Last year a lot of people got pulled into the odd happenings of Hawkins, Indiana when Netflix released Stranger Things. The miniseries was a mix of The Goonies and The X-Files drenched in 80’s nostalgia. Upon thoroughly enjoying the first season of Stranger Things, I reflected upon how I saw the show connect with the Christian faith. Now that a binge of the second season is complete, I once again see some connections between the adventures of the Hawkins AV club and the church. Specifically, Stranger Things 2 illustrates what the Christian community should look like at our best, and it also shows how we often get it wrong.
Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead
Even more so than the first season, the second helping of Stranger Things is all about exploring the deep bonds and friendships of the main characters who refer to themselves as “the party” (it is a Dungeons and Dragons thing). The friendships between the members of the party is deep, and they even codified their level of trust with a “code of law.” The code of law are promises they have made with one another. If religious language were applied to the show, the code of law is a covenant. It is a sacred promise that helps define their relationships with one another and it gives those relationships a level of intense depth.
One of the ways that the second season explores this bond is by putting it under stress. Between shadow monsters, murderous pollywogs, and girls the relationship of the four friends at the core of the show is tested. During the course of the show two of the characters even break the rule of law. They betray the trust of the group for what is ultimately selfish reasons. Despite that, the group reconciles, holds together, and they are willing to risk their own lives because it might save one of their friends.
The way that the characters of Stranger Things are fully invested in one another is a lesson that Christians should take to heart. Much of the New Testament is focused on how believers in Jesus Christ should care for one another. In 1 Timothy, Paul urges his protégé Timothy to treat believers as if they are his family. In Philippians Paul write to the church that they should be “like-minded having the same love, being one in spirit and of mind.” He then goes on to write the mindset they should have for one another is the same as Jesus. In the gospel of John, Jesus himself prays that all believers would be perfectly united.
The kids of Stranger Things has a relationship deep enough that they were able to forgive one another’s transgressions. They had a level of care for another that they were willing to risk great harm just to reduce the danger another party member was facing. Yet, this level of care, concern, and unity is not always present among Christians. Followers of Christ, especially those of the same local church, should view and treat each other as party members. Our love and care for one another should be absolute because the rule of law that binds us is “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Unfortunately, this depth of relationship is not always present. One does not have to look far to find someone who left a church in a huff because of a minor slight or disagreement. There was not even an attempt to reconcile, forgive, and seek forgiveness from one another. When another believer suffers it is too common to only offer thoughts and prayers or the non-committal “let me know if you need anything.” It is much rarer to actively sacrifice for one another out of love. When you watch Stranger Things 2, pay attention to how the friends care for each other even in trying and stressful times. Those are the kinds of relationships we are to have with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Much like the people in the churches, the kids of Stranger Things were not perfect. The imperfection showed in the show is often present in the body of Christ. Much of the drama in the season was around the new girl Max. A couple of the party members wanted to include her in the party, but they met stiff resistance all of the way until the very end. Again, one does not need to look far to find horror stories of ways churches have been unwelcoming and even alienating to new people. Churches should be buildings that are defined by their open doors, but far too often they have the reputation of being a closed club. This is wrong and it does not serve the gospel of Christ. Even friendly congregation need to be conscious of always drawing the circle wider.
As believers and followers of Jesus Christ not only can we be entertained by Stranger Things 2 but we can also learn. May we be a more perfect party that radically cares for another in the same way that God cares for us. Yet, may we always be open to adding one more party member. May we be willing to accept not just the noble paladins, but also the rogues and zoomers.