“All life is precious” – Morgan, The Walking Dead If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, consider this the obligatory spoiler-alert alert.
Everyone has a worldview. Worldviews shape how we look at the world around us, both internally and externally, intellectually and existentially.
Consequently, every religion holds a particular worldview, with many (and mutually contradictory) answers to the questions such as, "What is real?", "Who am I?", "What happens when I die?" A primary way of communicating a worldview is through storytelling. The worldviews we hold also shape our mind, action, and imagination. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when the worldviews of the sub-creators (or their characters) show up in movies, television, books, theater, music, and other works of art.
Television shows such as The Walking Dead are no different. There are as many worldviews as there are writers and characters in this survival story.
In season 5, the Terminites held a cold, brutal, naturalistic worldview; Darwinism taken to its logical conclusion: “You’re either the cattle or the butcher.” The Wolves in season 6 are animalistic and materialistic. They strongly resemble Jesus’ words about Satan: “The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10).
And in the recent episode Here’s Not Here, we encounter a new worldview in The Walking Dead universe: Aikido.
Aikido is a mixture of martial arts, religion, and philosophy. With influences like Shintoism, this Japanese based martial arts philosophy is often translated as “the way of unifying life energy” or “a way of a harmonious spirit.”
The goal is peace, as evidenced by its chief work, The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba. As is common among Eastern religions and philosophies, Aikido desires peace by means of cleansing the inside, which in turn, leads to peace outside. In this particular The Walking Dead episode, Eastman (Morgan’s Aikido master) has also vowed never to kill any living thing again.
Hence the key quote from this episode, “All life is precious.”
Certainly, there are inherent differences and problems with this worldview (practically and spiritually). Yet, there are shadows of truth which find their reality in Christianity.
In a famous quotation from The Art of Peace, Ueshiba writes, "If you have not linked yourself to true emptiness you will never understand the Art of Peace."
From my limited reading on Aikido it is unclear how this emptiness is achieved by the practitioner. Nevertheless, the onus of responsibility for linking to the emptiness is on the individual. This is Law, not Gospel.
Reminds me of St. Augustine’s words: Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee. Christianity also recognizes an emptiness within. And this awareness of our emptiness, we are told by St. Paul, is God’s doing. When we are weak, we are strong. Knowing we are empty and have nothing to offer God – no works, no righteousness, nothing – we are full. The last are first. The empty are filled. How? By Christ who emptied Himself for you.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6-8)
The true art of peace comes from being linked to Jesus crucified, who emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, all to save you.
There’s also an evangelistic and apologetic aspect to Aikido in the form of redirection. In martial arts, redirection is key. Whether you’re fighting walkers or a punk in the alley, the goal is to redirect your opponent. Use his energy against him. This is a useful tactic as we declare and defend the Gospel. When the conversation shifts away from Christ Crucified and risen, redirect it to the cross. When your friend or family member changes the subject to something within, redirect them to Christ who is extra nos. When the atheist claims Christianity is just one more fairy tale, redirect the conversation to the historical claims of the resurrection. And don’t be afraid of using your "opponent's" argument or worldview to do so. St. Paul did it at the Aereopagus, skillfully redirecting the Stoics’ own poets against them, subverting their worldview and supplanting it with Christ crucified and risen.
Finally, Christians agree; all life is precious. Why? Not because we have come to believe this, as the character Eastman said in the show. After all, we could just as easily determine that life is not precious. No, we believe all life is precious objectively, not subjectively. Outside of us. In the Christ who is for us. Both our body and soul are gift; both this life and eternal life are given to us freely, without any merit or worthiness in us.
We see this most clearly in the incarnation, in Christ who was born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem us who were under the Law that we might receive adoption as sons. And if sons, then heirs of Christ (Gal 4).
Aikido’s quest for peace will not and cannot be found in any man save Jesus, the God-man. The peace that calms our restless heart isn’t found within, but outside of us on the cross. The peace we look for is found in Christ’s dying and rising for you.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:19-20)
That’s our worldview; we see the world, and ourselves, through the cross. And more importantly, the cross is the Father’s worldview for you.