Sunday, December 28, 2014

Are we there yet? - a review of "TheTrip to Italy"

"The Trip to Italy," (Now on DVD) directed with some authorial input by Michael Winterbottom and starring comedians Steve Coogan as "Steve" and Rob Brydon as "Rob" who improvised their way around Italy, is essentially a "behind-the-scenes" view of a research trip for a travel article.  Steve is on a writing assignment from the Observer to produce an article on Italian food.  When Steve's girlfriend declines, his friend Rob agrees to accompany the writer on the adventure.

The film is "behind-the-scenes" because there is a comic dissociation from the ostensible intention: to write about the food.  The videography is on point with luscious panoramas of Italian hill towns, dramatic vistas of the Amalfi Coast and most importantly kitchen scenes of chefs at their work followed by mouthwatering closeups of exquisitely plated dishes.  Yet the two characters do not discuss the food except in the most off-handed and casual way.  We never get a clue as to how Steve will approach the subject of his writing assignment.

The action is entirely occupied with the rolling dialogue between Steve and Rob on the road as they drive, waiting for a meal to be served, as they dine and when they stop at historical landmarks of the romantic poets.  Neither the dialogue, nor the characters do much developing and in the end we forced to resign ourselves solely to eavesdropping on a meandering conversation between friends.

This film fills the "I don't have any witty friends available, so I'll hang out with these two guys for awhile," niche.  And they are witty, sometimes.  Then again there are times when one or the other just becomes annoying, or worse, tiresome.  Early on Steve gets Rob to promise that he will not do impressions.  Unfortunately, Rob doesn't keep the promise.  

There are amusing conversational performances and interactions by Steve and Rob, but in the end I was glad I only had to endure the 115 minute film version of the weeklong road-trip.  When the credits rolled, I was left with a sense of gratitude for my own friends.

Friday, December 26, 2014

No Way Out - a review of "Into the Woods" (2014)

The story, in the tradition of fairytales, begins appropriately with "Once Upon a Time," a phrase designed to transport us from chronos to kairos.  The plot is a mash-up of fairytales.  All of the fairytales share the same woods.  And, as the "woods" are a traditional story-place where characters are tested and assume a new sense of purpose, the film depends upon a comic sense of synchronicity as different sub-plots are woven into one dramatic finale.  Of course each of the individual fairytales had to be twisted, snipped and spliced in order to be threaded into the uber-narrative of the film.

This is a musical and the videography is close as it was in Les Miserables, but unlike Les Mis the vocals do not exhibit the reality of imperfection when songs are sung from the center of a passion.  This is Disney and it is ordered and meticulous.  The characters sing beautifully and their notes are true as though they were at Carnegie Hall, not stuck in the woods.  Disney has a way of reminding us that what we are experiencing is just a fiction.

Despite the civilized orderliness of the music, it is the soundtrack that carries the film.  The lyrics are clever and entertaining.  The character's often sing against each other and do so with skill and precision.  The vocal abilities of the younger actors were a pleasure both to watch and to hear.  The sets were downplayed and stuck me as more fitting to a staged musical than a high-budget film.  

The film was well casted.  The vocals were very well done and so was the acting.  Of course Johnny Depp was wickedly funny and Meryl Streep was dramatic and emotive, but my favorite actor was Lilla Crawford who played Little Red.  She radiated a complex representation of innocence and indulgence with every appearance.

I think I can add without being a spoiler that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the wisdom (it was a bit much to be considered a moral - or amoral for that matter) of the film.  'In the Woods" teaches us

What we wish for may not appear in the way we expected;
Even if we get what we wish for, we should not expect it to last long;
There are untold causes which bring about both the good and bad;
(i.e. we all share in the responsibility for each); and
We never get out of the woods, we have to learn to learn to support each other in the face of adversity and uncertainty which is often beyond our control.

For me, this movie overcomes much of what I have found lacking in the worlds of Disney. Instead of characters who are on the side of good or evil, "In the Woods" presents characters just trying to get by in the face of misfortune and the competing interests of others.  Instead of a happy ending, this film offers the  more modest promise of happiness in phases which arise from time to time in the ever changing world for which we are all responsible.  There is no way out, but we do have each other and we can help to create a clearing in the woods for the happiness of ourselves and others.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sacred Cow Tipping - a review of "Regaining Balance"

I give Regaining Balance – the Evolution of the UUA, by Michael Werner, two stars out of five.  The first star doesn’t count.  To submit a rating on Amazon or Goodreads the first star is just a way to ante into the system. 

The book deserves the second star for presenting a perspective on the movement of Unitarian Universalism from a denomination which was predominantly a humanist tradition to one that lacks a theological majority and is pluralistic.  The way Werner sees it, reason was the leading value for Unitarians in the middle of the 20th Century and membership was growing at the time of the merger and beyond.  Membership reached a peak of 177,431 members in 1968 with a “focus on humanism”.  Since that time reason has become less valued in favor of a radical tolerance which has led to increasing numbers of theists and other non-humanist views.  This set up the conditions where he claims that, “It is unequivocal that Humanism was deliberately and purposely pushed out of the UUA.”  Since that time membership has been declining. 

The book argues that Unitarian Universalism is headed for extinction and that a return to a focus on humanism is the best hope of reviving our tradition. The perspective, which is too polemic to be taken for a history, does illuminate how frustrating and maddening it must have been for humanists to see control and success slip from their grasp.

The book does not receive a star for charitable treatment of non-humanistic views.  New Age beliefs are summarily dismissed as “fanciful optimism based on ungrounded feelings” and the “ugliness of a toxic retreat to a neo-romantic utopianism.”  The contribution of Feminism to Unitarian Universalist theology, according to Werner is an open disparagement and hostility to reason. Process Theology is characterized as a “muddle of words and enigmatic distinctions.”   Even a theistic approach which acknowledges the importance of scientific knowledge is ridiculed as “intellectually untenable” “God of the Gaps” or just plain “fuzzy theism.”  The argumentative technique of the book is to push any competing worldview to extremes and then ridicule it.  In an ironically narrow-minded claim, he says, “Frankly, today there is no credible, open-minded intellectual position other than Humanism.” 

Reason is presented as the sole evaluative tool for assessing beliefs.  Werner does not ask how various beliefs support the congregant, how the belief adds coherency to meaning or which behaviors manifest from the belief. 

Then there is the question of what really happened in the UUA.  While there is no denying that UUA leadership, Meadville Lombard and Starr King each influence the language and theology within the congregations, those congregations are non-creedal and have, through polity, the authority to call or not call ministers.  Regaining Balance would have us believe that the UUA made congregational life for humanists unbearable and they left to be replaced by theistic immigrants from other denominations.  While it is true that membership in UU congregations turns over, I do not recall some kind of wholesale replacement of members.  While Werner argues that Humanism was the victim of UUA leadership energized by trendy waves of cultural vacuity, a perspective that deserves equal time would ask why Humanism failed.  The people in the pews must have drifted away from Humanism because it failed to satisfy in some significant way.  The book blames intellectual laziness, but there may be a better answer and the book does not even raise the question.

The book does not receive a star for political acumen.   Based primarily on personal anecdotes, Werner ridicules the clergy.  Even though I have found sermons in which a minister recounts some personal struggle to be among the most moving, the book mocks the idea of the “wounded healer” as a therapeutic rather than a religious model.  He paints a portrait of the minister as a worship leader lacking religious and intellectual integrity, lacking the nerve and courage to speak with a prophetic voice, lacking “critical intelligence” and using “emotionally manipulative” modalities to placate parishioners.  “Critical thinking skills largely have been lost,” he says.  He further claims to have seen “far too many toxic personalities” in the ministry.  Finally, with his repeated refrain, “Follow the Money,” he implies that the theology of UU ministers is shaped by financial concerns, including the prospect of winning the Templeton Prize. 

When Werner claims that he “saw a number [of ministers] pass through our church in quick succession,” it is hard not to feel compassion for those religious professionals who were called into such an anti-clerical atmosphere.   

If Regaining Balance were written by an unknown humanist, it could be taken as just another rant.  But since Michael Werner is a past president of the American Humanist Association and a former board member of HUUmanists he speaks with apparent authority.  From a political perspective, if the congregations in the UUA are to become more welcoming to humanists and other non-theists, then it will be important to have ministerial buy-in.  Humanists will want clergy as allies.  The book alienates clergy in the name of humanism.  As a result the relationship between clergy and humanists will suffer.  As a non-theist with a naturalistic worldview, I am concerned that this book reads as a contemptuous breach of covenant and threatens my standing in the community. 

The book does not receive a star for its conclusion.  There is the recitation of the three historical values attributed to Unitarianism: Freedom, Reason and Tolerance.  Freedom is ignored.  Then Reason and Tolerance are ideally presented as being balanced.  With a tipped scale on the book cover as an illustration, Werner argues that the value of reason has diminished while the value of tolerance has gone overboard reaching organizational dysfunction with “radical pluralism.”  If the UUA is to be revived, the book argues, then we need to collectively assign greater value to reason and to become less tolerant of views which are irrational.  Of course, Werner argues, the only credible worldview is humanism.

The Principle behind Regaining Balance is the 4th, which affirms a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  The conjunct “free” is ignored and the only responsible way to search for truth turns out to be the scientific method.  Ironically, given the title of the book, the result is a disproportionate or unbalanced priority of the 4th Principle at the expense of the first three.  The 1st Principle honors the autonomy and ultimate authority of the individual. The 2nd asks us to regard each other with compassion.  And the 3rd doesn’t ask us to tolerate each other; rather we covenant to accept each other.  We tolerate someone when we “put up with them.”  When we accept one another we commit to our relationship and association. 

This polemic does raise issues only to shortcut a balanced discussion.  We are told that the lack of an articulated identity of our faith is a weakness.  And while there are many voices expressing concern about a missing UU identity statement, in our non-creedal tradition the description of our commonality should recite our deepest values, such as those expressed in the Principles, rather than a particular belief or non-belief in some divinity.

The book also alleges that the theology of members is left unchallenged by clergy who lack the skills of critical reasoning.  The image rising out of the text is a preacher pointing an accusatory finger from the pulpit at the pews saying, “The God you believe in is not supported by the evidence.”  (I further imagine Werner rising in applause and exclaiming, “Finally!”)  On the other hand, and despite my caricature, the 3rd Principle not only asks us to accept one another, but also to encourage one another into spiritual growth.  I agree with the author when he objects to the statement, “You can believe anything you want.”  While undoubtedly true, unbounded permission is essentially unhelpful and an abdication of 3rd Principle responsibility.

There is no real limit to the views one might hold on important and wide-ranging religious questions.  But every belief that matters has psychological and behavioral implications.  Every worldview carries assumptions and priorities. Every worldview has strengths and weaknesses in the way it informs meaning.  What would be both helpful and encouraging, in my opinion, would be more effort toward helping members discover and articulate their beliefs and then providing parishioners with the tools for self-critique. 

If you can get past the diatribe, this is a story of grief and sadness over opportunities lost.  Unfortunately the text is filled with anger, bitterness, contempt and ridicule.  Instead of pointing out the gifts humanists have brought and continue to bring to Unitarian Universalism and asking that our place at the table be treated with respect, Werner upsets the table and calls for intolerance of others.  As someone with a similar worldview I am disappointed that Mike Werner decided to go “All-In” as a stereotypical “Angry Humanist.”



Monday, May 19, 2014

Can Zombies Be Saved?

Can Zombies by Saved?

A Worship Service by Mike Mallory

Presented May 18, 2014

Presenters (left to right)

            Historian -                              Dr. Thomas Gaskin

Mike    -                                   Mike Mallory

            Worship Associate -            Marilyn Mallory

Reader -                                 Dave Speights



 (Begin “Night of the Living Dead” as a muted video on screen.  The video should run the entire time, except that the display should be shut down during the Offertory Testimonial, Joys and Sorrows and the following prayer.)

Individual Candle Lighting

Gathering Music:    Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” - Netta Beryerlein

Reader: (holding a bible) The text for this morning's service is Genesis, Chapter 7, Verse 17 – Verse 24.

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. 24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

We are only seven chapters into the Old Testament and already we are presented with an apocalypse.

Worship Associate / Introit: My name is Marilyn Mallory and I am the worship associate this morning. We will begin with a congregational introit. Please turn to Hymn No. 188i n the Grey Hymnal “
Come, Come, Whoever You Are.” I don't want to startle you the way people are startled when they open a door to find a Zombie standing there, but when we get into a round there will be voices joining in with the chorus from R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the Word As We Know It.”  We will sing it once in unison then once as a round with this side (point) singing first and this side (point) coming in later.    

Welcome and Announcements - Board Member-Laurel Nisler

Worship Associate / Declaration: Please join me in a unison reading of the Declaration printed in your order of service.

Delight is our source,
Delight is our course    
Delight is the all-illumining,    
All-fulfilling force    
In us,    
With us    
For us.

            Sri Chinmoy

Mike: I am Mike Mallory.  The views presented this morning are not necessarily those of the people helping me.  

This service is about my mission.  When I have shared my mission in the past, I seem to get a lot of questions so I thought I would spend this morning explaining it once in front of everybody and just get it all over with in one go. Now, I believe that when a person shares his or her mission statement in a public setting, the public echoes back the mission statement.  So, if I say, “My Mission is “da, da, da,” then you say, “Your mission is “da, da, da.”  The same goes with the shadow statement.  My mission and shadow are printed in the order of service for your convenience.

My mission is to enliven the world by responding to life with insight and delight in order to resurrect the living dead. 

Congregational Response

Mike: My shadow is a vulnerability to the zombie infection.

Congregational Response

Worship Associate – Call to Worship & Chalice Lighting - I invite Linda Hart to light the chalice.

Flame of fire, spark of the Universe that warmed our ancestral hearth –

Agent of life and death

Symbol of truth and freedom

We strive to understand ourselves and our earthly home.

Chalice Response

            Rise up, O flame, by thy light glowing

            Show to us beauty, vision and joy.

Worship Associate - Story for All Ages – “Rise and Shine

Verse 1

The Lord said to Noah there’s gonna be a floody floody

Lord said to Noah there’s gonna be a floody floodly

Get those children out of the muddy muddy

Children of the the Lord.



So, rise and shine and give God your glory glory

Rise and shine and give God your glory glory

Rise and Shine and give God your glory glory

Children of the Lord.


Verse 2

So Noah he built him he built him an arky arky

Noah he built him he built him an arky arky

Built it out of hickory barky barky

Children of the Lord




Verse 3

The animals they came on they came on by twoseys twoseys

Animals they came on they came on by twoseys twoseys

Elephants and kangaroosees rooses

Children of the Lord




Verse 4

It rained and rained for forty daysies daysies

Rained and rained for forty daysies daysies

Almost drove those animals crazies crazies

Children of the Lord




Verse 5

The sun came out and dried up the landy landy

Sun came out and dried up the landy landy

Everything was fine and dandy dandy

Children of the Lord


Final Chorus


The middle school & high school youth will be working in the new Side Garden today as part of their spring service projects. When released, meet Dean Smith in the garden off the parking lot instead of going to your classrooms.


Children in Pre-K through 4th grade go to their classrooms as usual.


Form an arch for the children as they go to their classes.

                        Sing and Rejoice. Sing and Rejoice.

                        Let all things living now sing and rejoice.

Reader:  In 2013 “Noah” became the most popular name for American male newborns.
Historian: A full history of Zombies would require an extended symposium rather than the cameo appearance I have been allotted in this worship service.   I will, however, present a condensed version. 

Zombies have evolved out of film.  The first sightings of re-animated corpses can be found in films such as White Zombie and Revenge of the Zombies in which Afro-Caribbean Voodoo Priests raise and control the recently dead. 
The Modern Zombie ambled into the American Pop Culture on October 1, 1968, with the premier of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (Now Showing).  This was a low-budget independent film and the first in a series of six Zombie flicks created by Romero.  Others in the series include, Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead.  Night of the Living Dead was chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry as a film deemed, “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Romero, considered to be the “Godfather of the American Zombie, ” gave Zombies characteristics known as Romero’s Rules.  A Romero Zombie has once died and become reanimated, wanders the earth driven by an insatiable hunger for human flesh, especially brains, has no memory, is physically slow and awkward and is dumb to the point where tool use is out of reach.

As adversaries go, Zombies do not present much of a threat, even if they can only be killed (again) with a head-shot.  The question Romero finds most interesting is whether humans defeat themselves through greed, fear, selfishness, hesitancy, cowardice, hubris and the like.

Danny Boyle, another director in the “Living Dead” genre wanted to make Zombies into a more challenging foe and bent Romero’s Rules.  In his 28 Days Later he increased both their mental capability and agility.  Boyle-Zombies shift the film’s emphasis away from an exploration of human failure to a more traditional adventure format.

World War Z,” the high-budget 2013 film starring Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Forster uses Boyle-Zombies.  However, the book by the same title, written by Max Brooks, the son of Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks, upon which the movie is based uses Romero-Zombies. 

There have also been many zombie parodies: films such as Zombieland and even the music video from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

The award winning broadcast series, The Walking Dead, now in its fifth season on the American Movie Channel, based on the graphic novels of Robert Kirkman has taken more time to explore the effects of an apocalyptic event on the human survivors.  The Walking Dead and this worship service both refer to Romero Zombies.

Worship Associate:  Please rise in body or spirit and join me in singing Hymn #1, “May Nothing Evil Cross this Door.”

Worship Associate  / Sharing Joys and Sorrows.  Now is a time for those of you with Joy that cannot be contained or Sorrows that needs to be heard to come forward and be heard.  I will light a candle for you.  Please form lines on each side of the sanctuary.  When you come forward, please state your name.

I will now light a candle for all those joys and sorrows that remain unexpressed.

Please create a reflective space as I recite a Buddhist “Metta Prayer

May all being be filled with Loving Kindness

May all beings be well.

May all beings be peaceful and at ease.

May all beings be happy.

Spit Plate Offering - Testimonial            Teresa Rugg

One-half of the offering will be donated to TB-Photo Voice. Please join me in the Unison Response printed in your order of service:

            This is a Fellowship of ourselves.

            Its energy and resources are our energy and resources.

            It’s wealth is what we share.

            When we contribute to the life of this community.

            We affirm our lives within it.

            May the Greeters please come forward to gratefully accept the offering.

Offering Muisc                     Netta Beyerlein    There’s a Light

Reader:         The undead rub religion the wrong way.  They are a perversion of religious ritual and understanding.   Firstly, the undead, and I refer to both zombies and vampires have died, lost their souls and yet remain active in the world. Immortality is supposed to be reserved for Gods and humans graced with salvation.  The zombie story interferes with the church’s monopoly on the meaning of death.

            Secondly, there is that consumption of human flesh and thirst for blood, which is presented as a twisted mockery of Holy Communion.  Communion for the true believer is not merely a metaphorical exercise, but through the process of transubstantiation the devout ingest a piece of God and become one with the Body of Christ.  As they say, “We are what we eat.” 

            Zombies, eating human flesh and Vampires, drinking human blood, both attempt to drag us into the dark world of the undead

Historian:  One of the most Frequently Asked Questions by UUs once they discover that there is an historical Unitarian presence in Transylvania is, “What is the Unitarian-Vampire connection?”  Vlad III, (1431–1477, or so they say), known by his patronymic name: Dracula and identified by Bram Stoker as a vampire, was born in Transylvania.  He was posthumously given the name Vlad the Impaler based upon his excessive cruelty to invading forces and political opponents. It should be noted that in his homeland Vlad was renowned as a hero for driving out the invading Ottoman Turks.  Of course one person’s sadist is another’s savior.  Dracula was not Unitarian, he was Catholic.  His father, Vlad II, in line with something out of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was founded to protect Roman Catholicism in Eastern Europe. 

Frances David, the founder of Transylvanian Unitarianism was born forty-years after Dracula’s reported death.  In a debate with a Trinitarian scholar, David was able to convince the Prince of Transylvania, of the correctness of the Unitarian belief and the Prince converted.  Transylvanian Unitarianism reached a pinnacle when it was granted legal recognition.  The Prince died two months later and was replaced with a Catholic.

There is no real evidence of a connection between Vampirism and Unitarianism.  If there were, one would expect a rather large Unitarian cathedral in Forks.

Reader:  The Apostle Paul, writes in Romans, Chapter 7, Verses 15 – 25, I am a slave to sin.  I really don’t understand myself.  I have the desire to do what is good, but I don’t do it.  What I end up doing is not the good I want to do, but what I hate to do.  What a wretched man I am.         

Mike: I've been told that it is best to include a personal story and a joke in every sermon.  There is a lot going on this morning, so I'm going for a short Two-fer, Okay>  Here we go...... I quit drinking booze......about 1500 times.  Check and double check.

Historian:  Zombies are found in one of two different states.  They are either benign or biting.  As benign they just mill around or amble aimlessly.  Biters are driven to a feeding frenzy by the proximity to human flesh.  Addiction is an apt comparison to zombie hunger.  The addict, unable to fully attain a sense of peace absent a fix, is driven to manic hunger by the proximity to the source of the addiction.  The fact that zombies do not require human flesh for their continued existence is another ironic link between zombieism and addiction.

 Mike:  At its root, I believe, addiction is a focusing disorder.  The mind of the addicted person does two things which perpetuate the addictive behavior.  Firstly, there is a linkage between the object of addition and the image of satisfaction or happiness.  Secondly, images of the object of addiction appear with increasing frequency.  In short, if you are an alcoholic, all you can think about is getting your next drink.  And, even though you are trying not to drink, if all you can think about is your next drink, sooner or later that thirst will find you in a vulnerable condition.

 The key to successful recovery from addiction requires the addict to open up to the full bounty that life has to offer.  Recovery, in my opinion requires not only saying "no" to some pattern of addiction, it  is also dependent upon the affirmation of the broad spectrum of life experiences.

Reader:  Similarly, Zombies are focused only on human flesh.  Nothing else seems to register.  Zombies have a single urgent need.  Like a broken camera lens, they have "zoomed-in" and can't seem to find a wider view.   

Mike:  Zombie hunger for human flesh creates apocalyptic possibilities.

Historian:  Apocalyptic stories generally approach their subject from one of two perspectives.  Either they look back to see where things went wrong, that is they turn the present into a fictional history so that we can learn from it as we move forward into the future, or they end up becoming a tale of rebuilding when everything has fallen to pieces casting doubt on the reliability of the customs, values and assumptions we take for granted.  History helps to inform our understanding of the present as we recognize current patterns with roots in the past.  Apocalyptic stories inform our understanding of the present by questioning cultural features we take for granted and examining destructive trends.

 Reader: There have been stories of an apocalypse in many, if not most, prehistorical peoples.  Flood stories are common.  A community may experience an apocalypse in a number of ways.  Wholesale destruction can come about through human agency such as invasion or persecution.  And natural causes such as disease, draught or fire may extinguish a people or their culture.

Worship Associate:  An apocalypse may also be personal.  Divorce, death of a loved-one and even the termination of long-term employment can all result in emotional devastation.  When a person is stripped of his or her primary relationships in the world he or she can end up wandering in a psychological desert.  In a wasteland there is nothing to eat or drink.

Anthem:  Hourglass an apocalyptically themed song written by Kevin Mallory and presented by Dennis Griffiths, Marilyn Mallory and Mike Mallory.  (Kevin’s Version) 
Historian: The Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube, minister of the First UU Church of San Diego in his sermon, “How Not to be a Zombie” claims that the zombie should be viewed as a carrier of repressed anxiety and rage.  He suggests that a zombie cure is found in the work Rene Brown by overcoming the fear of being vulnerable.

Mike:  I believe this reading of zombieism misses the mark.  Zombies aren’t angry, they’re hungry.
Zombies have been said to represent racial oppression, mindless consumerism and class struggle.  Yet, underlying this dialectical approach to zombieism is the personal meaning offered by the undead.  Zombies have died, yet continue to function with a kind of self-destructive momentum. 

 My missional efforts are primarily directed at humans infected with zombieism.  I will attempt to explain my approach using metaphors around food. 

The benign zombie, whether the condition is caused by a personal apocalypse or some gradual loss of meaning finds the world barren and tasteless.  They are not interested in feeding because their hunger is dormant and they cannot conceive of eating.

Reader:   The Jotter, a UU blogger went through a period of life she refers to as being a “Grief Zombie.”   She writes, “It is hard to write accurately what it feels like to be a grief zombie because the core of my zombie life is not having feelings. I say I try not to think about it, but what I mean is that when thoughts of sadness start floating in, an emotionless voice says, "Not yet." It is not conscious so much as zombie survival instinct kicking in. I can no more will myself to feel, to not feel, or to concentrate than I can will myself to cry.”
Mike:  On the other hand, Zombies in the biting stage are feeding, but only on a single irrational and self-destructive substance.  When a person looks out on the wondrous, rich spectrum of life and can only identify a single offering as important, whether it is praise, money, status, drugs, sex or attention, that person is infected with zombieism.

It is important to remember that zombies are relentless and infectious, yet they have their apologists.
Historian:  In his article, “What’s So Bad About Being A Zombie?” philosophy professor Dien Ho, points out that zombie life may not be that bad.  “They are largely indifferent to pain and suffering. Short of severe head injuries, zombies enjoy a type of immortality. Zombies do not care about most of the pesky concerns that fill our daily lives: they do not care about the weather, their appearance, their social status, their retirement plan, their morning commute, and petty office politics. They are not concerned about the threat of terrorism, floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. . Indeed, if we focus on just these qualities, the life of a zombie resembles the ideal state of a disciplined Zen Buddhist monk who has managed to let go of his earthly concerns.” 

Reader:  The Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Landrum presents a well-annotated hermeneutical overview of zombies in her sermon, “Sunday of the Living Dead.  In the same vein as Ho’s article she quotes Scott Kenemore’s, The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead,   “Zombies don’t worry. Not about themselves. Not about others. Not about climate change. Nothing. Zombies have “enough” of what they need in life (with the exception of living brains). Yet are, at the same time, ‘driven’ with a passion and intensity that any CEO or motivational speaker would envy. Zombies don’t stop. Zombies don’t rest. And yet, zombies are at peace with this ceaselessness. You can be too.”

Mike:  I approach a cure to zombieism as though it were an eating disorder using the disease model rather than a monster model.  Of course zombies are not necessarily eager to be cured.

Historian:  Aristotle said that we are wise to prefer things in measure to things in excess.  In other words, he advocated moderation in all things.

Reader:  Nutritionists advocate a balanced diet, which is a diet consisting of adequate amounts of all the necessary nutrients required for healthy growth and activity.  Avoid the kind of processed reality offered by the worst of the mass media.

Mike:  The cure for zombieism requires that we take in adequate nutrition from life, but avoid binging.  Cultivating varied interests is helpful in assessing whether any particular hunger is out of balance.

Historian:  The dense-as-lead Process Theologian, Alfred North Whitehead, wrote that “God” is the appetite for good. 

Reader:   Cartoons depicting a character in the midst of discernment with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other each whispering in an ear create a similar image.

 Mike:  I have experiencial resonance with Whitehead’s view.  I have, I believe we all have, an inner voice urging us toward a path of wisdom.  Yet, like the cartoon character, that voice is often just a whisper.

In the case of the benign zombie, the voice is inaudible.  In the case of the biting zombie, the voice is drown-out by an overpowering single-focused urge. 

When we honor our interests with attention they grow; when neglected they atrophy and die.  In my own life I have developed a practice of varied interests.  I intentionally devote attention to the arts, music reading and writing.  On average I read over an hour each day, alternating between fiction and non-fiction.  I pay attention to my relationships in my household, my family and my community.  I literally and figuratively enjoy the tastes of a well-designed meal.  Life is a participatory activity. 

In service to the life of others, I rely on the strategies of delight and insight.  Delight is the appreciation and gratitude for the world.  Insight is the appreciation and acceptance of  the way we fit into the world.

 Sharing delight is a way to proclaim the joyful nourishment of life.  I remain hopeful that  by sharing insights I will amplify the call to balance and moderation, which wisdom is already whispering in your ear.

 The Universalist side of our faith makes a claim that everyone is saved.  I am “this-worldly” and understand Universalism to say that we have the power here-and-now to save each other, even from a Zombie infection.

 My Universalism is a reminder of our interdependence.  I remain vulnerable.  There are times when I can help to save and times when I need saving.

 Reader:  In last year’s Easter sermon, “The Zombie Apocalypse & Resurrection,” the Rev. Martin Lavanhar of the All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma claimed a linkage between the presence of zombies in pop culture and the rise of “senseless consumerism” and “relentless technology”.


Mike:   In that sermon, the Rev. Lavanhar presents an excellent account of personal resurrection.  “Resurrection” occurs, he says, “When new life emerges from what once was dead.”  Examples from his congregation, and from ours, include a widow, resigned to a life without romance, finding a partner and an alcoholic celebrating the anniversary of his sobriety.

We all know what it is like to be brought back into life.  Our senses awaken in fresh delight.  We are again receptive to the creative force of all existence.

Please rise joyfully in body or spirit and sing Hymn No. 298 “Wake Now My Senses

During this song I would invite anyone who feels infected with Zombieism to come forward for an altar call and I will join you in prayer.


Life is a banquet.  Come, have a seat at the Welcome Table.

Closing Song.

            Carry the Flame of Peace and Love (3x) Until we meet again.



Mike Mallory