before I had come on.  To those outside of the Christian faith--especially to younger members of the population playing in a fantasy universe--rising from the grave means only one thing:  rotting flesh walking the streets.  Zombies.  They are more apt to sing "Up from the grave He arose" on Halloween than on Easter.  I pondered this.

The problem for me was more than a lack of belief in Jesus' resurrection.  There seemed to be no real understanding of resurrection at all--of the difference between the walking dead and those who have truly been given new life, even in a metaphorical sense.  Some, perhaps, are just too young or too sheltered to have had an experience that would give the word "resurrection" real meaning.  Others, more sadly, may know only what it feels like to be the walking dead--to shamble through life in a zombie-like stupor while others look on in horror.  The addict.  The abused.  The disfigured.

And then, against the background of "All hail Zombie Jesus!" came today's rescue of the Chilean miners.  None of them died (fingers crossed--they're still pulling them up as I write), and yet the talk all day has been Easter talk.  The capsule bringing each miner up is called The Phoenix, and I have heard so much mention of being "born again" on the airwaves that I thought I was tuned into Christian radio.  They are interviewing others who have been rescued after long periods and asking, "What does it feel like to think you're dead and then live again?"

I understand that some of the miners have come to a new faith during their ordeal, but even if they haven't, I don't think you will ever hear any of them mention "zombie Jesus."  Whatever else is or isn't true of their faith, those 33 men now know the meaning of the word "resurrection."  There is something much grander than the walking dead.

Too often even we Christians get caught up thinking of resurrection only in terms of what happened with Jesus on Easter.  But the concept is much bigger than that, as the last line of the Parable of the Prodigal Son shows us.  The prodigal wasn't literally dead--he was simply dead to his family as he scorned them and ran off to live life in the fast lane.  When he crashed, came to his senses, and returned home, he came expecting zombie status.  He did not expect to live in his father's house as a son anymore, but merely hoped to be taken on as a servant.

The father, however, would have no such thing.  No zombie sons for him.  What the father gave was full-blown resurrection, saying to the prodigal's brother, "this brother of yours was dead but is alive again." 

We need to stop confining resurrection stories to Easter.  Certainly the death and resurrection of Jesus are central to our faith, but they represent the deaths and resurrections that happen across all of our lives across all of the year.  Many of our young people don't know that there's a difference between resurrected life and zombie life--that there are alternatives to being a walking corpse in the world.  We can actually, truly, and really have full-bodied life again, even when our lives have been torn apart. 

From the tragic suicides of those who have been bullied to those who fear to take any risks for fear of failing, we shouldn't wait until Easter to send The Phoenix down into the mine shaft to rescue those who are trapped.  If we don't show by our lives that resurrection has meaning beyond creeds and doctrines, then the World of Warcraft "troll" was perhaps more correct than he knew. Do we encourage resurrection or are we content with the walking dead?

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