What if We're the "Upside Down"?
Many of you are likely familiar with the Netflix hit show, "Stranger Things" (season 2 releases in just a couple of days!). I, for one, watched it last year and really enjoyed it.
Surely, part of my enjoyment was nostalgia - since I grew up in the 1980s (the setting of the show). But that's not all. Much of my enjoyment was because of excellent story telling and how Stranger Things helps us picture a "re-enchanted world" where there's more going on than science can fully explain. In the secular West, I wonder if more and more people hunger for this re-enchantment - echoes of a memory instilled in us as image bearers of God. The popularity of Stranger Things suggests that this musing of mine (and many others, including Mike Cosper and James K.A. Smith, both teasing out Charles Taylor) - that people hunger for re-enchantment - is correct.
The story Stranger Things tells is intricate enough that I won't try and reduce it to a few sentences. I'll focus instead on just one feature of it. As season 1 unfolds, the viewer learns that in the world of Stranger Things, there's something of an alternate dimension running alongside our own - a world with its own creatures; a world that's darker and a bit more decayed; a world that sometimes interrupts our own, and has points of contact with it. In Stranger Things, this darker-and-decayed alternate dimension is called "the Upside Down."
Here's where I'll stop describing Stranger Things and draw a connection to our own world, by asking a question: What if OUR world is really the Upside Down?
What if the world we see is a dimension of reality that's a decayed, darker, and more broken version of a better reality, a better world? A better world that also has points of contact with our own, and interrupts it at times in both subtle and overt ways?
I suggest this analogy provides a great way to picture what the Bible proclaims: That our world is broken by sin, and is a decayed, darker reality than its original design (Genesis 1-3). But there's another reality that overlaps with our own - most clearly in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom He came to inaugurate - where God's good and perfect reign is established, embraced and enjoyed (Mark 1:15 and Matthew 12:28 for e.g.).
The inaugurated reign of God should now be embodied in and enjoyed by the church - the people of God - which serves as outposts or embassies of the God's Kingdom. It's here, among the people of God as God advances His Kingdom work, that we can step out of the Upside Down and see glimpses of a world that in many ways looks much like our own, but is clearer, more vivid, and brighter.
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