Invite a Vampire to Church This Weekend

Vampire from Nosferatu to Dracula to Twilight and zombies in Walking DeadI checked out yet another vampire book from the library this weekend. It’s by Scott Westerfeld, one of my favorite YA authors. I haven’t started reading it yet, since I’m working on a book deadline of my own—but it’s sitting on my TBR shelf, a juicy little reward for the faithful writer.

Coincidentally (or not… ) my editor asked me to write a little about vampires for you—challenging me to challenge you to “invite a vampire to church this weekend.”

This should be fun.

Vampires seem to be waning from popular culture at the moment—too much exposure to bright light does that to them I guess—but they’ll never go away. There’s something about the undead such as vampires—and the slower moving but increasingly popular zombies—that has always drawn our imagination.

Over the past five decades supernatural creatures in popular culture have evolved from purely evil destroyers of good—defeated only by faith and holy water, to conflicted creatures trying to retain the last vestiges of humanity in a battle against whatever virus or poison that is turning them. It reflects a change in cultural thinking from one of absolutes to one of degrees, and dovetails neatly with the declining influence of the organized Christian church in Western society.

As if deep down we all know without being told that there might be something to this living forever thing.

Because, of course, there is.

The fact that our fascination with vampires and other undead creatures continues is telling for at least two reasons:

First, we are hungry for the spiritual. In the past 20 or 30 years, even as science advances in leaps and bounds, movies and books featuring the unexplained and supernatural have flourished. The History Channel, for example—a source you might think to count on for presenting the most factual of events—spends weeks at a time on ghosts, prophecies, and access to the gates of hell.

Second, a nagging suspicion that there must be more than this life. For a few years you couldn’t go to the movies without seeing a title that included witches. Then it was all about the vampires—sparkly or otherwise. Now whether cute and recovering or terrifying mindless hordes, it’s all about the zombies. Each of these genres, at its root, has one question—what happens next? And, is it better to live forever, even if it’s in a non-human form?

See, without a faith to instruct us otherwise, we risk walking around in a state of perpetual grief. Unsure if we’ll ever see our loved ones again, and unsettled with the idea that when it ends it ends forever. Theologian George Macdonald addressed grief—trying to define the line between healthy grieving and obsessive grief—more than a hundred years ago. The following quote is often misattributed to C. S. Lewis. It seems appropriate here.

“Never tell a child: ‘You have a soul’,” said George Macdonald. “Teach him: ‘You are a soul; you have a body.’ As we learn to think of things always in this order, that the body is but the temporary clothing of the soul, our views of death and the unbefittingness of customary mourning will approximate to those of Friends of earlier generations.”

When observed through this lens, most vampires appear to be afraid of death, and most zombies completely unaware of their souls. I don’t think there is any better reason to invite them to church than to show a vampire there is nothing to fear, and show a zombie that they do, indeed, have hope.

I’d rather be a zombie

I just finished the second book in Diana Rowland’s excellent White Trash Zombie series.

Yeah, I said “excellent” and “zombie” in the same sentence. What are you gonna do about it?

Here’s the synopsis of the first book, My Life as a White Trash Zombie, from Rowland’s website.

Angel Crawford is a loser

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the parish morgue–and that it’s an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey–just when she’s hungriest!

Angel’s going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn’t, she’s dead meat.

Literally.

It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s romantic and it’s incredibly gross. I LOVED it! Necessary warning: Angel is white trash and her vocabulary is appropriate for her. F-bombs fall frequently.

Even White Trash Zombies Get The Blues is the book that kept me up until midnight last night. This time Angel tangles with zombie hunters who may or may not be in cahoots with the zombie mafia. Wrap your head around that one.

I think what I love most about this series is the real heart that Rowland has for Angel. It is a compassionate and realistic portrayal of how things so frequently go wrong. (The story is set in Louisiana, but I know I went to school with Angel in Northern Michigan. Maybe the names were changed to protect the innocent.)

Angel has been shown grace. She’s been given a second chance at life, un-death after dying.

Stick with me here, but I’m seeing a pretty important parallel here.

I’m pretty sure becoming a zombie, like Angel did, is not going to happen. But I got a second chance after dying, after putting myself on the alter and walking away from what I thought was best for me and giving it all to God. Also like Angel, I need to follow some simple but vital rules. Angel has to eat brains or she will rot away. (Happily her new job at the morgue keeps her in fresh and quasi legal supply – she doesn’t even have to kill anyone.) To keep me from rotting away I need to keep close to my supply too. I need God in my life.

Another important thing to remember. Angel never forgets where she came from. She has compassion for a stoned convenience store clerk because that used to be her. She shows love to her father because she understands his hurt and how overwhelmed he was when her mother, his wife, went off the deep end of mental illness. She extends grace to the people who are where she used to be.

These are the most poignant, and most damning, moments in the series. Especially when I compare them to how Christians are reacting to current events. There is no grace in the Chick-fil-A conversation.

If this is how Christians continue to act, then I would rather be a zombie like Angel.