Remember the emotionally charged cases that shaped the first season or two of Caste? Under the Influence was such an episode. A DJ named Holly is found murdered. As the team begins to piece the case together, they learn that on certain gigs, Holly worked with a young man nicknamed Monster, whom Castle calls Cookie Monster, because of his age. He is a high school who has been working for a man named Shane, who at best is a mob boss. Monster, whose name is Joey, has been skipping school and getting involved in other questionable things.
This is one of those episodes when we don’t worry too much how whether or not they will get the bad guy, because we know they will. The investigation sets up to give us a chance to learn more about Esposito. The relationship that develops between Esposito and Joey reminds me of the relationship with Dick Tracy and the Kid. Esposito finds himself caring deeply for Joey. He goes the extra mile to take him in for a night to keep from being shipped to another foster home. Even when Joey escapes through a window in Esposito’s place, Esposito still makes the teen a priority.
Esposito hits on what so many churches are missing these days. Churches for some reason expect young people to just come to church and to be “good, little Christians.” But, without wisdom guides and mentors. Young people need adults in their lives who will love them as they are, not as they think they “should be.” As Kenda Creasy Dean has pointed out for years, a partnership between adolescents and adults provides adolescents a means to be part of the broader Christian community. And isn’t that we want?
For so long the church has drawn an invisible line between “us” and “them,” the “saved” and the “unsaved,” the “adults” and the “youth.” Dean Borgman writes, “We often fail when we try to drag them into our world, teach them our values, and share our faith in our cultural way. It is we who must make a radical jump across class or culture to enter another world.” Jesus was the mode for this. Jesus did not draw lines between him and others. He erased the line. He did not drag others into his world, he entered theirs, and loved them where they were.
Eposito models this for us in this episode. If groups of people – or the church – did what Eposito did more often, our churches would be flooded with young people answering God’s call upon their lives.