This morning I listened to a RadioLab podcast about quicksand that began with the observation that children in schools are not afraid of quicksand, though people of their parents’ generation were.
The reporter, in his work to discover why this changed, noticed that the height of use of quicksand scenes in movies was in the 1960s. Whether this was a cause or an effect was not conjectured, but the reporter noted that quicksand references were present in many of the biggest cultural concerns of the time: MLK, Jr. talked about the quicksand of racism, there was a concern that the moon landing might literally end up in lunar quicksand, and the Vietnam War was likened to quicksand. RadioLab postulated that the rapid change of the era had people fearful of getting stuck and overwhelmed in unfamiliar territory, making quicksand a compelling image of collective anxiety.
At the beginning of the piece, in almost a throw-away aside, the reporter asks the children this question: If you aren’t afraid of quicksand, what are you afraid of? Not surprisingly, one of the quick answers was zombies.
So this, then, is the question that has been following me this morning: If one of our strongest images of collective fear, analogous to quicksand in the 1960s, is zombies, what is the church doing to combat (or, from another perspective, redeem) our “zombies”? What about “vampires”?
Go ahead and laugh. I did, when I first thought of the question. But the more it stays with me, the more I think it’s begging for a serious answer. Are we being the kind of church that has an answer to “zombie apocalypse”? What might that kind of church be like?