The earliest story of human origins was that man was created alone; and God came to the conclusion that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. So, God created humans to be together. God created males and females, and gave them the capacity to have children so they would never be alone. And yet, even as we were created to be family, a whole and loving community, we fought it from the start.
The first story of selfishness and survival has man blaming woman, brother killing brother, tribe killing tribe. We rebelled against the idea that we need each other, right from the start. But, the truth is we do need each other. It’s how we were created. Deep inside us we know that we need each other to survive. There is no other way to be human.
In The Walking Dead, people eventually come out of the woodwork, from sheds, farms, apartments, and forests, to move from isolation to community. And they struggle as if it were the beginning of time.
Groups that form start thinking of others as competitors instead of fellow humans. They start killing humans for their stuff. It becomes a dog-eat-dog world, and people (even though they are surviving the zombie apocalypse) continue to lose their humanity because they refuse to honor each other, to live in community.
If you think surviving an apocalypse is a stretch, you should watch a documentary of the Lost Boys of Sudan. These young survivors of genocide walked thousands of miles to find a safe place. Our entertainment is their reality. And the same story is repeated throughout history.
Today’s world is in a refugee crisis. Never has there been as many people forced from their homelands. They are wandering the earth looking for a place where they will be seen for who they are: humans. They are called a threat to national security, enemies, and potential sources of economic despair. It goes on.
But, when we read their stories and see their faces, we recognize their humanity is tied to our humanity. We need them and they need us. This is the human condition. These people walk across borders to find a different, safe, fruitful life. As they walk, they form new, temporary communities and long for a permanent one where they would be welcome. All of them come out of deep, personal trauma, but learn to walk together in a new way. We need each other to be human.
Refugees are not alone in their need of others, of welcoming humans. World Relief helps North American families know how to properly welcome resettled refugees. These trained folks meet the refugee family at the airport, visit them in their new homes, and provide them with groceries and welcoming packs. They offer warmth and friendship as the newcomers adjust to the massive cultural differences.
Obviously, the refugees are relieved, grateful, and overjoyed by this hospitality. But, what’s truly amazing is the difference it makes in the lives of their hosts. Their prejudices are challenged and changed. Their lives are enriched by friendships that extend further than their typical relationships. They venture into the vast expanse of our shared humanity.
This happens to me all the time. Right when I think I’ve got life sorted out, I realize there is a better way to be human. I’m surprised by how life-giving relationships can be. I feel a calling to be connected in relationship. And much like The Walking Dead it ends up looking like a band of broken people with a common desire to survive as humans in a mad world.
If you knew there was a way to survive that led to an interconnected life of community, wouldn’t you want it?
Being a truly alive human involves relationship; first, in a relationship with God, who can offer you life in exchange for your own deadness. It’s how we are designed. And then in a relationship with others, those who understand what it means to be a survivor and even more about what it means to be human.
We must reject self-sufficiency and come out of our various hiding places. Isolation will not help us. The strong cannot survive alone. No matter how strong and confident you think you are, you will only ever be like Michonne—a shadow of yourself. Far from the Rocky Balboa scenes of a self-made person, with “Eye of the Tiger” blasting while you emerge the hero of your own story, there is another song being played. It’s the melody of a restored humanity. In this picture, we drop our gloves and embrace each other as brothers and sisters.
A shared humanity is a better way to live.
*For more, check out Danielle Strickland’s book, The Zombie Gospel: The Walking Dead and What It Means to Be Human.