“The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within” by Jeff Kinley
From the title, one would assume that this book would be a rather intriguing, gut-wrenching and ultimately Gospel-pointing tale about the ultimate victory over some evil zombie threat – perhaps a Christian version of Call of Duty’s Zombie mode. I mean seriously, it’s either that, or some lame attempt by an out of touch older gentleman to be relevant and hip while hiding the Gospel message in what would seem to be a “cool” devotional – ultimately trying to con the mothers and fathers that he’s hip and relevant and would be able to better get in touch with their children than they can.
Interestingly enough, the book tries to do both. It is simultaneously a zombie story and a devotional. The story follows Ben Forman who is constantly confronted by zombies. The devotional portion deals with the constant struggle with sin or our “inner zombie.” In both the fictional tale and the devotional the zombie is not good – it is a deadly enemy waiting to kill, steal and destroy anything that stands in its way.
As the story continues we realize just how intensely evil this zombie inside of us really is, and how it is a consistent adversary who always seems one step ahead of us. While the zombies are portrayed as frightening, disgusting creatures, the idea does not seem to transfer over to Kinley’s depiction of sin. Kinley’s view of sin is more evident within the story as the assassin on the prowl than in the devotional portion as a disgusting blob ready to squash us with his utter nastiness.
While the zombie metaphor sets the readers up for a saving throw if you will, the Gospel is mentioned only in passing – clearly the intended audience is familiar with the Gospel message, and would not benefit to hear it again. The assumption that the reader is already a repentant believer with an understanding of the Gospel that is so astute that he/she would not benefit from hearing it again is an extremely dangerous one to make.
While the blend of fiction and devotional may seem a bit odd, Kinley did it very well. Although I have no framework of a “Christian zombie story” (although, Twilight is a Mormon vampire story…), the story was decent. It had a good story-line and decent enough character development.
Unfortunately, the devotional sections are tied more to the story, than the story is tied to the devotionals. That is to say, it is evident that the story was written first, and the devotions added more as an afterthought than the story being used as a tool to better spread an already well laid out devotional. This becomes most obvious when we get to the end and realize that the Gospel has never been thoroughly presented. Although this changes in the final section, Kinley seems to use it more as a means to further his premillenial dispensationist rapture view, than to further the discipleship of the reader.
While the zombie metaphor is without a doubt relevant, and in some disturbing way appealing to our youth, the question must be asked of why Christians would want to willing expose themselves to the walking dead. Although Kinley briefly defends himself by categorizing those who would argue against him as “religious” along with all its legalistic and anti-progress connotations, he never defends himself in a way that bolsters his point of view – choosing instead to put others down.
Though, I may be biased as I’m not a fan of the Christian horror genre. I also recommend Pilgrim’s Progress and Augustine’s Confessions to teens, and I think zombie stories are something for the world to enjoy, not for Christians. Getting a high rating from me with a zombie story would be a challenge, a challenge that this book failed to meet.
I give the story a three out of five, the devotional material a two. I love the story and devotional idea, but in the case of this devotional and this story it just didn’t work out so well. I can’t recommend this book, though I hope others will make use of the mixture of story and devotional in future books.
Note: SunshineFlower, who graciously edited this post, would never recommend Pilgrim’s Progress or Augustine’s Confessions to anyone within her age group as she knows that would result in a near death experience…from almost everyone within her age group.