There are many signs of Halloween in our communities. Ghosts, skeletons, Jack-O Lanterns, tombstones and the like. Americans spend more money on Halloween decorations than any other holiday except Christmas. As the darkness of our daylight hours wanes, we seem to need a way to deal with the prospect of evil in our world.
Pastor Ronald Koch
Most, if not all, world religions have some kind of source for evil in the world that fits their theological thinking. Sometimes evil is a personification like the devil or satan. Other sources of evil are the world itself, or living in a worldly way rather than a religious way. Some mention our own human tendencies to think or do bad things.
For children, Halloween seems like an attempt to overcome scary things. Dressing up as a ghost, a witch, a monster or a villain gives the child a sense of control over that scary part of life. As adults, we are constantly challenged by evil. Corruption in business or politics fills the media. I know someone who was on a Grand Jury for six months, and they were appalled by the evil they had to decide whether there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial.
Faith communities try at their best to provide comfort and solace to those afflicted in their lives by forces of evil. The death of a loved one, the immense pain of a divorce, the son or daughter seemingly lost to addiction, and the constant presence of illness or other ailment—all this and much more are in our midst or on the fringes of life. our existence. We are not so much afraid of ghosts and goblins, but of things beyond our control that can disrupt our sense of peace and happiness.
Within Faith Communities, there are fellow travelers with us on the road of life.
As a pastor I see the members of my faith community and know many stories about how people deal with their losses and fears. I believe we would do well to share our fears and pain within a community that cares about us. It means opening ourselves up to sharing our story, but that in turn opens us up to caring companionship along the way. Once we have experienced that, our joy is doubled and our sadness is halved.
The scary part of Halloween is being alone with a lot of sadness, grief, loss and fear. Our faith communities welcome each of us to give up the rugged individualism that our culture promotes and instead share and shape a welcoming and healing presence that recognizes that we are all in this together. The basis of all this is our confidence that God is with us in our suffering and fear.
Ronald E. Koch is pastor of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gilroy. He is a founding member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County. Pastor Koch can be reached at: [email protected].