My Culture/Teen Culture/TV Why My Catholic Heart Loved “Stranger Things” by Ryan McQuade This time was supposed to be different. I wasn’t going to act like some lunatic binge-watching episodes back to back to back. Everyone had been telling me how amazing the show was and I was intent on savoring every minute. “Just one episode” I said. 3 hours later: Feeling Nostalgic There is so much to love about Stranger Things! It’s a classic sci-fi show full of government conspiracy, monsters, a love triangle and a hilarious gang of kids on an adventure to find their missing friend. But I think what kept me loving the show through those early hours when I really should have been sleeping was how nostalgic it felt. So. Much. Nostalgia. Stranger Things is just one big throwback to the 80’s, complete with Dungeons and Dragons, rubix cubes, and obvious shout-outs to 80’s classics like E.T. and Goonies. But one thing I didn’t expect to find hidden under all of 80’s goodness was a throwback to my favorite story of all time; the Gospel. [Warning: spoilers ahead.] Love is a Strange Thing In the first episode we meet Will who is peddling home after an exciting game of Dungeons and Dragons with his friends. On his way home he discovers a shadowy figure is following him and terrified he hides in his family’s shed. As he listens for the monster a light in the shed grows brighter and brighter until… Will vanishes. Once word spreads that Will has gone missing his friends (Mike, Dustin, and Lucas) hop on their bikes and search the woods hoping to find Will. Instead they encounter a mysterious girl with a shaved head, wearing a hospital gown and tattooed “011.” She joins the search party and is given the nickname, El after “Eleven.” Through the course of the series, we discover Will has been taken to “The Upside Down,” a terrifying alternate dimension inhabited by the Demogorgon, a predator in search of humans. The only person who can seem to save him is El who we discover has telekinesis and is the only one who can pass between the two dimensions. What stands out to me through the entire series is the great lengths that each character goes through to save Will; even when it means their own sacrifice and suffering. Will’s Mom sacrifices her own sanity and reputation. The Chief of police sacrifices his job and position. Nancy (Mike’s sister) sacrifices her relationship and popularity. Will’s friends risk their lives. And Eleven offers her own life in a final battle with the Demogorgon, a symbol of death and ultimate evil. All in all, Stranger Things reminded me that love is proven only through sacrifice. Jesus in the Upside-Down Jesus reminded his disciples this when he told them, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. (John 15:13) By dying on the cross Jesus proved His own love for us and saved us from the fear of death. But His love did not stop there, He descended into the realm of the dead (“The Upside-down” if you will) to free the just who were imprisoned there and proclaim to them the Good News. By descending to the dead Jesus proved to us that there was nowhere that his love could not reach. He continues to seek out the deepest darkest parts of our hearts, those things we keep hidden from the world, to bring new life. We can find great hope in the fact that we have a God who never tires of saving us! When I think of the things Christ went through to save me I have to ask myself if I am willing to do the same. Could I lay down my life for my friends? How much am I willing to sacrifice to ensure that those around me are saved? A Living Throwback As Christians we are given the task of telling the story of Jesus through our own lives. We’re kind of like a throwback to the Gospel! When people encounter us they should be reminded of the love that Christ has for them. But the only way that we will remind people of Jesus is if we are willing to embrace sacrifice, like He did. St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice… without sacrifice there is no love.” By offering our sacrifices to God we cooperate in Jesus’ saving mission and bring those who are trapped in sin and death back to life. Maybe God isn’t asking you to battle a monster or travel through some scary alternate dimension but my guess is that their are plenty of little sacrifices you can be making for those who are “lost’ around you. It might just mean not arguing with someone (even if you’re right) or spending time with your little brother (even if he’s really annoying). Those small sacrifices, if they are done with love, will pay off. We may not always see the work God is doing in the spiritual dimension but if we are striving to mirror His life than we too, with His grace, will overturn the powers of hell and death in our time. This is the life Jesus has planned for you! This is the adventure that He is inviting you on! If we are willing to follow Him, even into the darkest of places, we can have confidence that He is using us to bring people back to life! There is no one that is too far gone or lost that can not be saved. Well, except for Barb. R. I. P. Barb Editor’s Note: Due to mature themes, such as implied sex scenes, minor cursing and general fear factor this show is for mature teens only.