Fear Thrives on Avoidance

Purple Moon – A recent painting of mine, acrylic on canvas

When I was growing up, my family didn’t always celebrate Halloween. We went trick-or-treating when I was very young, but later my parents became convinced that it was unholy. Witches, demons, and ghosts all went against god’s way.

Instead, we celebrated All Saint’s Day on November 1st. We’d dress up as our favorite Christian martyrs or heroes, and our parents would give us candy that was on sale from Halloween.

It has always struck me as odd that the people who “refuse to live in fear” are the most fearful. My family certainly wouldn’t wear masks or get vaccines at any point in the pandemic, or beforehand for that matter.

At the same time, they fear a lot of things that aren’t real. Demonic and “spiritual attack” were regularly discussed in my daily life growing up. It has taken many years to realize these were superstitions.

This wasn’t unique to my family. I knew many other families who avoided Halloween because it represented evil things. My partner grew up celebrating Reformation Day, which was also on October 31st, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the Catholic Church.

I memorized a verse from the bible that said not to live in a spirit of fear. Another passage I memorized listed off the many different kinds of demons and powerful beings that were at war with Christians. I heard entire sermons trying to categorize these “principalities and powers.” A famous book by C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, detailed how a demon might use ordinary events to discourage a Christian. These were all taken very literally.

When we avoid fear, it gets bigger and lingers. I saw this happen in my family and Christian homeschooling community again and again. People would speak about demonic influences in our small church gatherings. Simply having a bad day was seen as evidence of spiritual attack. These were the same people who would insist that they are not fearful.

The fears we avoid grow bigger in the shadows. Avoidance is not a solution. Believing every fear is true is not a solution, either. I have learned that fear is only a signal. It demands careful investigation of the facts.