The ‘Walking Dead’ and Western Civilization

“The Walking Dead” works so well, I believe, because America is its stage, with our strong religious and political traditions subtly informing its players.

Nicholas (Michael Traynor, left) and Glenn (Steven Yeun, right) make a last stand on American Movie Classic’s “The Walking Dead.”

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2015 − I have always thought the zombies on AMC’s original series “The Walking Dead” are the least interesting element of the show. What’s fascinating are the living characters and how they deal with a radically different world.

Spoiler Alert!

Last Sunday evening’s show, entitled “Thank You,” saw longtime survivor Glenn Rhee (played by Steven Yeun) die after a man he saved last season (Nicholas, played by Michael Traynor) gave up hope and shot himself. His falling, lifeless body pushed Glenn into the outstretched arms of the undead.

Ironically, Glen dies (some dispute this) having given Nicholas a second chance at life, despite an earlier attempt to kill him.

“The Walking Dead” works so well, I believe, because America is its stage, with our strong religious and political traditions subtly informing its players… “One nation, under God… with liberty and justice for all.”

People obedient to a higher moral authority that demands we “love our neighbor” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” come under considerable strain when the edifice of their beliefs − civilization − collapses all around them.

It has happened before. In A.D. 410, King Alaric and his Vandals captured and sacked the city of Rome. It shocked the civilized world to see the capital of Western Civilization fall into the hands of these “barbarians.”

In A.D. 413, St. Augustine began to write his “City of God,” in which he said, “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits” and “What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart.”

So, here’s a thought experiment: What if the location for “The Walking Dead” were ISIS-controlled Iraq and Syria?

Ravenous zombies would be nothing more than ambient background noise. In fact, the horrors unleashed by the undead would pale in comparison to the atrocities already perpetrated by the living rogues of the Islamic State.

“Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith,” wrote Winston Churchill in his 1888 book “The River War,” which chronicles Britain’s conflict in the Sudan with an Islamic army led by one who fancied himself the “Mahdi,” the prophesied redeemer of Islam who heralds the end of time.

“It has already spread throughout Central Africa,” wrote Churchill, “raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

Churchill was wrong. It was not science that prevailed against the ignorance and mindless violence of the Mahdi’s army, but the Judeo-Christian West’s willingness to fight any apocalyptic foe who would attempt to extinguish the light of reason and the positive force of moral good.

In the end, the fictional zombies that killed Glenn are nothing more than mindless eaters.

Those who constitute ISIS, on the other hand, are real monsters who put great thought and energy into every bizarre and appalling act of horror they commit.

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