Note: This article is an adaptation of chapter three of The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 2010). This excerpt was extracted and edited by Jonathan Davis.
Preface: In conversations about the future of youth ministry or the need for the church to attend to young adults, it is almost universally asserted that community is essential. In other words, both what younger people need and what the church must recover is not its moral superiority, its religious purity, or its denominational loyalty, but rather, local congregations must shape themselves into communities. I’m all for this! I actually think that there are significant theological reasons for it. However, I tend to think it is easier said than done. In this excerpt from my new book, The Promise of Despair, I explore the difficulty of creating community in late-modernity. I call most of our experiences of community short-lived and risky. In other words, I think that the reality of death (or what I call “the monster”) has ways of encountering us through our many frayed experiences of community in our society.
I was only four or five years old, and I remember vividly having free rein. I remember being blocks away from home with no adults present, hanging out with other children. I remember walking to the nearby junkyard and hauling back old rusted metal and nail-filled boards to build an airplane. I remember darting out of the house to roam freely, exploring all sorts of dangerous things in our newly built suburban neighborhood that was still surrounded by farmland and old silos. I was five and had free rein. And it wasn’t that my parents were negligent; there were kids everywhere, filling this neighborhood of starter houses. And we all were free to ride our bikes streets away. We were free to go as far as yelling distance.