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What to fear this Halloween

Halloween in Marquette

As churches in communities around Michigan host Trunk or Treat events, the Rev. Jack Harnish defends the celebration of Halloween and encourages folks to look for evil where it truly resides.


Michigan Conference Communications

Halloween in Traverse City
The Rev. Chris Lane blesses the costumes of those coming to Trunk or Treat at Central UMC in Traverse City. ~ Facebook

It’s that time of year again. It’s time for my neighbor Don Greene to fill his yard with skeletons, some of them struggling to get out of the ground. He’s got ghosts and goblins, tombstones and cobwebs and even a pair of orange and black flamingos! Who knew flamingos were Halloween birds? Every year his Halloween display gets bigger and better, almost rivaling his Christmas decorations. 

Shop N’ Save has racks full of candy, children are preparing their costumes and most elementary teachers can hardly wait for it to be over so they can get back to teaching. More and more it seems even adults are getting into the act. Last year Judy and I went to a Halloween party. She carried an oar and I wore fishing waders—“Roe vs. Wade”—get it?

Of course, it’s also time for the annual diatribes from the folks who fear witches and wizards, ghosts and ghoulies and the like. Recently another school in Florida banned the Harry Potter series because they think it will entice their children into witchcraft and the works of the devil. They will ban and burn books to try to keep kids safe from evil. 

All I can say is, “Lighten up.” Every child who has ever heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf knows the difference between fantasy and reality. I must admit when I was a kid, “Hansel and Gretel” scared me to death when the witch locked Hansel in a cage and threatened to eat him, but even then, I knew it wasn’t real. Besides, Harry Potter fits the pattern of the ancient morality tales where, in the end, evil is defeated and good wins out. So what’s so bad about that?

If we want to take a stand against “the devil and all his works,” I’d suggest we get real about the evil which actually exists in our world and the temptations which really do threaten to lead our children astray. How about starting with our love affair with violence as entertainment? Every evening during prime time you can see enough commercials for up-coming shows with gun deaths and violence to convince you this world is a truly evil place. And what about the demons of racism and bigotry which seem to be riding through our society like the four horsemen of the apocalypse? 

Halloween at South Lyon UMC
Angels, demons, pirates, mermaids, and more visited an “Inside Trunk or Treat” at South Lyon United Methodist Church. ~ Facebook

Or how about the onslaught of corruption and dishonesty in our nation? Shouldn’t we be helping our children understand the difference between truth and falsehood? If there is witchcraft to be feared, it probably comes in the form of vaping and substance abuse rather than Harry Potter’s death-eaters. For all too many children in our society hunger and homelessness are a lot scarier than Hogwarts and “He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named.” If we want to combat evil, I’d suggest we fight it where it can actually be found.

October 31 is not only Halloween, but it is also Reformation Day. Martin Luther’s great Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” has this powerful line in it:  “And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.” Sure enough, this world is filled with devils, but they don’t come from Harry Potter’s world or Don Greene’s front yard. They are more likely to be found in our society and community or perhaps even in our hearts. And by the grace of God, like Harry Potter, in the end, the truth can still triumph through us. 

Last Updated on November 1, 2023

The Michigan Conference