The essential question is, What is a human being? Not just what am I, but what is the guy who lives next door or the woman in the line in front of me. And what is the nature of my relationship to them?
Gareth has come to believe that humans are essentially in competition with each other. “Join us or feed us,” he says. To consume each other is natural. Gareth tries to explain his perspective to Bob while eating the latters leg. He formerly he described their cannibalistic adaptation as the next step in evolution. To justify this shift he cites the practicality of the sub-human bear, who will “eat their young” when they “start to starve.” It’s practical because the surviving bear “can always have another cub.” Human beings are nothing more than animals in competition. To adapt to new circumstances is to evolve.
When survival is all that matters, your fellow survivors are, as Martin says in episode 1, he has no friends, just “assholes I survive with.”
Rick has friends. More than friends, he leads a family. They love like a family; they fight like a family; they forgive like a family. The essential thing about a family is that you deeply care about the well-being of each member. You take them in for their sake. Once in, you give rather than take. Even risking your life so that they can live.
This is why Gabriel is so messed up. His is a representative of Jesus Christ who, according to tenets of his faith, gave up his life for others. He’s supposed to be a representative of him who said, “He who eats my body and drinks my blood will have eternal life.” He shouldn’t have forgotten these words because they are written across the arch in the church where he barricaded himself even to the desperate cries of his parishioners as they were overcome by walkers on the steps outside.
The makers of The Walking Dead decided to put Bible verses on the walls where the hymn numbers are usually displayed. Romans 6:4, Ezekiel 37:7, Matthew 27:52, Revelation 9:6 and Luke 24:5. These are all passages about death, but they all point to the resurrection of the dead. The sermon based on these passages was likely delivered by Father Gabrielle ought to have strengthened him to bravely face death with the promise of resurrection. His actions showed more affinity to the gospel of Gareth, than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rick and others turn briefly from their humanity in the murder of Gareth and his group of cannibals, but in the light of the new day, they bury their enemies in the church’s cemetery.
On his death bed, Bob commends Rick for being numbered among the good and offers the hope and encouragement to remain human. He says that “nightmares end, [and they] shouldn’t end who you are.” And he points to baby Judith as evidence that there is still hope in the world.
There are now, always have been, an forever will be those who consume others. They might not do it literally, but because they only look at others as a means by which to satisfy their needs, they are not much different than Gareth. Even without zombies, we are always faced with a choice to compete and consume, or to give of ourselves for the sake of others.