I’ve always hated Halloween.
I didn’t like it as a kid. The creepy faces, the scary clowns. It was all too unnerving. That didn’t change when I became an adult.
The Halloween after my college graduation, sitting at the desk of the computer repair shop that paid my salary for two years, the door opened about mid-afternoon. It was a bright, warm fall day, but the when the door opened the temperature seemed to drop about 30 degrees. An eerie silence crept in along with a masked man with a long, white robe. He walked slowly, his face fixed on mine. I tried to laugh, pretending to enjoy the moment, but I was frozen in an internal terror as he walked deliberately across the shop and then slowly reached into his deep, robed pocket. He pulled out … a handful of candy (I tried to breathe a sigh of relief). Then just as slowly, with the same spine-tingling calm, he virtually floated out of the room. I never have known who he was.
I must be in the minority, though, because our neighborhood looks like Christmas, only with a spirit of bloodlust instead of holly-jolly. Witches hang from trees, skeletal hands rise out of the ground at mailboxes, skulls are everywhere, horrendous goblins guard front door stoops. There are spooky light shows, and strange, witchy music makes the evening walk with the dog feel like you’re taking your life into your own hands.
I just don’t get it. Why all the infatuation with sinister evil, the dark forces, death?
Some say art imitates life, we mimic in every medium what we’re experiencing around us. Others believe art, beautiful and beastly, speaks with a subtle, coercive power. What we read, what we see, the images and ideas we take in are always working on our subconscious minds, so life ends up imitating art.
Either way, there’s death in the air. Like I need to be reminded.
I’ve read Steven Pinker, so I understand those “Better Angels of Our Nature.” I guess we ought to be grateful we’re less violent than the Huns or the Vikings and that 225,000 COVID-19 deaths pale in comparison to the half of Europe’s population that vanished in the Black Plague of the middle ages. But this relative truth hardly sounds like good news when Walmart has just removed guns and ammunition from its stores out of fear that violence will accompany the Nov. 3 election.
“Walmart has just removed guns and ammunition from its stores out of fear that violence will accompany the election.”
Let me say that again. The nation’s largest retailer, which also happens to be the country’s largest seller of firearms and ammunition, just decided to take a hiatus from selling guns and ammunition. They made that decision the last week of October, in an election year, because whoever makes the decision to pass on that margin, all that easy money, is afraid half the citizens of the world’s most (so-called) successful democracy might decide to go on a killing spree if their candidate loses the upcoming over-priced popularity contest.
You see, the munitions are flying off the shelves in all the other stores at a record-breaking pace. A group of neighborhood moms are talking “lock and load” at their weekly wine night, showing off their new .38 specials between sips of Moscato and tips for diapering. (I kid you not.)
Because of the national attention the very white, very gun-toting “Proud Boys” gained at the recent presidential “debate,” the NFAC has stepped up its game. The “Not ‘Effing’ Around Coalition” is a Black paramilitary group now angrily encouraging every Black male in the U.S. to purchase an assault rifle.
And, not to be left out, the Black women of “Girls on Fire” are making regular reservations at the shooting range. It should be no surprise, then, that even before Walmart’s decision there was a massive shortage of ammunition around the country. It’s like all the bullets have been bought. All of them.
“I’m afraid of what I’m actually seeing in my nation, the hatred, the divisiveness, the leadership without compassion …”
I know I’m biased. We all are. And I know there’s extreme language being used, across the spectrum, to spread fear. But, yes, I am afraid. I’m afraid of what I’m actually seeing in my nation, the hatred, the divisiveness, the leadership without compassion, the violence we’ve already experienced — not what might happen if, and if, and if.
And all the voices I have trusted for all the years of my ministry — all the sources I know to be carefully informed and theologically considered — all of those sources tell me my fears are not unreasonable.
I’ve always hated Halloween. And this year in this election season, I don’t need anything else to fear. The real monsters are scary enough.
Russ Dean serves as co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. He holds degrees from Furman University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. They are parents of two sons. Russ is active in social justice ministries and interfaith dialogue.