The real fireworks over the holiday weekend weren’t outside. They were on Netflix.
Season 3 of Stranger Things (finally) released and, to put it mildly, it’s redefining entertainment. The adventures of Eleven and her band of merry pre-teens is the most popular original series on Netflix. The show is winning from a perfect combination of incredible writing, compelling characters, and nostalgia for the not-too-distant-past. But where it really hooks us, I think, is the supernatural content.
I grew up in a house where we trusted every word of the Bible. From an early age, I had faith that God could raise the dead, send demons packing, or cure the incurable. But while we believed it in theory, we honestly didn’t see it in our daily lives. Growing up in rural Kentucky, my life was as cookie cutter as everyone else’s. As a preteen, I slowly began to recognize the disconnect. If we say we believe the God we read about in the Bible is the same God we worship now, and that God is marked by supernatural events, shouldn’t we be seeing some of those?
I remember asking a trusted adult about this—why we read about miracles in the Bible but never saw them ourselves. “We don’t need miracles anymore. We have the Bible. That should be proof enough for us.” Even as a kid, I knew that was a terribly deficient answer. About that same time, I discovered a TV show that openly embraced the weird, the unexplainable, the supernatural. The investigators came at it from vastly different perspectives, but their goal was the same. The truth, they believed, was out there. And the more I watched, the more I started to believe it too. It sounds weird to say, but I’ll go with it—The X-Files helped me believe. It allowed me to picture the supernatural; to dare to believe the unbelievable could still occur today; to accept that finding truth is a search. And that it—truth— might actually be out there.
X-Files helped me see the unseen. And Stranger Things, I believe, is doing the same for a new generation. Even if what’s happening on the screen isn’t scripture, what we’re experiencing helps us picture spiritual realities that might otherwise go unimagined. We get an idea of the influence of unseen spiritual realities with The Upside Down; we feel the absolute necessity of community; we get glimpses of the constant (and usually undetected) battle between good and evil, and we believe that the actions of ignored and misunderstood pre-teens have eternal consequences.
Because most of it is unseen, spiritual truth can be hard to grasp. When he was on earth, Jesus used stories to help his listeners get a handle on the spiritual. Those stories bridged the gap between the everyday and eternal by revolving around characters and scenarios that his listeners could understand—stories of fishermen, shepherds, agriculture and weddings. I believe God is still fond of stories. But instead of sheep, he’s bringing the unseen to light through the tales of a mysterious girl with nosebleeds. But let’s be honest, in the history of the world, God’s done much stranger things than that.
And, can we all agree, we really need #justiceforbarb.