What does a transformed life actually look like?
In his follow-up to the critically acclaimed Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos tackles this question in an entertaining and thought-provoking way—with MONSTERS!!! While Christians claim to experience Christ’s resurrection power, we sometimes act like werewolves who can’t control our base desires. Or zombies, experiencing a resurrection that is 90 percent shambling death and 10 percent life. Or vampires, satiating ourselves at the expense of others. But through it all we long to stop being monsters and become truly human—the way Christ intended. We just can’t seem to figure out how.
Night of the Living Dead Christian is the story of Luther, a werewolf on the run, whose inner beast has driven him dangerously close to losing everything that matters. Desperate to conquer his dark side, Luther joins forces with Matt to find someone who can help. Yet their time is running out. A powerful and mysterious man is on their trail, determined to kill the wolf at all costs . . .
By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Night of the Living Dead Christian is a spiritual allegory that boldly explores the monstrous underpinnings of our nature and tackles head-on the question of how we can ever hope to become truly transformed.
In Night of the Living Dead Christian, we have mad scientists, strange inventions, robots…and of course, the aforementioned undead. All this comes with a healthy dose of humor, not the laugh out loud sort, but an infusion of the quirky and ridiculous things we encounter in life.
On the surface, such a story may seem to have little relationship to Christianity, but in reality it reflects our need to confront and put to death the monstrous nature within–something that we can’t do in our own strength. Despite the fact that Night of the Living Dead Christian explores weaknesses in the church, it doesn’t condemn, but rather encourages reflection on what it means to truly follow Christ.
There’s a desperation that comes when we recognize our true need for transformation and our utter inability to change ourselves, and Night of the Living Dead Christian demonstrates this desperation in vivid color. It shows the monstrous nature we all battle, but it doesn’t stop there. It also explores how we find freedom from the monster within–through the process of our transformation from death to life.
As I mentioned Monday, I’m not a fan of vampires/werewolves/zombies, but I appreciated the way Matt used these creatures to illustrate various states of faith. His blend of the undead with zany humor and Christian theology is an unusual approach, to say the least. Yet the humor and speculative elements prevent the allegorical aspect from becoming too overbearing, and the allegory provides depth to what otherwise could be a meaningless romp. It’s a unique mix that I believe will allow him to reach a wider audience than if he focused on any one element.
In addition, Matt uses some other interesting techniques, foremost the fact that he depicts himself not just as the narrator, but as a character in the story. He grows as the book progresses (perhaps in a way that parallels some real life experiences?), but his neighbor Luther, the werewolf, undergoes the most transformation. We get a glimpse of Luther’s suffering and his need to find freedom through interludes in his perspective sprinkled throughout the story.
His serious reflections provide a nice counterbalance to the humor of the rest of the story, yet the overall tone distanced me somewhat from the characters. I cared about their journeys to a point, but some sense of connection was lost in the rush of the story. Still I thought it concluded in a way true to the story and to life, with a nice nod to CS Lewis in the climactic scene, and it offered plenty of meaning to go along with its monsters.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.