Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week you’ll have heard about the latest sinister craze sweeping the UK. Teenagers and adults dressed in creepy clown outfits and masks have been appearing on streets and in parks, filming themselves scaring children and adults.
When my eleven year old son came home at the start of this week 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 fairly serious matter when I received an email from the school informing us that some children had become very scared about the phenomenon and encouraging parents to be vigilant. Now my 8-year-old daughter is scared of going outside.
Since then multiple articles have appeared in the papers about the craze (which seems to have begun in the USA) including some instances where physical violence is taking place. The UK’s ChildLine phone service has reported a wave of calls from petrified kids.
In response there have been vigilante groups forming online, aimed at countering the clowns by ‘patrolling’ the streets. I’ve even seen one or two gung-ho posts on my own Facebook timeline from individuals threatening to give the clowns a taste of their own medicine if they run into any of them.
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?
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?
It was the 17th century mathematician and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal who first coined the phrase of "a God Shaped Hole" in every person’s life. It’s still as true today as it was then.
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. Anything to distract ourselves from the hole that never gets filled.
I see so much potential for the church to bring Christ to people today
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, is a reminder that our politics is a reflection our own narcissistic culture. We get the leaders we deserve.
If this all sounds a bit doom–laden then allow me to end on a hope-filled note. Jesus fills the hole. He always has and he always will. And I see so much potential for the church to bring Christ to people today.
So do people like church leader Nicky Gumbel whose HTB network are leading the charge in revitalising the Anglican church in the UK. So does Debbie Wright, national leader of Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland, whose ‘Letter to the UK Church’ is a reminder that God is on the move in a hundred different ways. Even Richard Dawkins has been an unwitting evangelist in recent years.
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.