Friday, December 16, 2011

Deconstruction: Night of the Living Dead Christian 21

Where the zombies went wrong?

Welcome to the detailed (and spoiler-rich) review of Night of the Living Dead Christian. For a briefer review that doesn't give anything away, read the main review. If you're curious, here's a discussion of why I'm doing this.

This is a rather long bit of reaction, so I'm breaking it up into sections. Hopefully that will allow for more bite-sized discussions. So, now that you've all been fairly warned, we'll pick up the deconstruction after the jump:

At this point, Matt stops to encourage Robert to become less of a zombie by doing more thinking for himself. "Robert, I know this is all well intentioned. But zombies... they're like an entire race of people who think they are following Jesus but are actually following a moral system... a list of what should and should not be done."

The message here is a little muddled - there's some discussion of the need for a relationship with Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit to make people able to follow a Christian moral code, and some discussion about faith versus works - but basically I think this section of the book is arguing against the sort of Christianity where love (and sometimes faith, too) gets swallowed by empty legalism and an overwhelming reliance on semi-arbitrary rules and/or human authorities. "You're looking for some spectacular spiritual leader to give you answers to every hard question, instead of doing the hard work of finding out what God says about it yourself."

And, unable to think of any human solution for the situation, Matt offers a brief prayer that the half-alive churches like Dr. Bokor's might be filled with God's overflowing life instead.

He then continues talking to Robert and Lara, moving to the topic of sin and depravity. Lara asks if there's hope for people like them - which is almost odd, considering that she's the one who set Narrator-Matt and Luther on the path to a cure, except that her own cure is such a long, slow process that it's pretty easy to see how she might get discouraged. And Narrator-Matt considers the idea that we are all sinners, but then goes on to point out that it's very easy, too easy, to get fixated on that and forget that we are all, also, made in the image of God. That wasn't something that got lost in the Fall; God affirms it Noah, later in Genesis.

Now, that could be a rejection of the doctrine of Total Depravity, but - as Fred Clark has also suggested, now and again - Matt argues that in fact the two views aren't exclusive. He admits that he doesn't understand it himself, but he thinks that while we are (inherently, always) sinful, we are also (inherently, always) made in the image of God. That maybe "sinful" doesn't mean what we think it does. (I'd add, in another nod to Slacktivist, that it's just as likely that "total" isn't being used in quite the way that most people think it is.)

Lara has been sharpening stakes. Since she doesn't seem to be pulling a Blade and going out to hunt other vampires, this seems like an expression of what counselors like to call "suicidal ideation." And by this point in the conversation, she has given Narrator-Matt permission to do whatever he likes with the stakes.

And then Matt's phone rings. It's his wife, Krista. So he pauses to tell another story (which, I don't know, another reader might have found more affecting; to me, at this point in the narrative, it just seemed to drag on). The story basically reiterates his point that we don't have to be "captives to our base desires," but can strive to be more like God.

And then he takes the stakes, and leaves the house with them.

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