The Walking Dead and the Role of Government

Since the new Walking Dead episodes are now being aired, it reminded me that I had previously planned to write a series of posts about how the show reveals truths about various topics. In this post, I want to focus on the role of civil government (what Lutherans would call God’s “Left Hand Realm”).

One of the most salient realities in the Walking Dead show is that there is no government left. People are left to fend for themselves. Rick Grimes becomes the natural leader (somewhat reluctantly) of a group of survivors. However, there are other groups of people out there. Some are peaceful, but many are not. Everyone, though, is trying to survive. For the most part, the peaceful people think that if they hole up in some place that they can survive. They do not consider the violent people, though, who view survival as a zero-sum game; these people will take whatever then can from other people and kill whomever they need in order to do so.

This helps to illustrate one of the central roles of goverment, which is to punish evil and reward virtue; in short, to help keep things orderly and in relative peace. Even with civil government we still have to contend with evil (since civil government does not have it in its power to remove evil from the world). But, without civil government people are left to fend for themselves against those who intend to do them harm. We see this in The Walking Dead as people form protective bands to fend off attackers (either other people or the “walkers”). In fact, as they become settled, they have formed semblances of government, such as at Alexandria and at Woodbury before it. Alexandria was lucky to be “ruled” by a benovelent, wise woman. However, Woodbury was ruled by a petty tyrant. In time, it will be interesting to see how Alexandria re-develops as the show progresses.

We are fortunate in our own time that we have civil government, even with all its flaws (it is, after all, populated by humans). The role of the Church is to remind civil government of its proper role and function in this world. At times this may be in the form of exhortation (i.e. “do this”), while other times it may be in the form of protest (i.e. “don’t do this”). In the end, though, it is God who rules over all things, both civil government and the Church, and each is called to exercise its God-given commission faithfully. What we haven’t seen much in the Walking Dead so far is the presence of the Church. Just as civil government has fallen, so too does the Church seem to be silent with messages of forgiveness and hope, and there is a great need for both.


(Image by Aaron Simms, Atlanta Skyline)