Don’t tell anybody, but when I walk with my children through the old Speedway neighborhood on Halloween I’m as frightened as any child over two years of age.
I suspect this discomfort stems from my own childhood. Most of my Hoosier school friends grew up laughing at the local celebrity, Sammy Terry, who introduced horror movies on a local channel in the 1970’s. He scared me out of my wits. While my friends giggled at modest fright, I suffered from nightmares. They tried to reassure me that the fanciful supernatural elements in these movies “were not real,” but I knew the horror genre traded on fears which were all too realistic.
So, for twenty years I’ve hidden this discomfort, dressed the kids up in their costumes, and went into the neighborhood trying to play in the face of death. There was only one year nobody took kids “trick or treating.” In 2001 when the threat of mass terrorism was still only a month old, nobody came to my church’s long-planned Festival of Light. Horror was too real for the community to feel safe playing around with matters of life and death. At that time my old horror movie fears seemed well-founded.
Given all the cultural instability, I’m thankful my children can still go “trick or treating.” I’m really touched by the amount of trust which still exists in the American Midwest. It takes a bit of good feeling to let your kids go door to door and eat hundreds of neighbors’ stuff.
My neighborhood still does this despite our modest fears. As much as we want to protect our families, we know that ultimately we have to place them in God’s hands. While we may want to make our world moderately safer, we know we will seldom agree on how to do that. We know ultimately the only fully safe place in the world is in the center of the will of God. Only He has the power to swallow up death. He is a refuge from the horrors of societal breakdown. The fear of God is the only thing that will save us from the fear of one another.