Soon after zombies began to dominate the cultural landscape, hundreds of authors, artists, and philosophers quickly rushed forward to explain the significance of the genre. Why did the living dead seem to perfectly capture the zeitgeist of our time? The pseudo-intellectual commentary nearly matched the phenomenon itself; for every low-budget zombie film there seemed to be two novels examining their significance.
However, it was rare that the subject was approached from a theological point-of-view; which is why we found Living with the Living Dead: The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalypse to be a welcome change! Written by Greg Garrett, a preacher and award-winning author, the book promised a new perspective on an otherwise-cliché analysis of the undead.
In this theological approach, we are asking “What existential questions do these stories consider?” and “In what ways are these stories related to the provisional answers found in scripture and theology?” Because my own formal training is as a Christian theologian, works of the Judeo-Christian tradition are unquestionably privileged here, although I try to present insights from other traditions as well.
Unfortunately, the biblical teachings and symbolic parallels of scripture are lightly sprinkled throughout most of the text in favor of pop-culture references including The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and the decidedly non-zombie, post-apocalyptic thriller The Road.
While it’s a brilliant and concise exploration of the current zombie phenomenon; the watered-down approach to theology quickly sinks an otherwise-original premise to that of any generic exegesis; and the unique perspective of Greg Garrett seems mostly wasted.
Living with the Living Dead is a great examination of our fascination with the undead, and is definitely worth your time. But those looking for a distinctly theological point-of-view on the living dead will be left wanting a more enlightening and spiritual examination of the topic.