How to Survive the Apocalypse by Robert Jourstra and Alissa Wilkinson

Book Review: How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the WorldSummary: An exploration of how the stories that Movies and TV tell us teach us about what it means to be human in a secular world. (With lots of reference to Charles Taylor)

I have referenced the web magazine Christ and Pop Culture a number of times over the past couple years that I have been a subscriber. I am going to do it yet again. Alissa Wilkinson is a movie critic at Vox (formerly at Christianity Today) and a professor of English and Humanities at King’s College in New York City. She also is a member of the CAPC private Facebook group and I have learned a ton about good criticism from reading her movie reviews and other writing.

After my recent Great Course exploration of modern Philosophy I decided to pick up How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Faith and Politics at the End of the World. The title may not really describe it well, but this a perfect example of why the magazine Christ and Pop Culture exists.

Christianity can sometimes ignore the importance of stories, in spite of the fact that Jesus (and the bible) seem to have primarily taught through stories. The Great Courses lecture on modern philosophy was occationally hard to track because it did not ground the philosophy enough in experiential examples so that the listener could understand why a particular philosophical idea mattered.

Wilkinson and her co-writer Robert Joustra have grounded their discussion of philosophy in the recent TV and movie obsession with the apocalypse and dystopian stories. Long explorations of Battlestar Galactica, the Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and a number of other shows give context to philosophy so that the reader can understand not only the philosophy being explored but also can understand how good media criticism can give insights into the stories in a way that isn’t possible with just casual watching.

While there is far more than just Charles Taylor’s philosophy explored here, it was the Charles Taylor that I was most interested in. I have read James KA Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular, which is also an exploration of Charles Taylor. I think both books are helpful and there is surprisingly little overlap in content because they come at Taylor’s work in such different ways.

There is no way to really fully describe How to Survive the Apocalypse because it is a very wide ranging book. But I do want to note that you don’t have to have watched all the movies or TV shows to get something out of the book. I was reluctant to pick it up because other than Battlestar Galactica and reading the first four books of Game of Thrones, I have not seen hardly any of the TV shows or movies being discussed. But I had a basic idea of the story of most of them. And there is enough background in the discussion to keep me engaged even if I have not seen what is being discussed.

This is a book that I need to read again. I listened to the audiobook, which was well done by Gabrielle de Cuir (she has narrated a number of Orson Scott Card’s books). But this is philosophy, so a second run at the content in print I think will be helpful.

How to Survive the Apocalypse: Faith and Politics at the End of the World by Robert Jourstra and Alissa Wilkinson Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook


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