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October 31st, 2011

Spooky or Sparky? A message for Halloween.

With Halloween coming up the TV schedules are filled with seasonal offerings. They expect us to want to be scared at this time of year! I don’t know about you, but I’m not a great fan of horror movies. I get frightened too easily. I still remember the time I went to see the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead as a student…and actually fell of my seat as I jumped at one particularly scary bit. And as I went I threw my popcorn into the air, showering those around me! No, I don’t like horror movies.

But I’m in a minority it seems. There is something of a zombie revival in the Uk…if that’s the right word. There’s the constant stream of new zombie films; even Brad Pitt is getting in on the act, with World War Z. And then there are the computer games; if you have or if you know any teenage children then you’ll know all about these! And then last weekend around 3,000 people dressed as zombies and took to the streets of Brighton. It’s still not clear to me why, but when they were asked they replied they were doing it for fun. It’s the latest proof, if any was needed, that the undead are really on the march – culturally at least.

This is such a pervasive phenomenon that serious people are beginning to ask what it tells us about our society. It’s often been argued that the boom in sci-fi films and books of alien attack in America in the 50s and 60s was some sort of expression of the fear of Soviet invasion. So, what fear or feeling is driving the current zombie craze?

Academics and commentators are trying to explain it. The University of Winchester will soon become the first university in the UK to offer a study module devoted entirely to zombies. Their specialist lecturer said “We’re living through the hardest economic times in most young people’s memories. Maybe zombies speak to austerity Britain in a way other monsters don’t.” And the left-leaning think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research agrees. Their director said “Even before the global economic crisis we saw young, unskilled young men finding it much harder to get a foothold in the labour market and since the crisis we’ve seen a rocketing of youth unemployment. There is something in the idea that if you can’t see a future, if you don’t have a sense of progress for yourself personally, then you are stuck in the present tense, and this would lend itself to the notion of a kind of recurrent nightmare of repeatedly being a living-dead.”

It seems that the current obsession with zombies somehow reflects the pointlessness and emptiness of modern lives for many people. They feel like the walking dead.

And yet…..I suppose the saints we celebrate on All Saints day really ARE the living dead. They died and are now alive. Just as Jesus died and rose from the grave. But not as a zombie! The accounts in the gospels of what happened when Jesus came back to life after the crucifixion are important, because they tell us the pattern for our resurrection life too. Jesus talked to his friends, they could recognise him, he ate with them, he cooked for them. So OK he appeared through locked doors, but he was still Jesus. Not a ghost, and certainly not a zombie.

The resurrection life is as far away from zombie-ville as we could possibly imagine. The great multitude described in our reading from Revelation are truly alive. Not living a grey half life. The life they have is a reward for going through the hard times in this world; they’ve suffered, they’ve come through and they find ….well they find heaven.

This is what Jesus described as life in its fullness. And it’s not just for the future. It’s that sort of life that our zombie fans are missing out on now. What both they and we agree on is that life is not just confined to the physical life of this body. There is life beyond the grave. But because of what they experience now they assume that life beyond death is as bad as that. Whereas because of what we experience now in and through Jesus we are very optimistic about life beyond death. Our present feeds our expectations for the future. It will be great.

But it seems to work the other way round too. CS Lewis writes about how eternity feeds back into our lives now. In the great divorce, which is about heaven and hell he writes from the heavenly side;

‘The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.’

If CS Lewis is right, and I think he is, then we are surrounded by people who are already in Hell. We can do something about that! If ever there was a time for good news, now is it. In Jesus people find the meaning and purpose and hope they can’t find anywhere else. And that reminds me of spiritual bottom lines. If you run a business check here to find out about quadruple bottom lines. If you don’t, then start considering what your own spiritual bottom line might look like. Think carbon footprint but with eternal consequences!

This week will see both Halloween and All Saints Day. Which are you? Spooky or sparky? The living dead or eternally living?

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