When my eleven-year-old son came home talking about “killer clowns” I assumed it must be an urban legend of the sort that do the rounds in school playgrounds. But I realised it was a serious matter when I received an email from the school informing us that some children had become very scared and encouraging parents to be vigilant.

Since then articles have appeared in the papers about the craze and there have even been vigilante groups forming online. I’ve seen one or two gung-ho posts on my Facebook timeline from individuals threatening to give the clowns a taste of their own medicine if they run into any of them.

I’m sure the fad will fizzle out as quickly as it started. In the meantime, any retaliation will only increase the thrill for the kids tempted to engage in these forms of extreme ‘pranking’. After all, that’s why they’re at it in the first place. Who would go around trying to scare school children unless there was a fairly gaping hole in their life which they’re trying to fill in some way?

Plenty of people will be filling that hole by getting wasted on booze or drugs this weekend. Others will seek to fill it with one-night stands, money, power, work, play, hobbies, social media, catch-up TV or any other number of pursuits both benign and destructive.  

The problem is that, in the end, we can’t live with ourselves. Even the bizarre spectacle of this year’s bitter US election battle between Clinton and Trump (navigated by Tony Campolo on p26 and Skye Jethani on p32) is a reminder that our politics is a reflection of our own narcissistic culture.

If this all sounds a bit doom-laden, then allow me to end on a hope-filled note. Jesus fills the hole and he always has. I see so much potential for us to bring Christ to people today. So does the founder of Soul Survivor Mike Pilavachi who is calling for the transforming power of the Spirit to be taken out onto the streets in a new way (p40).

So does former gangster John Lawson, a living example of how the spirit of God can turn a broken life into a new creation (p46). So does Pete Greig of 24-7 Prayer, whose ‘Letter to the UK Church’ (p56) is a reminder that God is on the move in hundreds of different ways. Even Richard Dawkins has been an unwitting evangelist in recent years (‘Culture’ p16).

Dawkins, Hillary, Trump. They all need Jesus, and so do you and I. So let’s share him – with them, with each other and with any other clowns you may happen to bump into today.

Justin Brierley Senior editor