A number of today’s most-watched TV series: “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Walking Dead” demonstrate society’s fascination with the undead. It’s a cultural phenomenon that spans all forms of media.
What does the Church teach about the “undead?” Is it OK for the living to be so obsessed with the dead? Theologian and biblical scholar Ben Akers will address the topic 7 p.m. Oct. 30 when he presents: “The Living Dead! A Catholic Perspective on Ghosts, Vampires and Zombies” at the John Paul II Center in south Denver.
“Billions of dollars in our culture’s economy are spent on these things,” Akers told the Denver Catholic Register. “Movies, TV, games, comic books; these are how they manifest themselves in our culture—it’s big money.”
When following the big money, one will usually hit on what’s burning in the hearts and minds of the people living in that culture, he said.
“There’s something in the mindset of people who like this genre, and people who are creating it,” he continued. “There are questions that are being unanswered in the human heart that make us struggle with realties.”
Those burning questions include: What makes us human? What happens to us after we die? What makes you, you?
“These are questions those genres try to answer,” he said. “The spirituality they point to (metaphorically) is deep.”
Akers described his upcoming talk as a cultural exegesis, a term usually used to describe a critical explanation, interpretation or examination of Scripture.
“Let’s examine these entities,” he said. “Too often we become cultural gluttons, like a zombie or vampire, where we consume indiscriminately without discerning—the Church invites us to really be discerning true values, authentic needs that people have.”
Akers relayed the importance of discerning those needs in quoting Blessed John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”) where the pontiff wrote: “In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death, there is need to develop a deep critical sense capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.”
“That’s what I want to do (in this talk): discern what’s good and what’s bad in these ideas,” he said.
Akers is the director of Denver’s Catholic Biblical and Catechetical Schools, sponsors of the talk. He holds a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy from Christendom College in Virginia , as well as a master’s degree in sacred Scripture. He attained a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) while studying in Rome, and is currently working on his doctoral dissertation.
“While the myths related to the undead can be evil and bad,” Akers said, “we can also still learn from them.”
High-school age and up are invited to the pre-Halloween talk, which may be of particular interest to parents and grandparents. The John Paul II Center is located at 1300 S. Steele St. in Denver. For more information, call 303-715-3195 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
He will also give the talk to youth at Holy Trinity Church in Westminster at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 29. All high-schoolers are welcome. Holy Trinity is located at 7595 Federal Blvd. in Westminster. RSVP is requested to email@example.com.
The Living Dead! A Catholic Perspective on Ghosts, Vampires and Zombies
Speaker: Ben Akers
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 30
Where: John Paul II Center, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver
Questions: 303-715-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For high-school students
When: 6:45 p.m. Oct. 29
Where: Holy Trinity Church, 7595 Federal Blvd., Westminster (in the overflow, on north side)
Theology on Tap
Talk: Zombies and the Thirst for Communion
Speakers: Father John Nepil and Deacon Nathan Goebel
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 21
Where: Katie Mullen’s Irish Pub, 1550 Court Place, Denver
Questions: 303-715-3230 or email@example.com