"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."
The mobility and immobility of the human being provides a variety of archetypal images throughout the Bible: Christianity is first called The Way; Psalm 1 uses the movements of sit, walk, and stand to indicate righteous and unrighteous behavior; Moses leads the Chosen People into pilgrimage out of the fleshpots of Egypt and into the Promised Land; Adam and Eve are ejected from Eden to wander until their son Cain, who who is cursed to be a fugitive and a wanderer, builds a city of Nod, which is a fabulous irony--staying put in the land of wandering, yet in that city that doesn't move the human being is still a wanderer from God even in the city--wandering in the soul in the land of wandering, dwelling in a city in pretense of having a place to stay put. Spiritually, we are wanderers even when we dwell, we think, secure in our own technological and cultural barriers against death and separation.
The book of Hebrews develops this theme at length, playing variations of the physical pilgrimage of Israel and the spiritual pilgrimage of the soul back home to the heavenly Jerusalem, the true city of God and rescued humans.
Movement--walking, traveling, being on the road, looking for home, exile and return--this spectrum is captured in Paul's teaching, quoted above, of our true condition, that we are by nature the walking dead. The Walking Dead. Does this felicitous conjunction of scripture and popular T.V. show say something to us? Might it be that zombies today and the current obsession with them indicates something profound that we habitually repress?
We are pilgrims, but outside of God's grace we are lost on the journey, our minds and affections damaged by viral sin passed on from one to another. We live in a miasma of misdirected love, a mental fog of incurving self-regard, a ravenous hunger for expanding our own identities at the cost of diminishing others'. Our original orientation to our beloved Creator has become confused, and now, spiritually speaking, we shuffle around, trapped in a kind of brainlessness when it comes to the knowledge of God and our true home.
In the television series The Walking Dead (and, from what I gather, in the original comics--err, I mean the graphic novels), the cause of the zombiefication of the world is never explained. Virus? Man-made or natural? Earth-born or extraterrestrial? Supernatural curse? Natural evolutionary development to kill off the plague of humans despoiling the planet? It doesn't matter in this case, and the narrative works with this calculated gap in the storyline. But in our own lives, we know what's up: Paul says in Romans 1, "they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. . . . " In Ephesians 4 he reiterates: the Gentiles walk "in the futility of their minds, being darkened in their understanding." The walking dead have a "hardness of heart" and have become "callous." And thus we are all zombies, because we are all possessors of this deadly infection. (Paul, to invoke another film, could say, "I see dead people!").
The enlightening irony: we are the walking dead while we are living outside of Grace, but when we begin to be aware of ourselves as dead, we can begin to live by dying with Christ who is our real life.
Irony. Isn't that kind of a literary thing one is supposed to study?