Hunting for zombies:  The virtue of authenticity

“Whatever you bury before it is dead will come back to haunt you.”




Zombies are on the loose!  The fact that we see them year-round now, in movies, on television shows, in commercials, and in video games shows that they are no longer contained by Halloween.  And in our increasingly wounded world this is not accidental.


Like all imaginary creatures zombies are powerful symbols of a very real phenomenon.  With their robotic walk, their dead eyes, and their grey skin tone, they graphically represent the parts of our lives that are “un-dead” and haunting.  We all have painful, ugly experiences we’ve not fully faced, understood, worked through, and finally put to rest forever.  And there can be good reasons for this.


If the painful experience is overwhelming, one may need to put it off for a while, or make sense of it a little at a time….it’s just too big to do all at once.  For instance, it took me years to work through all the fear I felt about my first born son’s fragile early years, where he almost died three different times.  There was so much.


And even with disturbing experiences that aren’t life-or-death, the bracketing of these memories can be essential to moving forward.  If we sat with all that has gone wrong, or could go wrong in life…all the possible scenarios where we could be injured in mind, body, or spirit…all the ways we have been and still are vulnerable, we’d literally have trouble getting out of bed each morning.


So, this “compartmentalizing” of psychological pain is protective and can even be adaptive to a point, giving us time to “get ready”;  to build up psychological resources and relational support.


But in time, whatever we bury before it is dead will come back to haunt us.


Authenticity is fundamentally about truth.  It seeks truth, loves truth, explores truth, and works at removing anything that might keep someone from living in truth.  And it is especially good at exposing and disposing of “zombies.”  As zombie hunters have special ways of searching for zombies, those who practice authenticity do as well….beginning with key questions:


Which periods of my life do I not remember well? 

What social situations do I feel especially anxious in? 

What are the big losses I’ve had, and what did I do with the feelings connected to them?  What emotions do I feel most uncomfortable with now?


Zombies are scary, but not nearly as frightening as a life spent hiding from them.

The Problem with Pope Francis


I’ve been alternately amused, frustrated, angry, and sad over the last two weeks as I’ve watched people try to label Francis rather than understand Francis. It’s not enough for him to simply be a Pope. No, he’s got to have a political label too. And so the tug of war began.

He’s a liberal because he speaks about climate change, and income inequality, and ending the death penalty. No, he’s a conservative because he talks openly about the importance of a life of faith, is thoroughly pro-life, and believes passionately in the importance of a religiously formed conscience.

What is he?

People were almost frantic in their efforts to categorize this man. And that’s human nature. Because people don’t like surprises, or anxiety, or unpredictable behavior…especially in leaders. After all, if people can’t be categorized they become wild cards, uncontrollable. God forbid. And here comes Francis, always upsetting things. Just when you think you can use his authority to prove your point, and how right you are, and how wrong your enemies are…he goes and does something like meet with a county clerk from Kentucky in private.

Great break for the anti-gay marriage ‘true believers’, right? I mean, you couldn’t pray for better optics—the spiritual leader of 1 billion Catholic Christians makes time for Kim Davis, the ex-Catholic and quintessential church lady from Kentucky. Well, the Pope must agree with her, then, right? She was right to deny that marriage license to those gay men, right?

Immediately millions of people who were adoring the “progressive pope” the day before were jumping off his bandwagon as quickly as you could shout “judgmental.” And people who’d been busy bad-mouthing the pontiff because he’d spoken about the sin of unfettered capitalism were now back on board.

In all the jumping, though, most liberals and conservatives missed the fact that before Francis met with Davis he met with a friend who is openly gay, Yayo Grassi, along with Grassi’s partner of 19 years Iwan Bagus. Grassi said Francis had asked him to stop by so he could give his former student a hug. This too was a closed door meeting, the details of which were not shared with the general public—which is how closed door meetings generally work.

Well, now what? What good is Francis now? Because a good liberal wouldn’t meet with someone like Davis, and encourage her to be courageous, and a good conservative wouldn’t meet with a gay couple to give out hugs.


How about this as a possible explanation? Pope Francis is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He is a man trying to live and love like Jesus. Wait, a religious leader who’s actually trying to practice what he preaches? Something like that, yes. Francis engages the political world, but refuses to be a politician. He cares about people, and not just the ones the press believes he should care about. He seeks understanding before agreement, and charity before consensus. And he’s much more interested in opportunities than optics—opportunities to encourage people to be good and do good…for the Good. And if some don’t like the way this looks, for instance who he meets with in private, than optics be damned. Kind of like that other radical who lived a couple thousand years ago in Galilee.

Francis talked a lot during his week in the United States. But his greatest sermon wasn’t spoken, it was lived. He once again refused to be categorized or cubby-holed—especially for the sake of petty politics and Pharisees. And I love him for it.