The Gospel According to Warm Bodies: Grace for Zombies

Last weekend I finally saw the film, Warm Bodies. (Watch the trailer if you have not seen it.) It was interesting. Some of the people I went with loved it and some hated it but I’m pretty sure I got more out of it than anyone as I walked out wondering how I can be a better messenger of grace. Let me explain:

In the film there is a closed off community of humans surrounded by walls to keep the zombies out. Their leader, Grigio tells them that even if they look human, they are not. People in the community have given up on the idea of a cure and have accepted the idea that Grigio exclaims later in the film that “things don’t get better; they only get worse.” The only person who holds out hope for a cure is his daughter, Julie. As you see in the trailer, one of the zombies (called R throughout the film, since that’s the only letter he remembers from his name) falls for Julie and gets the urge to keep her safe.

As they get closer, R begins to regain his humanity. Julie’s acceptance of him allows him to grow more and more human and their relationship affects the others as they begin remembering a time when they weren’t rejected, excluded and at war with the humans. They begin remembering what it feels like to love and to be loved, and they each begin regaining their humanity with R. By the end of the film the zombies who were too far gone are defeated and the zombies (or corpses as they were called) that regained their humanity through love are accepted by the humans and the walls that once separated them are brought down and destroyed.

The whole time watching I kept being reminded of another society that is often accused of being a closed off and exclusive community: the Church.

I saw Grigio as a conservative pastor who has become comfortable with the people he has in his community and has let past experiences be the judge of character for all people outside of his conserved community; people he views as “sinners”. His daughter, Julie is able to see both sides because she’s closest to the man who is trying to exclude all who are different without consideration of a cure, and she is also with the people that her father leads. Her father seems to be not only closed off from the people outside of their closed off community but also closed off to a lot of his own people; the same people who have hope for a cure. I’ve seen this attitude of skepticism in plenty of Pastor’s kids so it affirmed the analogy even further.

So Julie decides to go against her father’s ways and see if there is another way. Julie is the first one to actually accept one of the zombies. Before her meeting with R all the zombies were excluded or murdered. This rejection was what was keeping them zombies. This rejection was what was making things “worse”. Grigrio’s drive to make war against the zombies was the only thing that was keeping the war going. The humans’ attempts at killing the zombies were what were keeping the zombies killing humans. If the killing would have stopped and they would have shown love and acceptance then the zombies would have stopped as well, as we see Julie finally accomplish with R and others.

I saw Grigrio as a conservative pastor who lost his way in his attempt to conserve the culture. The culture had changed without him and half the population had become lost, but instead of finding a way to move forward and bring these people with him, he tries to move backwards and get rid of them, making the problem worse as more and more of his people become lost with everyone outside.

I saw a message of grace in this film. Even though it was just a cheesy zombie romantic comedy, I got more out of it than I’m sure the writers had ever hoped to aim for. Throughout my life I’ve consistently seen grace accomplish so many things that rejection, exclusion or tolerance cannot. Grace meets people where they are and once they know they are accepted where they are that is where change and transformation can finally begin to happen. That is where they regain their humanity and that is how love makes us human.