Rethinking Youth Ministry
Have Yourself a Merry Zombie Apocalypse
It makes sense that a teen whose family has fallen into a financial abyss wants to see the end of the present world. It makes sense, for example, that a teen who is feeling the weight of pressures related to job, school, and relationships would want to see the end of the present world and the beginning of a simpler existence. It makes sense that a teen struggling with her sexual identity might want to see the end of the present world. (In the zombie apocalypse, no one cares if you're gay. They just want to know if you can help them survive!)
It makes sense that some overwhelmed teens might even envy the zombies themselves. To live as a zombie means you are no longer bothered by moral questions, expectations of others, worries about the future. Zombies don't care what they look like. They aren't responsible for what they do. They follow their herd. They simply exist. The fact that they are zombies isn't even their fault. In most scenarios, they become zombies as a result of a plague, an errant radioactive meteor, or a chemical accident. To wish for the coming of a zombie apocalypse, to envy the zombie, might be exactly what some of our young people fantasize about when they feel the weight of life pressing down on them.
The season of Advent, in contrast to the overly sweet commercial expression of Christmas, starts with the reality that life on planet Earth can be hard and full of trials and tribulations. Advent acknowledges that things can be better, that they need to be better, and it offers the hope that they will be better. In the truest meaning of the word "apocalypse," the season of Advent can "reveal" a vision of a new world that looks very different from the one in which we live. It can reveal a hopeful future in which we do not merely survive, but we thrive as we become agents of the hope, peace, joy, and love of God. In this sense, teens who are enamored of the zombie apocalypse are the ultimate optimists. They see the world as it is and they know that it could be better. The story we tell in Advent invites us not to just imagine that world, but to help make it happen.
Rev. Brian Kirk is an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently serves an inner-city church in St. Louis, Missouri. He also teaches as adjunct faculty at Eden Theological Seminary, and co-writes the blog rethinkingyouthministry.com.