It was 2017 and Netflix had come out with this series that was EVERYWHERE and, it was 🔥. It was making headlines and the buzz was intense. I’d recently started working at an ultra-hipster ad agency based in Brooklyn and coworkers on my company’s internal sites were even talking about the show. The premise seemed simple: A group of middle schoolers help a young girl with powers and they work together to fight supernatural creatures and bad guys. The music channeled the 80s vibe with laser-point accuracy and somehow captured an era many folks fondly remember or at least wish they could. Since I was a kid back then, that time felt lighter, more innocent. Back then, I was unaware of most of the strife that was happening in the U.S. and the world. The music, movies and fashion defined how I viewed that time in the world. Movies like The Goonies, E.T., The Lost Boys and Firestarter were thrilling but also felt so PG and fun. Stranger Things successfully bottled that style of filmmaking with the nuance and care a favorite era receives after it’s had to time to marinate.
Though the 80s had more than its fair share of struggle and contention, it’s still viewed to a certain degree as cheesy, over the top but beloved. The show’s fourth season premiered just a few days after the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, and it prompted Netflix to place a warning before the start of the show: “We filmed this season of Stranger Things a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of episode one distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”
It certainly made sense to add the caution. The “kids” we’d all been rooting for since 2016 were now high schoolers and though they thought they’d had a reprieve from all the madness, new battles were emerging. Not only teenage angst, cliques and peer pressure to contend with, the specter of past battles started to invade again. As I dug into the latest season, after nearly a three-year wait, this show hit in a totally different way. I witnessed parents, sometimes clueless, sometimes apathetic or just anxious. I saw different factions of the government working against or for the children fighting to save their town and ultimately the world. Law enforcement was often inept and chasing wrong and inaccurate leads because they were so unaware and unwilling to see what was really happening. In many ways, all the young characters are fending for themselves, circumventing systems and dealing with a world that is under attack by unseen and seen forces. And it hit me — this is exactly what the children of America have been facing for far too many years. When the Columbine shooting happened in 1999, it shook the nation. It was unbelievable and the level of detail and strategic planning to carry out the scope of the act was staggering. And ever since that time, these shootings have become increasingly commonplace. Active shooter drills and lockdowns are almost the norm for schoolkids. Searingly, the loss of life, the suffering for families left behind and the PTSD that remains for those who survive is incalculable.
When I came up, school was considered almost hallowed ground, a haven for children from the violence skewering communities in America. There was the occasional fight or after-school stick-up for the latest Nikes but those incidents weren’t considered as commonplace. When it did start getting more serious in areas like my hometown of Detroit, every morning many urban school kids had to go through metal detectors in hopes of catching someone carrying a weapon on school grounds. But growing up as a teen in the late 80s and early 90s, I didn’t even consider that I wouldn’t be safe in class. My focus was to get educated, have a little fun and maybe meet a new friend.
I wonder why so many people seem to think it’s okay not to have real effective measures in place to protect our most vulnerable citizens? Since Uvalde, there’s been an understandable outcry about sensible gun laws. But consequently, there’s been very small progress in making common-sense measures to at least make sure guns aren’t handed out like it’s a 2-for-1 sale at Walmart. While I’m at it, let’s just add this calculus equation right here: g (y) = (y−4) (2y + y2). This math makes just as much sense to this English major why we here in the United States need assault rifles like we’re soldiers in Ukraine.
The mainstream media and many in the general public are unable to recognize the most disturbing part of this frightening issue: our children are under a new spiritual attack. The increased violence in our schools is not just by happenstance. It is a strategic act of aggression. It’s not just because of the proliferation of guns and the increased access many have, but the enemy doesn’t want our children to thrive and grow. The time he has grows shorter and shorter in the earth and his plan has always been to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). What better asset to attack? It is the most precious one on the planet and the only creation that has been made in God’s likeness and image (Genesis 1:27). In the most “connected” society in human history, it is sadly one of the most lonely and toxic environments modern man has faced. Our children are bathing in a sea of superficial rants, greed, extreme polarity and false happiness parading as glamour and success. Many children are suffering in silence, teetering on the brink of madness and the children who remain are left have varied amounts of collateral damage.
As the back-t0-school season is upon us, many parents are understandably filled with deep concerns about their children returning to classrooms. But there are answers. It’s not wrapped in positive thoughts and vain ramblings. It’s not the latest talking head on the news or even world leaders. It’s not every teacher, principal and class custodian having a CPL. Kids wearing bulletproof backpacks is certainly not the answer. We do need more gun restrictions. We do need more accountability from those who’ve failed to protect our children. Sadly, public prayer left schools many years ago. But those with kids in school: encourage them to pray during the school day. Because we do need prayer. We do need fasting. There is HOPE. The Lord brings peace where there is chaos and clarity where there is confusion. As we’ve floated farther and farther away from Him, our world has grown dimmer and dimmer. But He does want us to work while we still have light, while it’s still day to bring solutions to a dying world. We can be outraged as Jesus was at leaders of the day and turn over the tables for our troubling times. During the civil rights era, God used Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Dorothy Height and so many others to make tangible change to a system that was built on overtly oppressing and committing acts of violence toward people of color. Real-life solutions are available if we are tuned in to not just the latest news stories but to what the Spirit of God has to say and how we may bless and protect the future generations that are counting on us today.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “’My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Matthew 21:12-13
“ Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
“Our prayer and God’s mercy are like two buckets in a well; as one ascends the other descends.” Bishop Arthur Hopkins