Zombies are everywhere.
Have you seen the previews for the new mashup movie Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? I’m not making that up; it’s based upon the book by the same guy who wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer. I’m sure a lot of my kids will see it. We all seem to have this fascination with zombies, the undead that walk the earth, not knowing that they’re dead, propped up and trying to stay alive, in the case of those zombies, by eating living human flesh.
According to Andy Crouch, in his book Playing God, there are also zombie institutions. Zombie institutions have lost their life, their vitality, their power to promote human flourishing. They are actually dead; not mostly dead, like in the Princess Bride, but dead dead. Despite their deadness, they are being propped up by their governments, or the past, or some hope against hope that they can still exist, still regain their vitality, and so tons of resources are poured into them, keeping them alive, where all they do is drain others. If you google “zombie banks,” you can read about how these institutions, mostly European, are bleeding the resources and life out of economies, draining the governments that are sustaining their existence, “too big to fail,” propped up by fear of the consequences of their failure, of the potential pain involved, no matter how temporary, if they fell.
Sometimes I wonder if we’re like that about Christendom.
I’m not talking about Christianity, our faith in the living, active Lord Jesus Christ, at work in the world through His Church throughout the world, returning again to make all things new. That faith is all too alive, and growing throughout the world. I’m talking about what Russell Moore calls our “almost-gospel” as the source of our political power and prestige in our culture. Like some of the failing banks worldwide, it seems like the phenomenon of Christendom died in America already. But, are we kind of propping it up, like a government pouring emergency capital into a bank? Moore, in Onward, suggests that maybe that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re afraid to lose that power and prestige, and so we do things we shouldn’t do, make compromises we shouldn’t make.
I work with teenagers every day. I see some who want so much to be a part of whatever they consider to be the “in crowd,” the “cool kids,” that they’ll do anything, make any compromise, to sustain that status. But, as Moore suggests, maybe many Christians have done the same thing in our politics and our response to culture—aligning ourselves with those who clearly do not have the heart of God on so many issues, just because they’re angry about the same things as I am, or because I think that through those alliances we can hang on to that past prestige, power, and privilege, or regain it. As Moore says, “it would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ. That’s a very bad trade-off.” In that case, is God my god, or is it the prestige, power, and privilege?
Can that be true? What if God wants to pry prestige, power and privilege from our hands, like I had to do with things that I knew were dangerous for my young kids, but that they desperately thought they wanted? What if our real joy is, as I’ve said before, to live in Christ and at the margins of society, as Christians have for thousands of years, viewed as quirky and unusual, but paradoxically winsome and attractive at the same time, because they are full of the joy and excitement that obedience and passion for the Lord, and for the things that are important to the Lord, always brings?
Is it really just a trust issue for us? Do we really trust that He is really all we need?
I’m not suggesting disengagement with the world, or being at war with politics; that’s not scripturally sound. I’m just suggesting that our cultural engagement and political activism be driven by what is important to our Lord, rather than what will secure our power, privilege, and prestige. And, I’m suggesting that we actually know Jesus well enough to know what those things are.
Lord, I want to trust that what you give, gives more joy than what I trust. Can I say that? Can you? Can we just let it go?