The Walking Dead: Zombies, God, and What Makes us Human

I recently finished the third season of the Walking Dead. I have always been a big movie guy, not much of a television watcher. I like the punch of a two hour story that has it all, including rich characters, human drama, with climax and resolution. It has a very satisfying sense to it, like eating a good steak dinner. However, I have grown to appreciate television series as the best writing that is out there these days in storytelling. The advantages of this medium is more about the characters. Its purpose is to get you to love the characters so much that you want to see them go through their extended journeys. So the focus on movies is more on the story and the focus of television is more on characters. Of course there is much story going on in a series but it is more drawn out and takes much longer to achieve its character arcs and resolution. A series is more like engaging in a new diet. It takes more patience but you see the effects down the road and they can be more lasting. But this is why I think it has a more powerful influence on our cultural values. Because the longer you saturate within the worldview of a narrative, the more affected you are by its values. This is why television is also more dangerous in its ability to saturate viewers in the worldviews of its storytellers for a longer period and change their values and worldview so widespread through the emotional immersion.

So I try to be careful what I immerse myself in regarding these television narratives. I have found though that The Walking Dead has been quite a positive extension of the positive values of zombie movies, along with a few cautionary dangers to be aware of.

First off, many people already have a hard time with zombie stories. They think they are just a glorification of blood and gore and should be rejected as dehumanizing. Not true. Some are. But not all. In fact, the very essence of the zombie story is as a cultural critique of social values that dehumanize us. They explore the moral question of what makes us human? What gives us dignity? How are we any different from animals? What keeps civilization from falling apart into anarchy? These are all VERY relevant and important issues in our morally relative culture of naturalism and atheistic evolution. I have written about this elsewhere in an article on the value of the horror genre as morality tales that address the reality of evil, our sinful nature, and social injustices, and in a blog post of World War Z.

The Walking Dead is very simply the story of a band of refugees in a post-apocalyptic scenario of America overrun by zombies. The lead character, Rick Grimes, is a cop who leads the multicultural group that contains a proper diversity of men, women, black, Asian and sometimes “other” people on a quest to find a safe habitation, first in the American South and then in the Midwest.

They are in fact looking for a home, a place of safety and order in a world of chaos. A primal urge in all of us. As they scavenge for survival, they encounter various groups of other survivors whose values come into conflict with their own, as they themselves struggle to maintain order and authority within their ranks. Otherwise they will end up killing each other, just like the zombies around them.

The power of a zombie story is that it strips down our outward mask of values that we wear in society. When we are faced with survival our true natures come out and for too many of us, that is an ugly nature indeed. This is not imagination. This is reality. Many people’s true selfishness comes out when they are forced to choose between saving themselves and helping others. The Walking Dead (TWD) shows that when we no longer have law and order keeping society in line, some of us will struggle to create a new structure and others will lay aside their moral veneer and seek to exploit and use others for their own survival. This is an incarnation of the moral challenge that who we are is determined by how we behave when no one is watching us, or when we think we won’t have consequences for our behavior.

But it is more than that. It also is about the question, “What makes us human or civilized?” In season two, Rick’s group finds their way to a farmhouse that has been happily untouched by zombie attacks. But it’s owned by an old geezer. Now, in the outer world, its pretty much a free for all scavenge fest. Nothing is owned by anyone anymore, except those who can protect it with violence. Now at this safe haven, do they respect the old man’s authority because it is his own property, or do they just take him over? Is there such a thing as private property in such a lawless state? TWD proves that you must respect private property as a foundation of civilization, and you must respect authority, or you end in chaos. In season three, they commandeer a prison that provides the first real rest and security in a long time (with all its fences and locked bars). The irony being that it was a place that was used to keep monsters in, now it is used to keep them out.

Early on, Rick says, “This is not a democracy,” as in we must have a leader who has strong authority over the group or they will fall apart. And for most of the show, this proves true. Until Rick himself starts to break from the strain, and is challenged by his best friend, another cop, Shane. Rick is a mental leader, and a man of strong ethical emphasis. He even continues to wear his uniform and hat for quite a while. But Shane is more the “muscle” and earthy pragmatic man who seeks to lead by doing the dirty work that no one else wants to do, but must be done. He is not a survivalist, but he is more of a survivor mentality. He is willing to give up on those who are weak in order to survive. Rick however, tries to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the community. To be a man of justice, but also compassion. He tries to keep a high value on the dignity of others. But survival bears heavily on his ethics and he becomes a harder man as the series goes on. He also almost breaks down mentally at the death of some significant characters in his life. He eventually softens and includes the group more in the decisions when he learns his lesson that he needs his followers as much as they need a leader.

Through many episodes the people are faced with difficult life situations that place the two ethics of survival and sacrifice in conflict. Should they go back to save one person if it jeopardizes everyone else? Should they keep searching for a little lost girl when doing so also endangers the rest of them? Can they kill their beloved if they “turned” into a zombie? By and large, those who would stress survival over sacrificial helping of others tend to be the least humanized and we see that we must maintain an elevation of human life if we are to maintain our own dignity, society and sanity. Those who maintain the ethic of sacrifice for others are sometimes killed, but always the ones upon whom “civilization” continues to grow. This is of course assuming that the zombies are truly no longer “human” so the killing of them is NOT the same thing as killing a human. They are undead. They are more like rabid animals to be put down because they destroy living humans. This is more self-defense than anything. But we will talk about that in a minute.

Suffice it to say that this elevation of civilization being founded on us maintaining the Christian ethic of self sacrifice for others rather than the evolutionary ethic of survival of the fittest is something that makes this show so important. Because humanity is still so thoroughly evil we still have a strong contingent who believe that there is no absolute morality, we only “socially construct” morality to control others. Might makes right. Sure, these relativists may not all be Kim Jong Ils or serial killers, but they are university professors and “scientists” and sociologists teaching kids these values in a world of constant evolutionary change. Our modern universities are breeding zombie nihilist kids, because teachers and professors deny all moral absolutes (with the exception of their Leftism of course) and with it all religion as patriarchal fascist control, but they themselves are behaving as if there are moral values of civility and such. But the next generation becomes more consistent and starts to live consistently with those relativist values. They start to behave as if there are no moral absolutes. It’s that simple really. And thus we have the growing zombie apocalypse thanks to public education and the universities.

In season three, they run into another walled community, Woodbury, that is led by a benevolent dictator, affectionately called The Governor. On the outside, he is a nice Southern gentleman who also rules as a benevolent dictator, but in reality, he is a dark violent soul. Their “Bedford Falls” of happy suburban life contained within a walled perimeter turns out to be a police state underneath of human experimentation and gladiatorial games with zombies for cathartic violence. But the Governor also seeks to kill Rick and his band.

But here is where I would like to encourage all Christians to support this series by watching it. This setup of the Governor and his little town is the classic Hollywood scenario of an outwardly happy traditional suburban world with a dark underbelly that almost always includes a Christian religious element to it. The usual revelations would be that they pray as they kill people, or the Governor uses “right wing” religious rhetoric because he wants to set up a theocracy.

BUT THIS NEVER HAPPENS IN THE SERIES!

There is not an ounce of religious rhetoric from the survivalists or the Governor! I could not believe it. I applaud the writers of the show for not exercising the typical bigotry and hatred of Christians that network and cable writers so often display.

It is pathetic to me that the bigotry and discrimination against Christians and their faith has become so ubiquitous in Hollywood storytelling that I get excited about a series just because it doesn’t attack Christians!

But there is more to it than that.

In fact, God has an increasingly positive role in this series. In the first season, there was only one sequence where they stumble upon a church with a few zombies sitting in the pews looking at the cross of Christ up front. Okay, that’s a funny irony. But it pretty much just became a scene where Rick prays to the Christ statue for some help, while having a hard time believing he is there. Okay, That’s fair. Of course, we all question God with serious tragedies. Some cool possibilities. But unfortunately nothing ever really came of it. In fact, I remember thinking that it was not a very honest portrayal to have people in this life and death lifestyle and none of them really be dealing with the whole God and suffering and evil thing. You don’t have to be a believer to acknowledge that when you face death, you at least wrestle with God. Also, the fact that there was a crucifix in a Baptist church showed the ignorance of the writers about Evangelical faith. But that is forgivable.

Anyway, in season two, they meet Herschel, the old man with the farm, who read his Bible and kept his family members who had turned to zombies penned in his barn. He was unwilling to kill them because he thought they were still human. Okay, you could say that this is a kind of critique of Christian’s elevation of the sanctity of life to the point where they give something dignity that does not deserve it according to these story tellers. Plus he was a pacifist, an unlivable worldview in a world of pure survival. So I was thinking, uh oh, here it is, the stupid Christian stereotype coming.

BUT IT DIDN’T HAPPEN! I am very glad to admit I was wrong twice on this account.

Herschel had a traumatic experience that got him to overcome his pacifist silliness and false views of zombies and he ends up in season three as the moral conscience that keeps Rick in line when he starts to sway. Herschel even describes himself as “losing his way” by being out of line with the Bible. I was blown away. In fact, the whole series is an incarnate argument against pacifism and left wing theories about the “goodness” of human nature and the need to “understand” evil instead of condemn it and strike it down. The zombies are not the only ones who will keep coming to eat you until you destroy them. The villains like The Governor will not stop in their lawless pursuit of killing the good and controlling everyone else until you put them down — as in permanently — as in with a gun.

Take that you immoral gun control advocates who seek to arm the evil and disarm the good.

Not only that, but Herschel’s faith becomes a little more positive element when he quotes the Bible to unruly Meryl, a man who is sure to become a Judas in Rick’s group. Both Meryl and Herschel had a limb cut off, Meryl cut his own to save his life in the first season, and Meryl had his leg chopped off because a zombie bite in the leg would have turned him if Rick had not cut it off in time. Meryl quotes Matthew 25 to Meryl: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” This is a powerful metaphor for the seriousness of sin, but also for the power of repentance for Meryl, and he sees this. It would be nice if season four brings some kind of redemption for a rather brutal and bad man. We shall see.

Well, there’s a ton more of course, but I will end with my one caveat of caution. While TWD does not have a whole lot of zombie violence, there is some in every show, and it is not a pretty sight for those of weak stomach, since the only way for zombies to be fully stopped is by cutting off their heads or smashing their brains in. TWD is quite responsible in not becoming gratuitous. But we should be careful of the amount of such violence in our entertainment diet, even if it is morally appropriate violence. Because too much of a good thing can be bad. It may even have the very effect the storytellers intend to avoid: A tendency to dehumanize real people in our world.

But that is a small caveat to an otherwise powerful and morally rich tale of survival and sacrifice that lands decidedly in the camp of Christian values for civilization.

So far. We shall see about season four. After all, we all know what happened to 24.

The Mortal Instruments: A Dualistic Story of the Supernatural Without God

Action horror. Hot girl realizes she’s both Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker in a Twilight World of battling werewolves and vampires. (In this movie, zombies “don’t exist,” so right off the bat you know it is an inferior horror film)

The movie starts out rather well with a very cool sequence of Clary, a young artist high schooler I think, learning that she has a secret identity she is not aware of. Her mom is hiding her true identity to her, she can see demonic and angelic things others cannot, and demons in the form of earthly creatures are after her.

As soon as the mythical background starts to be explained, everything becomes very jumbled and hard to follow. She eventually learns she is a “child of the Nephilim.” Though this is never really explained except I think it occurs when someone drank from a chalice cup that an angel Raziel offered at the Crusades. Didn’t make much sense to me.

So this is why she can see the spirit world, because she is half-human, half-angel. It’s a Nephilim story! And all the demons, vampires and other monsters want to find that magic cup that Clary’s mother has hidden, while Clary has the location embedded in her memory somewhere. Although I couldn’t remember why drinking from the cup was so wanted by the villains. I think it was because that would make them half-angel? Oh, I don’t remember, it was just kinda dumb.

So, normal humans are called “Mundanes” because they can’t see the spirit world (The American word for “Muggles” – Give her a break, you gotta call them something and it’s gotta reflect the fact that they are blind to one half of reality). Vampires and werewolves are called “downworlders” because they inhabit the world down here. And the good guys are “Shadow Hunters,” which are Nephilim who kill demons. If you know anything about the Biblical Nephilim, none of this makes any sense. But if you want to follow a cool Biblical fantasy tale about the Nephilim, check out this cool series. Meanwhile, Clary realizes she has the ability to tattoo runes on herself that bring powerful enchantments to stop demons and other stuff.

So the worldview in this story seems to downplay angels to almost non-existent. Sure, the evil arch-villain Raziel was an angel, but the heroine’s helper ally, the shadow hunter Jace, a scrawny effeminate kid who is somehow able to topple big bad bulky muscular guys, explains that “he’s never seen an angel.” So, I’m sure they are there in the series, but not in this movie. But when they retrieve weapons from a church, Clary asks about the religious reality behind their battle. Jace explains that they “know no religion,” and they could just as well hide their weapons in a mosque or a buddhist temple or Hindu temple. He then says he doesn’t believe in religion, he “believes in himself.” Then when Clary learns about the history of the evil angel Raziel, she is told by a master shadow hunter that they are engaged in a battle of good and evil, “a war that can never be won.” In other words, the world is a Dualistic eternal battle between opposing good and evil that are pretty much equal and always in conflict – hey, just like Star Wars! Just like Eastern Dualism! And then she realizes whose daughter she is and you go, “Hey, just like Star Wars!” Okay, sorry I spoiled it for you. You won’t miss anything cause it’s all rather vapid.

No reference whatsoever to God occurs in this story of supernatural demons and AWOL angels. It’s another riduculous attempt to hijack the mythos of Judeo-Christianity and to exorcise the most essential element, God, while keeping the corpse of the imagery and trying to resurrect it with occultic spells and magic. BTW, I have no problem with having occultic elements in the story per se, but the context determines their meaning and in this world, there is some abstract impersonal force that is actually quite boring because it has no personality and no metaphysical sense to it.

Okay, there is one tiny waaaaay ambiguous cool reference to God when we discover that the musical genius Bach was a shadow hunter and playing his music uncovers demons because it makes them go mad and they reveal themselves. Bach was a Christian who wrote music to God’s glory, so that could have been meaningful in its proper context.

One cool statement at the ending sums up the reality of spiritual awareness. Clary is sad and scared that “I don’t see the world the same. I see demons and angels.” To which Jace responds, “The world is the same. You’re just different.” That does sum up the reality of spiritual enlightenment, even if it comes in the context of a contradictory dualistic worldview.

The Host: Socialism Kills the Individual Spirit

A flaccid futuristic dystopian morality tale about Collectivism vs. Individualism. Another kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If it were not for the phenomenally talented acting of Saorise Ronan, this movie would be terribly boring and tepid. As it is, it is only boring and tepid. How the heck do you say that name? “Seer-sha Ronin.”

Okay, the wonderful Saorise plays Melanie, one of the last people left on earth who have not been taken over by a parasitic alien population that gives you shining blue irises. Evidently, these aliens are called “souls” and they are ethereal but physical glowing tentacle little things that you insert into a human by making a cut in the back of their neck. The alien then embeds itself in the human host and takes over the consciousness. The human soul is still there, but it becomes dormant as the new being takes over.

But these are not the evil malicious soulless beings of the traditional Body Snatchers fame. These are actually nicer than humans. In fact, the narrator at the beginning of the film states that “the earth is at peace, no hunger, no violence, the environment is healed, and everyone is courteous to all. Our world has never been more perfect.” There’s just one problem it isn’t our world anymore. So no matter how nice they are, they are still invaders who are stealing our home. AND they are without emotion and physical passion. In other words, this is the worldview that believes that we can only find harmony by using reason and denying the passions of humanity. Maybe a metaphor for the Enlightenment.

Melanie gets caught and has a “soul” implanted in her. But she is a rascally independent spirited individual, who is not easily suppressed, and she fights in her mind with the being that has taken her over, named the Wanderer, or Wanda. The government or collective or whatever it is, has agents who seek to hunt down all the last remnant of humans in order to finalize their colonization of the planet. So they want to use Melanie to track them down by exploring her memories, not accessible to the Wanderer Wanda. Melanie fights back and is able to touch something in the heart of this “soul” being, and Wanda decides to escape the compound and find the humans to help them. Or something like that.

A small group of humans are hiding out in a secret cave in the desert led by a strong leader, Jeb, (William Hurt), who says, “This isn’t a democracy, it’s a dictatorship. A benign dictatorship.” So the obvious comparison is that human society is the opposite of the aliens, it is individualistic but led by strong leaders and has passion and emotion. It’s messier and more dangerous, but it is our humanity and we cannot deny it. Messy freedom is more desirable than safe control. Which is the same theme as the director’s other films The Truman Show and Simone. This is an important theme to him obviously.

But this is a deliberate parable about the danger of collectivist thinking (like socialism, leftism, communism). At one point, an alien says to a human, “You think the loss of your will is too great a sacrifice, but we have to think of the common good.” To which Melanie responds, “Call it what you want, this is murder!” Murder, that is of the individual soul, the freedom of the individual as it sinks into the collective.

Melanie finds the secret human group and they divide over wanting to kill her or keep her alive. Since she might be a spy or she might betray them. So the whole thing is set up to be a moral dilemma that wrestles with our identity as humans. And this is the problem with the movie: Because so much of the struggle is an interior dialogue between Wanda and her host Melanie, you have long lingering shots of Melanie’s face contorting through the inner debate as we hear it in voiceover. This kind of inner monologue does not work well with movies in such an extensive fashion, because it becomes less dramatic and more mental. HOWEVER, as I said, Saorise is such a talented actor, that she made it tolerable.

Wanda begins to prove herself by helping the group, saving someone who tried to kill her, and falling in love with one of the human guys. So the whole thing is about learning to love and accept the “Other.” From fearing them as hostile to seeing they are just like us capable of the same loves and fears and goodness as well as badness. But the moral problem comes when they realize that to release the aliens from humans, they can’t seem to keep either alive in the process. So how do they free Melanie? Are they any different from Wanda’s colonial race by slaughtering her people? It’s a good moral dilemma that carries interest despite the otherwise lame drama.

The whole thing looked pretty low budget with cheesy TV action. I’ve seen better TV action actually. And there were a lot of goofy holes that made me cringe. Like the humans putting on sunglasses at night to hide their pupils after they have been pulled over – like they’re not going to be told to take them immediately off. And then there’s the fact the Melanie does not want to tell the humans that she is inside with the alien still. You see, they believe that the old person is totally gone and taken over. But they aren’t. Then why the HECK would she not want to tell them that she is inside still? Especially if they might kill her because they believe she is not there anymore!!! Argh. Obviously to keep the plot going or there would be no moral or dramatic tension. And then there is the kissing. Obviously written by a woman because it is through the kiss that the inner Melanie is brought out. When she kisses her old boyfriend, she gets angry for him kissing the body that is in control of by someone else. Oh, it’s all a bit too silly. But kinda cute. Chicks will like it.

The silliest of all is the liberal mindset at the end when we discover that you cannot remove the alien from the human “by force. It can only be captured by kindness and love.” In other words, if they just coax the little things out, they’ll come out and everyone lives! Oh puhleeze. And then when the evil alien Seeker who has been trying to find the humans becomes violent herself, but is captured, rather than killing her, the good alien says, “There has been too much death. Not death, exile.” So they send her to another planet deep in space – WHERE SHE CAN “VIOLENTLY” TAKE OVER ANOTHER SPECIES OF CREATURE. And it is violence, even if you do it nicely and softly. Because the point is that it is violence against the individual. This is the stupidity of liberal thinking about judicial punishment. Liberals think that if we just treat evil and violent offenders with understanding and “put them away,” in exile of jail, we will fix the problem. But the reality is recidivism, repeat offenders who are simply released to commit their violent crimes on someone else. And that is exactly what this movie was unwittingly affirming is to release evil upon someone else other than “us.” THAT is barbaric cruelty. The barbarism of unintended consequences of liberal thought.

The cure in this story unfortunately is worse than the disease. It perpetuates the very violence it seeks to decry by not fighting evil with force.

The Conjuring: Got Demons? A Little of Jesus Goes a Long Way

Demon horror. Supposedly true story based on an incident in the 1970s about the most horrifying experience of two paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Perron family with five girls enter their new farmhouse out in the rural area (of course) only to discover it is haunted by evil entities. They hire the famous Warrens to figure it out and so the confrontation occurs. That’s pretty much it. Pretty much the usual haunted house story with creaking boards, slamming doors, birds flying into windows, dogs seeing spirits, cold areas, rotten smells, and the usual exorcism scene. But I’m not being negative. These things must all be there and the filmmakers do very well in telling this rich “true” story. It’s a good solid horror film with good creepy moments and good character development, with solid performances by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, as well as Lili Taylor.

It’s a kind of origin story for all those Ghosthunters we have nowadays with their fancy electronic equipment and pseudo-scientific means of detecting ghosts and whatnot. But in the 70s, they were just starting out, so we see them setting up an analog reel to reel recorders and flash still cameras with thermostats to catch any change in temperature. And of course, a super 8mm camera. It was a clever homage to today’s more developed scene.

I went to this film with high hopes because I had read it was written by Christians who seemed to express in an interview how much Jesus was the answer to addressing demonic entities, unlike 90% of these supernatural horror movies that only have religion to show how powerless it is against supernatural evil. Okay, maybe 80%.

Well, I can’t say I was entirely satisfied, but kind of pleased. I’m conflicted. This is a mixture of good and bad elements.

The Warrens are depicted not so much as Christian believers as pragmatic users of religion. They believe demons are real, and they have connections with Roman Catholic church for exorcisms and blessings, but they appear to fight evil entities, they do not seem to call upon God in faith. They don’t pray or exhibit anything that illustrates they are true believers. This is a fine distinction, but stay with me.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert in fighting demonic spirits and don’t want to be. But it seems to me that as I read in the Bible, demons are mostly cast out in the name/power of Jesus Christ by his faithful followers (Acts 16:16-18), but sometimes even unbelievers can do so by appealing to Jesus (Matt 7:21-23). It’s usually pretty simple, and usually a verbal casting out, as opposed to exorcism, except for more difficult cases that may require prayer and fasting (Mark 9:14-29). But those who are not followers of Messiah can be possessed or even beat up when they try to exorcise demons (Acts 19:13-20).

In the movies, I realize religious relics like crosses and religious rites like exorcisms are much more filmic and visual, but I have always had a problem with the Roman Catholic rite as presented in these films. And it’s used in The Conjuring as well.

Here’s my beef: It seems to create a picture of sympathetic magic, whereby a demon’s power is subdued by proper ritual engagement. You’ve all seen it, and its in The Conjuring as well: They read off a bunch of Latin ritual texts as if saying magic words are where the power lies, rather than the actual appeal to the living God over that spiritual being. It makes it appear that the victory is in some ritual action than in the faith of the believer. That would be magic.

In this movie, the mother is possessed by a demon that wants to get her to kill her daughter. When they start reading off the magical words in Latin, and sprinkle holy water on the mother, it brings out the demonic presence and we see all the typical (not bad, and not stupid, but definitely typical) demonic special effects that take you out of the story and make it only a movie. You know, the special demonic pupils, the face that looks like Linda Blair possessed, and the ability to do levitation and move everything in the house. Unfortunately, the moment that happens, I no longer believe the story and just know I am watching a movie with special effects.

But in this story, they overcome the demon ultimately by saying something like “I command you to go back to hell” and then speaking to the mom underneath by saying, “Don’t let it take you over, remember your love for your children.” In other words, no appeal to Jesus Christ.

So the picture it paints is more one of self-salvation than faith.

Nowhere is anyone depicted as being in relation to God. Religion is a weapon, but not a relational reality. God seems to be more of a tool. We can fight demons and win if we use the right magical weapons. It is good that they show the religious means of battling this demon and they do make reference in the movie to suggesting the girls be baptized in order to protect them, and these are all technically allusions to faith, but without any content. The problem I had was that these were all in context, rituals of sympathetic magic, rather than pictures of faith in context. God is a tool more than a person.

But then again, since it is coming from Hollywood, it’s better than the usual, which is to ignore God altogether.

I should probably be more positive about this positive portrayal of the Christian religion here, but I think the reason I am not all gaga about it is because not once in the entire story did I ever hear the name Jesus Christ appealed to. If you know me, you know I don’t like most Christian movies, so I am not calling for that kind of artificial tripe. What I mean is that in truth, the only way to battle demonic entities is going to be by faith and the power of Jesus Christ, specifically, not in “God” generically. In real life spiritual warfare like this, from what I understand, it is the blood of Jesus Christ that is appealed to that overcomes demons (Heck, even Arnold got it right in The End of Days when he won through faith over human strength).

In this movie, they do say, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” at the beginning of the exorcism, and that weakens my argument somewhat, but I would argue back that it is spoken like magical words. I don’t know what is being said in Latin, (so that is meaningless to us if we do not understand what is being said.) The Warrens use crucifixes around the house, but only because it pisses the demons off to have religious icons. Again, magical tools, not spiritual faith.

At the end of the film they have a super that says, “The devil exists. God exists. Our destiny hinges on which one we follow.” Not bad. Kudos.

But I still got the sense from this film that it was more about magic than faith.

Okay, here’s another strike against my negativity: The story depicts one of the original evils as being rooted in a witch from the Salem trial! Of course, in the Hollywood delusionary universe, witches don’t exist except as lies created by Christians in order to persecute. Well, here, we see that is a lie itself. Witchery is real and it is evil. Sorry, all you pagans. I know you’ll be the next in line to sue me for discrimination — And call me evil.

So, in many ways, the Christian religion is portrayed positively and I applaud them for that. But it is certainly ironic that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Hollywood is not Voldemort, but Jesus Christ (except as a cuss word). You just can’t use those two little words positively. Even when you make a movie that takes demonic spirits as real, God forbid you ever mention the one most relevant name to that reality. It’s the one name that actually has the power to crush evil spirits and therefore is the one name that must not be uttered by Hollywood, Government, Education, Science, Leftism, the Democratic Party (unless they are likening their candidate to him) and demons.

Hmmm, those ladies doth protest too much methinks.

Here I go, violating the Separation of Church and Hollywood: Evil spirits, I cast you out in the name and power of JESUS CHRIST and his blood shed on the cross for the atonement of sins.

World War Z: Zombies Prove the Existence of God

I love the zombie movie genre. And when I think of what great things can be done on the usual cheap zombie movie budget like a 28 Days Later, or Rec, or Mutants (the French one), it is a shame to see the monumental waste of money on a megabudget zombie movie like this. I’m not saying WWZ wasn’t a good movie. It was a suspenseful, fast paced horror thriller with a cool new idea about zombies (namely, that they can operate like hordes of insects in their rage). But if that’s all you can offer with a gazillion dollar budget and superstar Brad Pitt (of whom I am a fan I might add), I’ll stick with 28 Weeks Later, The Horde, and even Warm Bodies, thank you.

What I mean to say is that WWZ is a shallow hero’s journey without an interesting character that we care about or any character arc that makes us empathize with him. Beyond a basic set up of Brad Pitt having a loving family of wife and two little girls, we know nothing else about this man’s soul to care about him, other than him being a guy who is trying to find the cure. There’s just nothing else to the story. Nothing much to say about it. It left me with an unsatisfied feeling. And that makes it another shallow big budget misuse of a good genre.

What? You may ask. Is there anything BUT a shallow zombie movie? Oh yes indeed. If you don’t know this, you are obviously not educated on the benefits of zombie movies for cultural enhancement and spiritual values. And I am NOT being facetious. So hang in there.

Zombie movies are a powerful genre to explore some rather penetrating ideas about our humanity and our ethics as a society. The basic thematic playground that the genre explores is:
What makes human exceptionalism? How are we different from mere animals? The ethic of survival versus self-sacrifice is played out in a tale of survival against those who have lost their humanity. When humans become consuming machines (Dawn of the Dead), or mindless wasteful youth (Sean of the Dead), or macho militarism without restraint (28 Days Later), or focused on our own survival over others (28 Weeks Later), then that is what denies our human dignity and turns us into mere animals, which leads to our ultimate demise. The actual cause of zombies is usually some kind of virus or bacteria like a human Rabies, but the way the survivors deal with their dilemma reflects the spiritual ramifications of that loss of humanity at large. By exercising the ethic of self-sacrifice is how we as a society will transcend animal nature and be redeemed (like love in Warm Bodies).

For example, 28 Weeks Later has a main character save himself at the expense of his wife, only to be haunted in his conscience by his selfish actions. Meanwhile, throughout the story, we see that what makes us human is our elevation of others above our own survival. Those who act selfishly tend to die, those who sacrifice themselves to save others, often die, but are the humanized redeemed ones.

In this same sense, WWZ is not without its positive traits. For the very drive of Brad Pitt’s character to protect his family, and ultimately the human race is what causes him, and others in the story, to make decisions of self sacrifice for others. It is love that rises above natural instinct.

Zombie movies are not just about survival. They are usually about a conflict of ethics: The evolutionary ethic of survival of the fittest without morality versus the Christian ethic of self sacrifice. They often encourage values that reinforce human exceptionalism. If humans are more than mere animals, then we have to ask ourselves, what is it that makes us so exceptional? How do we transcend mere material animality? Lurking in the background of that question is the ancient answer that has been dismissed, nay despised, by atheism, materialism, naturalism, and the modern Left of the University and politics: That we are created in the image of God.

When you indoctrinate and condition a society to believe that morality is a social construct, that there are no transcendent ethics to which we are accountable because we are just another animal in the great evolving chain of being, then you should not be surprised when you reap the consequences of a society of people acting like zombies.

And that is why Zombie movies are arguments for the existence of God.

Beautiful Creatures: Ugly Monsters, Anti-Christian Hate Speech

Beautiful Creatures is a YA (young adult) paranormal romance, coming of age story about a teen, Ethan, who falls for troubled girl, Lena, who happens to be a witch. In just a matter of weeks, Lena is about to reach her 16th birthday, where she will be “claimed” by either the dark side or the good side of the powerful forces that control their lives.  Her uncle, Macon (on the good side) and her mother, Serafine (the wickedest witch of the west) both fight over her soul to pull her to their respective sides. The problem is that this Claiming for good or evil is beyond the powers of the witches themselves. It seems to be connected to some innate essence in them, but nobody knows which side will achieve the Claiming.

This is a tale of Fate vs. Choice and the belief that humans have the power to “make their own lives,” or “control their own fate.” It is a story about identity.

It sets up a world in the South of hackneyed stereotypes and cliché occultic powers. Christians are made out to be religious bigots who ban books to keep children from experiencing the wonderfully liberating glories of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., spout self righteous mean words about witches, reject outsiders, and of course, are racists (Since they are depicted as rejecting the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” – Puh-leeze) In other words, they are the trumped up tired old boogeyman and whipping boy of secular bigots and Hollywood hicks who have no clue of the real world outside their cloistered mansions of vanity and self-righteousness.

Topping it all off, is the villain, who is the mean witch inhabiting the body of the most religious and uptight church lady of them all, Mrs. Lincoln, played by the otherwise inimitable Emma Thompson. The filmmakers go out of their way to show Lincoln using the name of Jesus and praying, as if we should all be aware of such “evil” people who love Jesus. Children’s prayers are shown as powerless against the young Lena, who can blow out windows with a mighty power. Hey, let’s all be pagans cause they have a more powerful religion!

Okay, so if you can get past this anti-Christian hate speech J, the movie deals with some other universal issues of coming of age and choosing our destiny for good over evil. Of course, there are good witches and bad witches, another modern bias, so it’s all about what you do with the powers you’ve been given. That’s why they like to call themselves “Casters,” (of spells) rather than the negative term “witch.” Ah, that liberal talent for euphemism and thought control through language.

But the entire dramatic question through the movie is: Can Lena control her own fate or is she subject to natural causes? The old free will debate.

This brings up a rather obvious undercurrent of theme to the entire movie, namely about the hormonal changes in young women as they come of age (the “curse” as they say), and whether or not they will give in to their emotional instability or master it. Politically incorrect, but truthful. Okay, this movie isn’t all bad. Boys and men are relentlessly chastised in our feminized society to learn how to suppress their natural urges for sex from their destructive tendencies. Finally, a story that admits girls and women have to fight their natural urges for emotional excess from their destructive tendencies. One merit.

But there’s another kind of redeeming theme that this movie wrestles with: Sacrifice. The problem that Lena struggles with is a curse brought upon her by her ancestor who was a witch during the Civil War. When this witch violated the natural order by casting a spell to bring her beloved back from the dead, she brought this curse that Lena now struggles with.

At one point in the movie, there is a scene of a preacher explaining to his congregation the power of sacrifice. He says that “Some people believe sacrifice is loss, giving up things in a world where we are supposed to be able to have it all. But I believe true sacrifice is a victory. It is giving up something you love for someone you love more than yourself.” And Lena realizes that to break the curse, she must do the opposite of her ancestor: She must let someone she loves die. She must give up what she loves most, and that will have to be her new love, Ethan.

Okay, now sacrifice is not an explicitly Christian notion. Pagans also believe in sacrifice. All religions have it through all of history, because the Creator embedded it into reality. But I still have to give some kudos for the film portraying ONE PERSON, ONE MOMENT of a real Christian speaking truth. Two merits.

And I have to give some credit to the fact that the villainess does say ONE LINE that actually resonated truth as well. Now keep in mind that what the villainess believes will be the worldview that is critiqued because the bad guy (girl) believes bad things. Got it? So when Serafine says, “Love is a spell created by mortals to give females something to play with beside power,” we see a rather poignant damnation of feminism. I’m not saying the filmmakers were deliberate here. They may not have realized it. I just don’t know. But that claim is precisely the bitterness and false accusation that feminism projects onto western culture. It is a bitterness that one of the heroes says sacrifice wins the battle against.  Again, it ain’t ALL bad. Three merits.

My ultimate gripe comes with the metanarrative that drives the worldview of this story, and that is the belief that our destiny is ultimately in our own hands. We “claim ourselves,” we don’t have to be claimed by anything outside ourselves, such as society, or other people, or even natural law – or even, dare I say — GOD?

Well I have an idea where that self-righteous view of human autonomy comes from. As the SNL Church Lady used to say, “Could it be – Satan?”

The Purge: Hate the Rich Agitprop

Great concept, but terribly morally confused and untruthful. This film is in the satirical tradition of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, where Swift suggested they sell the children of poor people as food in order ease the economic burden of poverty and the growing underclasses. In this movie, the idea is very simple and high concept: In the near future, one night a year, called The Purge, everyone is allowed to release their hatred upon one another and not be arrested for their violence. The goal is to purge the hatred through a cathartic release of “the Beast” within as people rape and kill one another. Supposedly this cleans up crime to only 1% during the rest of the year, by “sacrificing” those victims of the Purge to the “cleansing” of that Beast. This comes from a “reborn America,” that was instituted by the “New Founding Fathers,” who instituted the Purge to decrease crime and whose praise is chanted by Americans in the phrases, “Blessed be America. May God be with you all.” And of course, in good hypocritical fashion, all government officials are immune from the Purge, just as they always are unaccountable to the laws they pass to saddle everyone else.

Coulda been great.

The hero, James Sandin, is played by Ethan Hawke, as the inventor of the new security systems that most rich people have to “lock down” their homes with steel doors and such. He believes in the Purge and is also excessively prepared to survive the night, with back up firearms and plans – oh, you know, kinda like those whacky survivalist types. The problem comes with a black homeless man who is being chased by some rich kids cries out to helped. One of Sandin’s kids lets him into their home, which sets in motion a violent bloodfest as a group of killers threaten Sandin to let the black homeless man into their hands or they will kill his entire family.  And the killers want to kill him because he is a “worthless non-contributing member of society.” And he is black, so they are also racists.

Well, I have to say this was a great concept to explore some complex moral issues such as how far do we go to defend ourselves? What do we do if presented with the impossible options of protecting our family vs. endangering that entire family to save one person. One versus the many. And especially how evil people can be when they think they are not accountable for their actions or if they think they can get away with their behavior. Not that the movie is saying this, but I think this is a powerful argument for the rule of law, as well as, the belief God. If people think that they will ultimately not be punished for what they do in this life, they will do heinous things – even those who seem like nice people on the surface, because the human heart hides a dark sinfulness.

The problem with the movie lies in its confused political morality.

It is an obvious parable about how the rich shelter themselves in their safety and “let the rest of the poor” fend for themselves. Some good potential there too. Which kinda made me think. Well, the most relevant example of that would have been to have the hero be a Hollywood celebrity in his rich protected mansion – not caring about the world they feed off of, or the poor they kick off their curbs – oh wait, those are the people making the movie. We can’t have that. Take two…

But the thing that makes this story fall flat with a lack of authenticity and true original thinking is the Hollywood Political B.S. of trying to tie this Purge concept and all the evil rich people to the Tea Party. Yes, that’s right. The obvious religious language and references to the Founding Fathers, just like the Tea Party always talks about returning to the vision of the Founding Fathers, and God and all that. But the problem is that the immorality of anarchic destruction and lawlessness is the antithesis of Tea Partiers who promote the rule of law peacefully. But lawlessness is more like that of the Occupy Movement with its laundry list of violent crimes like rape, theft, vandalism, and murder that plagues its hateful protests. This rhetorical connection is so opposite of reality that it makes the movie laughable propaganda instead of thoughtful moral exploration. The kind of thinking that results in such violent notions of catharsis and anarchic crime do not come from the Christian religious folk, but from the antichristian Leftist universities and Media machine that dominates this country. One of the few things this movie gets right is having the lead sociopath wearing some kind of prep school jacket or such, to try to show that the evil is just as much from the educated upperclass. Well, actually, it is precisely from that Marxist Leftist hatred of the rich and victimization philosophy that comes from the Universities that would breed this (atheist) French Revolution notion of The Purge. “The rich” are mostly not religious, but secular, so that whole “God bless America” rhetoric just doesn’t ring true. Too bad. It coulda been a thoughtful story.

And I just don’t see this desperate and consistent obsession to connect the “rich” with the Tea Party conservatives or the Republican party. It’s completely counterfactual. The top richest people in congress are almost all Democrats. Wall Street and Big Business give far more money to the Democratic party than the Republican party. The richest people in America tend to be liberals and leftists. All the above the line people of that very movie are statistically all liberal or leftists and they make profits far beyond “fair” compared to the little guys who work below the line. A story has to ring true to be good. This story doesn’t ring true.

SPOILER: At the end when the worst villains turn out to be Sandin’s rich neighbors who kill all the killers because they want the Sandin’s for themselves. And why? Because he got rich off of all of them of course! Really?! I think they are trying to say that the rich like to exploit but they don’t like being exploited. Okay, fair enough. But again, I think that the storytellers may not realize that they are inadvertently proving the point that the real evil that results in all this violence of our society is the victimization that results from the Politics of Envy. The fact is that it was not wrong for Sandin to become rich off an invention of protection that he provided the world. The profit motive is not what is evil, envy and theft is. The belief that getting rich is inherently evil is becoming so woven into our social fabric through government propaganda, media, and entertainment, that people are actually starting to believe the Lie. And that is the lie that justifies in their minds the evil they engage in to “purge” their own hatred with violent desires. The irony of it all is that it is the policies of the secular Left that lead directly to the oppression and exploitation of the poor and minorities, not the religious Tea Party. In order to have been a good movie that dealt with a moral issue fairly, they should have avoided all the politicizing. But if they were going to be truthful or consistent, the phrases that should have been spouted as the slogans of America should have been more like “pay your fair share” “spread the wealth around” and other Socialist or Marxist phrases.

And then the ultimate moral confusion comes when, after the bloodbath, and the wife of Sandin and her kids have the upper hand over their rich neighbors who are trying to kill them, she refuses to kill their attackers because “there’s been enough bloodshed” tonight. She wants to hold them until morning. Obviously they are trying to say that you must stop the cycle of violence by not returning violence with violence. Fair enough. But the problem is that this denies the morality of self-defense. If you do not kill those who are trying to kill you as they are trying to kill you, they will not stop trying to kill you. It’s human nature. Self defense is morally justifiable homicide. Now, if this was a normal legal situation, where they could be brought in to pay for their crimes, then it would be entirely acceptable to “capture” them and bring them to the Law because justice would be done. But that is not the situation. These murderers would go home without justice served, so the wife is simply allowing them to live to kill them the next time, which is not protecting her family. Now, one of the killers tries to get the wife’s gun and she gives the killer a broken bloody nose, so she’s not above using violence to get some “justice.” Wanna stop the killing. But the filmmakers recognize our need to see some comeuppance to the killers, so that’s why they threw that in there. But it ain’t enough. Because we know they will come back to kill again. So there is some worthy stuff in that ending worth debating, but it’s not worth the rest of the untruthful story to get to it.

In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not rich or a member of the Tea Party.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn (Part 2)

As bad as Breaking Dawn Part 1, was, this one is not much melodramatically better. But you have to admit, Kristen is A-L-M-O-S-T acting in this one. I have to say, she is getting a teency bit better with each of the series. She is no longer making her trademark shirks and ticks and lookaways. Go, team Jacob.

The first two of the movies in the series were very strong powerful arguments for sexual abstinence before marriage. Yes, the entire vampire mythology became a metaphor for the Mormon author’s moral worldview in a way that I have never seen in Hollywood movies. Wait until marriage because it is a fusion of souls and bodies that is not to be taken lightly. Suck on that natural law, fornicators.

And then Breaking Dawn Part 1 was one of the most pro-life stories in movie history. Do not kill the baby, even if Bella dies. Wow, those Mormons don’t win national elections with beliefs like that, but they sure can tell stories that resonate with the souls of the audience, when that audience does NOT have their political radars on. Ha, ha, Hollywood, you’ve been punked.

Part 2 is all about protecting the new child, the fruit of Bella and Edward’s union that appears to be a unique half-breed of humanity and vampirinity. The head vampire council in Italy does not like this “unknown.” For “unknowns” are what can expose them and have them all destroyed. They prefer having control by maintaining the “known,” so they want to kill the child and come, seeking a big battle with the vampires and now werewolves who protect her, the climax of the film.

What interests me in this story is the universal quest for immortality that resides in all of us. It is essentially an historical meme that still plays today, god and human hybrids. That’s right, the child, Renessme, or Ness for short, is basically a Nephilim. That is, the story reflects the ancient worlds’ notion of the gods mating with humans and bearing them offspring that are half human half god. Most ancient religions have this meme embedded in their stories. Genesis 6:1-4 talks about it as the divine sons of God in heaven mating with women and bearing them the Nephilim. I write about this storyline in my own Biblical fantasy novel series, Chronicles of the Nephilim. It’s all the rage these days, Nephilim and the end of the world. But it’s more than a fad, it’s a universal drive in human nature. That’s why it keeps coming back in stories and it works so well.

The idea reflects the notion that man seeks to be like gods. The vampires, as immortals represent this “shining glory” as their own skin shines in the daylight, and they live forever. In this mythology, they also have individual powers like the ability to control the elements or read minds or produce shields of protection. Sounds a little like superheros? Yep. Sounds a little like the ancient pantheon of gods? You bet. We recycle these stories because WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE, AND NONE OF US WANT TO. We long for immortality, the desire to be united with divinity. I think Genesis captures this inherent longing in man best as man refuses to submit to his Creator and instead violates the image of God in man. He does this through murder, as well as the violation of the heavenly earthly divide. He seeks to be like God and so falls from his exalted place over creation, only to hunger because of his fallenness that the Bible calls the sinful nature.

Now, this is where Stephanie Meyer’s Mormonism comes in. Mormonism believes that we become gods (the immortal vampires), and for women, the highest pursuit in life is to become a god through this divine marriage. They believe in eternal marriage. That is why the ending of the movie stresses the words “forever” in relation to the happiness and married love between Edward and Bella. They will live forever and be married in love forever. Now, we all use the metaphor of “forever” when we speak of love. I do with my wife. But Mormons believe this literally, in that eternal marriages are the culmination of us becoming gods and marrying and having our own planets to reside over forever. Sooooooo, it’s not quite the same thing to us “normal” people and our emotional exaggerations.

But don’t let that ruin the movie for you. The reason the story resonates with so man is not just because of the female pornography of it, but because it taps into that impulse, that desire that we all have to seek immortality in our fallenness.

Priest

Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi horror. “Vampires have always been with us.” In the future, after the vampire threat has been nullified by the Church’s vampire warrior priests, life is back to normal, and those warrior priests are put back into normal life by the Church. Their vampire hunting is made illegal so that people will feel safe again in their walled in dystopic grungy city. Meanwhile, the vampires have been growing far away in huge hives. And they have been planning a takeover feast of the city. So, when vampire hunter Priest, played with stoic coolness by Paul Bettany, discovers his niece has been captured by vampires in order to turn her, he goes to rescue her against the commands of the Church, which is trying to lull everyone into an institutional sense of safety. So Priest becomes an outlaw.

This movie is what used to be called “anti-clericalism,” that is an attack on the institutional church in favor of individualistic spirituality. The phrase that is repeated multiple times throughout the film in order to make the point is, “To go against the church is to go against God.” Another phrase spoken by the high priests: “To question the authority of the clergy is absolutely forbidden.” This is an obvious reflection of the Roman Catholic Medieval Church’s phrase, “There is no salvation outside the Church.” But this is not quite so simple as an anticlerical call to Protestant Reformation of the priesthood of all believers, because the Priest at first decides that if he is going against God to save his niece, then he will give up on God. So he saves the day and destroys the vampires who reflect original sin because “they are what nature made them to be.”

The Priest concludes, “Out power does not come from the Church, it comes from God. With or without clergy, we’re still priests.” So, the theme is a confusing mixture of individualistic spirituality and anticlericalism with the residue of Protestant Reformed notions. Quite a bit different from say Martin Luther, who affirmed obedience to the authority of the Church as long as he possibly could until he was forced to deny his conscience, at which point he then asserted that God is the ultimate authority over even the Church. The Reformation may have resulted in creating an individualist piety that we suffer from today, but it did not necessarily start out that way. Still the resonances are there for a rather positive Protestant worldview.

Season of the Witch

Supernatural period horror. Behman and Felson start as Crusading knights fighting wars with Muslims (not mentioned as such in the movie) who appear to be more mercenaries than holy warriors. But when leaders start making them kill innocent women and children of conquered cities, they excommunicate themselves from the Crusades to result in being outlaws on the run. So when they come upon a town afflicted by the plague, they are commissioned to transport an accused witch to another city that hosts a holy monastery of priests with the ability to legally try the women to discover her innocence or guilt.

Because of their bad experience with the Crusades, Behman  and Felson are highly dubious of the woman’s guilt, but still maintain the hope of a fair trial by the church so they take on the task with hopes of being pardoned of their desertion.

The movie plays with the possibility of the woman’s innocence, but eventually we see that in fact, she is not a witch, but is possessed by a demon whose goal is to draw the men to the monastery, now destroyed, in order to capture the last book of exorcism ritual that they carry with them. If they can destroy that book, they can run amok in the world.

This movie is an interesting mixture of anti-institutional Christianity with a positive support for individual spirituality and the reality of the Christian vision of the supernatural. Okay, the “magic” book of exorcism is a fiction, but the movie uses the audience’s anti-Christian prejudice based on the Crusades to subvert that prejudice by depicting a world very supernatural where Christianity wins out. The monk who travels with the heroes is hinted at being a lecherous rapist (a common bigoted stereotype in the modern cinema) but alas turns out to be a good guy who is libeled by lies. Quite refreshing and original.

In contradiction to this subversion, there remains another modern libel against Christianity in the movie. It seems that the name of “Jesus Christ” is only mentioned in movies as a cuss word or in the mouth of an evil criminal and never as a positive expression of specific faith. So in this movie the only time “Jesus Christ” is mentioned is in the mouth of an evil Crusade Leader who yells to his soldiers to “kill all the infidels in the name of Jesus Christ!” (repeated later in the movie to make the poinkt) Interesting that they used a word that was not used by Christians, but Muslims. Christians used the word “heathen,” and the word “infidel” is commonly known to be connected to Islamic imperialism. So, maybe the filmmakers were trying to make a predictable moral equivalency of institutional Christianity and institutional Islam. In any case, Season of the Witch portrays a balanced world of false and true Christianity within a paradigm that affirms supernatural evil and supernatural good.