I love the Walking Dead. It took me a very long time to get into because I am squeamish and I had zombie nightmares when we started. I am such a weenie that the “zombie rom com” Warm Bodies gave me nightmares. But I pushed through my fear of the walking dead and I now love it.
In case you live under a rock, The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic show where zombies have taken over the world. It follows a band of survivors who are trying to do just that – survive. And what ensues is heartbreak, tragedy, love, beauty, ugliness, and moral dilemmas you will think about for weeks.
The leader of the group, Rick Grimes, has one primary goal: We protect our people.
In a world where the best you can hope for is survival, this seems like the best philosophy of life. And as you cheer for this group, it becomes your goal and philosophy as well.
This season has been interesting (I will try to be vague for spoilers sake) because now what is required to protect “our people” is growing increasing more difficult to stomach. Protecting our people is costly and has taken them down dark roads.
Yet there is one character advocating that all life matters.
As you watch you are torn: Is it about protecting our people? Or does all life matter? And can all life matter when safety and resources are limited and the goal is simple survive?
This is an interesting tension to explore in a television show. But it puts a very bloody face on the narratives we hear in our world every day.
If you listen closely, the “protect our people” narrative is rampant in the political discussion. On both sides. It takes different forms depending on if you are red or blue but in the end, the narrative is the same.
Our first job is to protect us.
At first glance, this even makes sense. I want what is best for my family so I strive to protect them and care for them. They are always my first priority.
But when this is the dominant narrative and it extends into the political realm, it takes much uglier forms.
When our primary narrative is about US and making sure we are safe, secure, blessed, and happy then those who are not US are the enemy.
We begin to take on a scarcity mindset. There is only so much health, wealth, and safety to go around so I need to get my piece of the pie before someone else does. It doesn’t matter who is left out, as long as I get mine.
When this seeps into the narrative of a country, we build walls to keep people out, we provide fundamental goods and services only to the deserving, and we begin to shame, excluded, deport, and kill those who are not like us.
Listen for this narrative. It is everywhere.
And actually the two main problematic assumptions with this narrative are illustrated when we compare it to The Walking Dead.
- We assume we are the center and heroes of the story
- We assume we live in a world of scarcity
These are true in the television show. But they raise some big questions in real life.
Sarah talks this week about the call of Christians to do justice in the world. What she reminds us is that if we really want to do good and justice in the world, we need to be rooted in the Story of God.
The Story of God is about God’s action in the world on behalf of all humanity. It is a story of grace, love, and abundance. From the very beginning we see a God who is continually faithful, patient, and gracious to a ragtag, broken, and even evil mess of humanity.
The Story of God is one of people living in the world with a scarcity mindset and a God who comes to show the abundance right in front of them. It is a Story of people who live like the only goal is survival, but God comes to show them how to thrive.
And this Story spans the entirety of human existence: from the creation of the world until God renews all things.
Not only that, but we have a significant role to play in our chapter of the Story. But we are not the heroes. We are not the stars. We are not the point.
We are not here for our own survival. We are here to participate in the Story of God and strive toward the flourishing of all humanity.
The narrative of this Story is: We protect our people. But the Story expands who we consider our people. The Story tells us our people are the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the prisoners, the immigrants, the overlooked, the hurting, the underrepresented, the vulnerable, and even our enemies.
The Story reminds us we truly discover how to thrive when we put our efforts and energies into the flourishing of others. The Story reminds us to look at the world through new lenses. With new lenses we ask better questions about privilege, access, oppression, and systematic evils.
Rather than seeing the world as a place to find my own personal happiness and well-being, we begin to ask how we have been privileged and who else in the world has not. And we use our privilege for the sake of others.
The Story of God gives us a whole new way of being in the world where we are not merely trying to survive and get our piece of the pie, but we are given the task of seeking to help all of humanity thrive.
Sarah has good reminders on how justice and seeking the flourishing of others isn’t always sexy and may be simple acts in our everyday life. But it starts with a new, and better, narrative.
It starts with entering into the Story of God as God seeks the healing and restoration of all things. And we get to play a part.
May we no longer be deceived by narratives of survival-of-the-fittest and that our people matter more than those people. May we live into a new kind of Story, where our people are all people, and there is an abundance of goodness and grace and flourishing to go around.