The Leftovers, The Returned, Revolution, the Walking Dead not only being a top-rated show, but spawning a top-rated spin-off — I dare anyone to find any previous moment in American history, including in the years of paranoia after Watergate, in which our fantasies have been so dark, depressive, anxious and foreboding.
Geraghty more or less agrees but points to “American Sniper” as a glaring counter-example and wonders:
My only question would be: How much of this reflects the mood and perspective of the creative class, and how much reflects the mood and perspective of audiences?
My initial reaction was, well, this:
But then I am an old curmudgeon that tries to cope with his curmudgeonliness by laughing at it. I asked some of the younger people I know about the zombie preoccupation of the current culture and they told me it was mostly about video games and the fact that zombies are the one target for excessive levels of violence that no one gets all PC over. I found that refreshing, but also noted that the young people I was talking to were all at church. Faith is, I think, the real dividing line that Geraghty is looking for when he distinguishes between the “creative class” and the audience. Having worked amongst the creative class for a number of years, faith is not a common trait in its inhabitants.
I would sum up Ace’s, “dark, depressive, anxious and foreboding,” with the word “fear.” Everybody fears. For the faithful, fear is simply directed in a productive fashion. Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge….”
For the unchurched and atheistic, fear unhinged from God runs to amok. Things like the zombie apocalypse leave the realm of fantasy and take on a air of legitimacy as the fear has to land somewhere. You see, fear is a natural expression of the fact that we innately understand the world is a place which we cannot fully comprehend or know. It is just too big and there are forces at play beyond our ken. In those terms what is happening in the broader culture seems pretty natural. As our technology has advanced to the point that for the vast majority of us the basic needs of life are not a worry, our fear turns to things outside the obvious.
But sadly, this unhinged fear exists inside the faithful as well. In so many churches today God is reduced to a sort of cosmic buddy. Rather than the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe who is indeed beyond our understanding and control and therefore to be feared, so many churches portray Him as someone that will merely stand beside us and comfort us during the zombie apocalypse.
Faith arises when we understand that God, who is indeed to be feared, is benevolent and loving and will not just comfort us during the zombie apocalypse, but save us from it. Our faith is rooted in our fear of God.
I think Ace and Geraghty have put their finger on a mood very prominent in our nation. And it makes me think of the story in Matthew 9:35-38:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
That is my prayer this Sunday morning. And I also pray that I am prepared to be that prayer’s answer.