Monday, October 12, 2009

Zombie Jesus?

"And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid." (Mark 16:8, KJV)

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age." - H.P. Lovecraft (source: wikipedia article)

A friend of mine once described her major obstacle in wanting to be Catholic as "zombie Jesus."

This was not accurate, at least not strictly. The Resurrection is much more terrifying than any zombie ever ought to be. I think part of what makes it so unbelievable is that the very notion of the thing is nearly incomprehensible. Not like we can't comprehend someone raising themselves from the dead; not like we can't comprehend whatever pomp and circumstance may have accompanied the event. But centuries away from it, I don't know if we can quite get our heads around this:

Some guy who came practically out of nowhere and became known as a teacher and healer in your region of the Middle East, that you've been following for three-odd years, gets crucified near Jerusalem. Now you've been expecting this guy to be the Messiah, or at least something like it. He's been ruthlessly demanding that people drop everything, including their funerals and homes, and follow him. He's been demanding this total commitment that normal teachers don't seem to want, even normal military leaders don't seem to want. And he might have just implied he was on a direct mission from God. He's been saying all this stuff about having to die, which even the best of you don't believe. Then he dies.

One day passes. Everyone's afraid, because the loss of the leader seems to mean the death of the movement.

One more day passes. Everybody's still afraid.

One more day. The tomb is found, and it's found, empty, and two weird guys inside of it are telling you he's risen, and you need to go tell persons x, y and z about it. Now everybody's terrified, so much in fact that they apparently, at least for a time, ignore the mandate of these two guys entirely.

Then people start seeing old Jesus of Nazareth walking around. His body's different, but it's similar. The man who walked about and made all these unreasonable demands and said, "Take up your cross and follow me," and then took up his cross and went to his death, is now alive again, seemingly by no power other than his own. Zombie Jesus?

Heck no. You can shoot a zombie. You can kick a zombie to death. You can't kill the Resurrected Christ; that already makes him scarier.

But why should he be scarier? After all, zombies want to hurt you, bite you, make you one of them...

Well, that last part's true with Jesus. He does seem to want us to be like him, and eventually to be resurrected like him. And it's true that he doesn't come to hurt us. But it's way scarier to be confronted with a Resurrected Jesus you can't kill than with an undead zombie that you can. Because Jesus demands not your flesh, your brain, your blood or anything you could just tear out of your body and appease him with for a time: Jesus demands your life. Your physical life, mental life, your will, your action, your possessions, your relationships, everything. Jesus eventually wants you to come to the same state as him, kind of like a zombie, except here you're going to be put up a notch, not bitten down a notch. For all of us, though, that is going to hurt. Perhaps even more than zombification.

It's hard to get one's head around the belief of someone actually having risen from the dead 2000 years ago, period, so that we can barely even begin to believe it. It might even be said that as people who are so far removed all we can really do is accept it, and accept that it happened, and that we believe in a God who does the unbelievable. We can apprehend it, but not comprehend it. And if we think about how terrifying it is to us, even though we weren't there: Imagine how terrible it would be for the disciples, who were there!

Lovecraft was, in a sense, right, though I think he was wrong about the end-effect. Of course we'll go crazy if we try and understand utltimate reality. But we need not seek a complete understanding. Lovecraft was right to fear ultimate reality, but wrong, in my book, to assume it would result in madness. It would result in true enlightenment!

I do not say, then, that it would not be joyful, or happy, to see the Risen Lord. Many times in my life I have wished for such tangible evidence as being able to put my hands where the nails were myself. But when I really think about it I conclude that such evidence would terrify me; belief would be much easier, but conversion would be inevitable. I am not calling into question the motives of my friend who has trouble believing in "zombie Jesus," so much as I am pointing out it is not merely the Resurrection that scares us about him. It is the life, death and resurrection together that ought to have us, every day, working out our salvation in joyful fear and trembling.


kj said...


L-Po said...

very good

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