Here’s a wild talk by the Orthodox Christian artist Jonathan Pageau , who talks about the theological meaning of zombies in pop culture. Excerpts:

At a social level we can feel and see all around us the growing polarization, the acceleration of what we can only call a strange breakdown, the decomposition of culture, the progressive dissipation of any center which can rally us as societies.


And it is here on the edge that we find the zombies wandering aimlessly in a world that is losing its center. Unlike most of his monstrous brothers, the zombie is truly the harbinger of contemporary nihilism. The zombie has no magic, its arrival usually has no clear reason, but rather the zombie is couched in a biological accident, a disease, a plague. Simply an animated corpse, the zombie inhabits the indeterminate space of living death, roaming around in packs, the zombie shows us the mindless wandering of a mindless mob with an insatiable hunger for devouring others, for swallowing life. If the vampire is the monster of aristocracy, the zombie is the monster of the mass, of the accidental, of quantitative leveling. The zombie is the atheist insistence on the illusion of free will. It is an image of nihilism and of idiosyncrasy taken all the way to decomposition.

In almost every major city in North America they have these events, they call them zombie walks. People dress up as zombies and walk in thousands down the streets, dressed up and made up to look like corpses, shifting around with dead empty eyes and pretending to be the walking dead.


The zombie both typifies the mob, while simultaneously the absolute individualism, the absolute isolation of contemporary life, for the zombies in a horde only interact with what they desire and never interact with each other. The trope of cannibalism is a very ancient one. We find it in so many ancient stories. But the tweak in Zombies of eating brains is a very powerful one, because it is truly an image of the nihilist. The zombie is a creature without meaning, without intelligence, it misses any forms personhood, and has this insatiable desire which mirrors what it lacks. It desires what it lack, identity, meaning, and this desire appears in that materialist reduction of identity and personhood to a clump of cells up there in your cranium, the zombie wants to eat your brains because it cannot eat the mind, it cannot inhabit the mind.

Strangely enough the desire to eat the living is the extreme perversion of our desire for communion and it is also the distilled image of all our passions, our attempt to fill the unquenchable yearning through our passions always transforms others into commodities which can get us what we think we need. The zombie is both an image of the social breakdown, the person as a meaningless statistic, the disappearance of common values except the overwhelming desire to consume, so also as it is an image of the breakdown of the person itself into an soulless desiring death machine.

There is a rather strict analogy between these different levels of the world. The social breakdown and polarization is to the state what the abandonment to the passions is for the person, and the zombie is both those fragmentations at the same time.

So to pull back a bit. As we look around, As the narrative fabric of the world begins to fill, in quantities that are barely possible to believe, with images of the monstrous — as we feel the world being torn apart by fragmentation and conflict, we are simultaneously as individuals being constantly assaulted by images, images with the purpose of awaking our desires. And we have come to the point where we have often even become accustomed to a constant exposure to the stranger and stranger fringe of desire whilst being enticed by the siren song to indulge, to give into the waves and the storm and to sink into the mire.

What does this have to do with the Feast of Pentecost, and the iconography of Pentecost (remember, Pageau is an artist)? You have to read the whole thing to find out. I find this to be an ingenious meditation, not what I would have expected from a Christian artist talking about the zombie apocalypse. Check it out; you’ll be surprised, and enlightened.

(And I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: I’m not going to publish any critical comments from people who don’t evidence having read Pageau’s talk first.)