My wife recently received an appointment as Children’s Ministry Coordinator for our church. Her enthusiasm for the scriptures has given her an opportunity to serve in a way she didn’t expect. She’s currently aiding with the program’s Sunday curriculum and presentations. I have to say, I’m extremely proud of all that she’s accomplished in the short time she has served in the kid’s ministry.
With that on my mind, I’ll make today’s Freedom Friday post a short one. I’d like to talk about my beliefs and how I reconcile the fact that I write about zombies.
Before I go on, let me get something out of the way first. I’m writing this post with the intention of not offending anyone. I’m sure I will, but I don’t mean to. I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, I shouldn’t say whatever’s on my mind. But because you’re my fans, I’d like to provide an added dimension to who I am–not only as a writer, but as a person.
Right. Moving along.
I get this question a lot. When I say a lot, I mean über-times. The question I receive is this: How can I write about zombies if I believe in a higher power? More specifically–how can I write about horror if I believe in God?
My answer is always the same. I write about sin. Rather, I write about the effects of sin in a godless society. This is where you as the reader either stop reading, or continue reading with the goal of trying to understand what I just said. I’m sure whatever you decide to do, I will know by the response I receive at the end of this post.
I write about zombies as a type of sin that has spread throughout society. Given sin is the breaking of God’s law, lawlessness left unchecked will produce a society where sin corrupts and kills the good. Similarly, zombies as typified sin, spread their corruption, in this case their undead state, to others by means of close contact. Without salvation, all of humanity will die. Hence, the only thing to redeem humanity from sin is the shedding of blood.
My definition of a zombie apocalypse is not about how gory the story can become, but about good versus evil. In other words, how far has sin progressed in the story that the hero–the savior–can appear and redeem the remaining few who have chosen not to allow sin to enter into their lives?
To me, zombies also represent people dead in sin. I’m talking about those folks who roam about shackled to a life of bitter slavery. They have no concept of an existence beyond themselves, and their idea of living is waking up every morning to continue a life better left unchallenged. Eventually, zombies will rot until there’s nothing left and sin will have prevailed over their souls.
Do you see now how I don’t feel guilty writing about zombies?
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
If you’re a writer, do you allow your belief system to inspire you? If so, how far do you allow it to take you?
28 thoughts on “Zombies and My Beliefs”
I don’t have anything meaningful to add here other than I think this is awesome and now I really want to read one of your novels.
Aw, thanks, Laura! I hope you enjoy them, too!
Absolutely loved this post Jack – both for the insight and it’s awesome genuineness (is that a word? I’m not getting any red underline signs that it’s not so Word Press deems that it is).
In answer to the post question, I think my beliefs/faith tend to affect my editing more than my initial writing. Not sure how to explain that without turning this comment into a post myself but suffice to say that it’s always resulted in a better story.
Thanks for sharing fellow writer and brother in Christ! 🙂
Jack, First off, way to go with explaining things the way you did and with your bold declaration of your faith. Entertainment. Yes, you write about Zombies and the analogies to sin, etc. is great but what is wrong with you writing fiction, science fiction for the express purpose to entertain and get imaginations going a bit. Most christians watch tv, movies, video games, etc. Entertainment. Yep, for entertainment, stress relief, pleasure. Not everyone is stuck in the bible every time they choose to read or watch something. We all often enjoy fiction through various means. I will write fiction. I also plan to write my testimony and some other non-fiction and in all my writings there will be age ratings as some content will be adult-only, specifically because life happens as it happens and events aren’t all g-rated. Even the bible itself is full of violence, sex, sins of all sorts in it’s stories and accounts. There’s stuff my kids won’t read until they are older and can understand and that’s the bible I’m referring to. I’m getting tired of christians judging christians and non-christians alike by questioning so much or being apalled at real-life depictions. I’ve been lucky to hear some very moving testimonies from christians and believe me, some of the material was R-rated. Some christians are shocked at this but I’m cool. Even when I hear bad language or very graphic tales of experiences. Real life isn’t all homogenized and disinfected. I’m sure I’m going to get very interesting feedback on the novel I’m writing. I will have intrigue, crime, intimacy, and action. It’s not going to be extreme violence or eroticism but it will have real-life situations described. Proud of you. I’m getting your book for my Benjamin who is 8.5 and into Zombies, Minecraft, Star Wars, and video games. Take care and love to your wife. I’m so proud of her. What an amazing friend, wife and mother she is. Hugs, Liz.
Thanks for the heartfelt comment, Liz. I really appreciate it!
Good piece, Jack, that ignites a fascinating discussion. I have a few different thoughts on this. First, I try to never conflate a fiction or poetry piece with its author. It’s a tough go sometimes, however, because some things are pretty clearly autobiographical. As such, for me in my fiction (at least in long-form works), I try to have a mixture of nonbelievers (as Jamie, in my “Undelivered Valentines” story) and believers, though not many of my characters are terribly devout followers of any religion. Yes, you write what you know, but if I conflate an author with her text, I risk diminishing the role of imagination.
Second issue. I recently read a blog reaction to a statement (apparently not an official statement) by a romance-writers’ guild author that basically said that authors should not tackle any controversial subjects in their fiction: the old saw of not talking in polite company about religion, sex, or politics. Ho-hum, yawn, snooze. Transcendent fiction (and poetry and plays, for that matter) takes chances. To me, thou-shalt-nots have little place in fiction writing–even less so in erotica–unless you want one-dimensional characters.and plots that some, but probably not as many, readers will want to follow. If you want to self-censor, that is of course your prerogative. It really all, then, comes down to your aim(s) with your writing: is it creative nonfiction, is it memoir, is it an inspirational/religious/self-help book? Whom do you want to read it (audience)? To my mind, fiction shakes the cage and storms the heavens, not hewing to one mindset, for lack of a better word, for every character in every book or every full-bodied story (unless all those stories and books are in a very niche setting, such as Christian inspirational or whatever).
That was never the question in my mind! My question was always: how can such a mild mannered easy going father and famliy guy write about maggot-riddled folks being killed in the most graphic encounters imaginable? (It’s as if there are two sides of you, Jack.)
The question I would ask is do you learn anything about yourself or the world around you writing and completing a novel? An author should always base the story around a theme to be explored, and not just to reinforce a pre-existing prejudice. (Not suggesting that’s how you write, it’s a sort of nudge to anyone else who might be reading this.)
What I’m writing at the moment began as a study of three people coping with life after their familiar world collapses, but it also became a question about inocence and guilt. I don’t believe in straight black and white good versus evil narratives, life is never like that. And I began to ask the question is anyone ever truly innocent or ever truly guilty?
Zombies as an expression of sin is an original metaphor, especially after all the discussions on this blog about vampires and prosperity/zombies and austerity and so on. I can see your point and the parallel with social decay is worth noting, but when we’re told that the world is more prosperous, statistically safer and numerically less warlike (although perceptions suggest the opposite), do your novels leave you optimistic about the future or pessimistic?
I’m also curious to know where sin comes from?
My belief system inspires me and is present in my stories to a point. I mean, for me, the simple fact that I ultimately write about Good defeating Evil speaks to my belief. Now, do all of my characters believe as I do? No. Some do, some don’t, but as the author, the core the story, the underlying message is usually connected to my overall beliefs whether it be Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, etc… lol, I don’t see why using your God-Given imagination in a certain way would bring someone to question your belief in God. It’s like saying, if you believe in God, then you can only write “THIS” type of story.
I never thought about zombies and God in this context but what you say makes a lot of sense. Good for you.
I’ve always found this topic sort of fascinating, primarily because of the double standard that seems to exist. If someone is member of nearly any faith or non-faith out there, nobody seems to say “boo” about what they choose to write. If it does come up, it seems to quickly be discarded as irrelevant to the conversation. But if an avowed Christian (especially Catholic or Baptist, from my own observation, but your mileage may vary) writes about themes or characters that are not strictly Christian – either by design or not – then everybody thinks it’s weird.
So, a Luciferan can write about happy day care employees, a Buddhist can write about the importance of physical things, and an atheist can write about vast pantheons of gods with varying stances on those silly little talking monkeys they call “humans” (or elves. Or dwarves. Or whatever.)… but a christian can’t write about monsters?
Just odd to me. But an interesting viewpoint on how your writing ties to your faith. Thanks for sharing!
Yeah, look at Anne Rice & her vampire stories. Even if she’s been in & out of ” formal ” Catholicism, it’s still part of her mindset & an influence when writing her Gothic vampire novels. Of course, I never really got INTO said novels ( I did read her take on the Mummy as a romantic character & was not disappointed. ).
She does serve as a decent case-in-point, there. Though I suspect most people have forgotten her religious leanings at this point, but we’ll see if there’s another dustup when Prince Lestat lands. (Unless it already did and I missed it.)
I have some catch – up work to do, clearly !
Thanks, Kaine! I’m in absolute agreement with your argument. I’d take it a step further. Christians can write about murder, death and destruction? Where does it end?
Totally now thinking of that one physical trainer from the 90s. “Stop the Insanity!!!!”
It doesn’t seem odd to me at all. Both fantasy and sci-fi provide a break from reality. That’s why we call it fiction.
Writing is all about the author. The reader is just a passenger if that makes sense. Can’t get into details on my phone but wanted to say something. 😊
I think it’s important to be able to express your individual beliefs, in higher power or otherwise, without getting attacked or judged by others because it does not jive with their beliefs. I work in the field of heath and physical rehabilitation, and if people were to guess what I write about in my blog, they would guess something along the lines of healing, health, fitness. Those few I do enlighten about what my blog is really about are usually pretty shocked. Brave post, very eloquent, and offers a perspective I had never considered before. To Freedom Friday! Great job, Jack 🙂
If you write part of you comes out in the story. And I would never encourage someone to write something contrary to their belief but it is fiction what if? J.R.R. Tolkien was an ultra-catholic, I mean get mad and walk out of mass when they started saying it in English. But he created this world of elves, orcs and gods. Is the Lord of the Rings anti-christian? I would say no, if you look closely their are a lot of JRR’s beliefs are in his writing.But it is not what you would expect a Christian writer of his time to write. about.
What an interesting and amazing angle to your stories. I would have never thought zombies to be nothing more than the undead reeking havoc on society. …but the way you have explained how you see them, well it’s just brilliant!
Makes me want to reread your books 🙂
I never bought into the “All or Nothing” mindset of religion. Creativity can exist in balance with beliefs. As does dark thoughts exist with positive ones. To try and avoid an extreme is no better than prison.
It’s what makes us so wonderfully complex “organisms. “. 🙂
Very interesting. I never thought of zombies that way before. I’m an atheist and have no belief in the supernatural, nor does sin exist in my mind. But there is morality. My belief system, or rather my lack of a belief in gods or the supernatural, does influence me somewhat. I tend to have a very scientific view on things, so my writing is closer to being hard sci-fi. However, I will incorporate religion, and in the case of fantasy, I will create religions. I find religion fascinating from a cultural and sociological point of view..
Good post! One of my favorite stories is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, monsters, horror, but also some rather profound moral questions that to this day we are still trying to answer. Often in fiction our authors create these monsters and icons that give us a peek into what issues humankind is wresting with at the time. It’s almost like going into virtual reality and rehearsing how we’re going to solve some ethical dilemma. A lot of science fiction did that for us, gave us some insights on the world we all now live in. There were some important lessons to be found in so many of those stories.
Zombies as people ” dead in sin “. Interesting analogy. A Buddhist or Hindu would say that they’re in ” samsara ” ( delusions about the permanance of the physical realm ) if I’m not mistaken ( after studying other religions for a sizeable portion of my life ).
Actually I’m correcting myself here – Samsara is the repeating cycle of death & rebirth in Hinduism / Buddhism. Maya would be more appropriate to describe the realm of physical delusions & illusion.
Then I would say, by the amount of zombies in my book, lots of folks are in Maya!
Reasonably sure that’s the right Hindu / Buddhist phrase. I’m not an expert, but I have studied Eastern religions & philosophies a fair amount.
That’s a really interesting perspective. I like how your beliefs don’t just connect to the zombies themselves, but the workings of the entire world. Definitely a big view type of thing. I’m surprised horror authors get asked that question a lot, but I don’t know of many fantasy authors who get it. We work with magic and polytheistic worlds, so maybe people have already given up on us. For myself, I’m Jewish and not very practicing. So my beliefs don’t step in as much as they once did. At one point, I wanted to have a single god that was secretly behind the others, but I dropped it because it was getting silly for the world. I guess I depend more on my belief that people must live with the consequences of their actions and life might be a combination of destiny and free will. That second one is what I’m slightly exploring through all of my stories too. Not sure if that’s a clear answer.
Enjoy your weekend.