"What are we waiting for? Christian hope and contemporary culture" is a collection of essays attempting to bring academic knowledge of eschatology into a digestible, practical format for the church. And it gave me a lot to think about.
One essay that I'd like to highlight just now is 'Eschatology and pop culture' by Krish Kandiah. It explores the opportunities that the Church has in bringing to the world an optimistic view of the future. Especially when the western world seems to be so pessimistic and bleak in it's outlook.
It runs through a few examples and symptoms of the Western World's growing apathy and fear of the future, and then the big punch for me came in here:
"At a popular level the pessimism in western culture is revealed in its desire for perpetual adolescence. This manifests itself in the avoidance of commitment; increased consumerism, and an unwillingness to learn from the past or face up to the challenges of the future. This paralysis leads to escapism into the virtual worlds of games, chatrooms or music, and then sociologists often relate this to cocooning - the attempt to isolate ourselves from the stresses of the world by socialising less and retreating into our homes more."
'Perpetual adolescence' is a good way of putting it. Kandiah then goes on to say that the Church has suffered from the same weakness too:
"We have become happy to focus our activities in-house providing services for members only. We become fearful of crossing paths with people from non-faith or other-faith backgrounds. We have become self-absorbed, apathetic and paralysed."
Kandiah does not pave out a clear and simple solution, except to say that if the Church stopped falling in to the same traps as the world, then it would immediately have a greater impact and could offer an optimism and hope for the future that is sorely lacking.
For me, I just keep thinking about that phrase 'perpetual adolescence'. I realise I've felt it before. Youth Groups that aren't connected to the main Church so that the real responsibilities of Church membership aren't communicated properly. Twenty's and thirty's groups that appear to be setup simply because it's attendees don't want to integrate into what the Church is already providing for adults. Men's groups that explore 'biblical manhood' by celebrating the same infantilising attitudes as the world but with a glossy sheen of holiness.
And what is the solution? As far I can see... It's responsibility. A Church that encourages and expects people to embrace their responsibility to each other and their society. Just imagine seeing dozens of people clamouring to be the Church treasurer, or to sign up and do the rota that no one normally wants to do. Surely, the real Mr Muscles of the Church are the ones that love the jobs that the world hates: the ones that make them mature and grow up.