Many often talk about cities as being soul destroying, whether it is in reference to a cultural deadening borne from the replacement of theatres, independent stores and galleries with consumerised counterparts (especially via commercial chains), or in reference to the decaying (often brutalist) architecture.
A similar insight can be found in the sociologist Jacques Ellul's The Meaning of the City, in which Ellul warned his readers about cities being more than just boring architecture or sites of waste. For Ellul, cities are parasites. More specifically, Ellul compares them to vampires as they
prey on the true living creation [...] The city is dead, made of dead things for dead people [...] the city devours men
Writing thirty years later, Ward made an explicit reference to this passage and extended the analysis to give it a Eucharistic inflection. In his Cities of God, Ward spoke of vampires as working in an anti-Eucharistic fashion. Rather than giving blood for the life of the world, the vampire takes blood from the world and and ends life to sustain an already dead being. "Vampire stories," Ward argues "are Eucharistic stories played out negatively.
A similar observation could be said of the zombie genre, given the close relationship that zombie-themed films, games and television series have with urban settings. Like the vampire, the zombie can be seen as emblematic of the city, for like the vampire, the zombie can be seen as an inverted Christ figure. The only difference here is that the target of the zombie is the body rather than the blood. The broken body of the zombie parodies the Eucharistic logic in that, while the Eucharistic body of Christ is broken to bind up the broken bodies of the faithful, the zombie breaks the whole body of the living in order to bind the latter to the former. And like that of the vampire, the activity of the zombie is anything but life-giving.
The zombie seems to present a much richer representation of the anxieties of urban life than the vampire today, but what is noteworthy is the role that the Eucharistic liturgy can play in understanding these anxieties. We can see the city as more than infrastructure, but as a liturgical space, in the same way that James K.A. Smith does in his Cultural Liturgies
series of books. We can also see the attack of zombies as a parody of the Eucharistic liturgy, where life is taken towards deadly ends instead of a death being a font of new life.
Labels: books, Church and Culture, consumer, Graham Ward, liturgy, postmodern city, postsecular