I recently began to show to the 6th, 7th and 8th graders in our Academy a few episodes of the landmark series ‘The Chosen’, which is a streaming show about the life of Christ written, directed, and starring believers in the Lord Jesus. The first episode begins with the exorcism of Mary Magdalene. There was a lot of other stories in the first part: about Peter and Andrew, Matthew and Nicodemus. But the majority of the questions and concerns that these young people had was about the freeing of Mary Magdalen from her ‘7 devils’. This is a true story from the pages of the New Testament. Even though I directed their attention over and over to other parts of the story, they kept coming back with questions about devils and the life to come.
This was not unique in my experience. Many times when I opened the floor to questions, whether in a grammar school or a high school classroom, the questions inevitably veered to Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Angels, Demons and Exorcism. Given the ‘this-worldly’ bent of much of their entertainment and concerns, there is still a hunger for learning about the uncharted and mysterious realm of the hereafter.
If this realm is deemed real, the students begin to listen in rapt amazement to the exploits of the saints and martyrs and other heroes of the spiritual. Most of the time they stay firmly in the here-and-now, but seem relieved that there is more to life. This may be why there is widespread depression among young people, only accentuated in the last two years by the Pandemic.
Nowadays, youngsters have so much in the way of material things that it is easy to reach limits very early in life and wonder whether that is all that there is in life. To be world-weary at 12 years old is a bleak prelude for the rocky teenage years, not to mention the experience of the adult world.
But getting back to our subject: kids are fascinated with this inner world that is available to them just by imagination and prayer. And, even though the demonic world can be pretty scary, they seem to be happy talking about it.
I think that at some deep level they are comforted that there is more to life than the material. Every act of kindness, every falling in love, every aspiration to mending this broken world through heroic action, bespeaks of something greater in the universe. Boiling everything down to the material is a depressive reduction of meaning and purpose. No wonder kids get depressed when they are told how happy they will be if they only had this toy or this article of clothing. They see right through it!
That there is an unseen world of angels and demons brings reality to a different level of meaning. Kids are naturally oriented to wonder, awe, and prayer. To take that away by a concentrated bombardment by media to reduce children’s vision of life is another form of child abuse. Yet we do it when we reward children for ‘following the science’, which is another way of saying ‘that is all there is’.
Children will naturally revolt against this form of canceling. While kids love science, they love it with a kind of wonder. Einstein once said that imagination is one of the best helpers for scientists. Kids are mysteriously open even when confronted with the mathematical precision of science. They dare to trace the complexity of it all to the mind of a God that is beyond our abilities to fathom. What is left to us is imagination and courage.
When one talks with a youngster about the angelic or demonic realm, their eyes grow in excitement and wonder. When you speak of the power of those realms you see them quake giddily in their seats, a manifestation of their openness and their desire to know, even when there is a risk.
All of Religion belongs in this category. Theologians who get away from the wonder of it all end up with desiccated systems of thought that speak to no one except like-minded academics turned skeptics.
The biggest challenge in dealing with the Angelic and Demonic with children is with weaning them away from the errors with which bad writers invest their screenplays. The reality is more real and more wondrous that only a religious sensibility can perceive. Thank God children and young people still have it!