It happened 326 years ago today, June 1692. In Salem Village, Bridget Bishop, the first colonist to be tried in the Salem witch trials, was hanged after being found guilty of the practice of witchcraft. Trouble in the small Puritan community began in February 1692, when two young girls began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies. A doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft. Under compulsion from the doctor and their parents, the girls named those allegedly responsible for their suffering. With encouragement from adults in the community, the girls joined other “afflicted” Salem residents in accusing more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of satanic practices. The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of nineteen innocent women and men, were halted and dismissed by Governor William Phillips in October of that year.
In reflecting back on the Salem Witch Hanging, I offer two thoughts. First, we must be careful to avoid assigning Evil as the root of all problems. There is not a demon behind every bush. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in this world. Sometimes there are reasons for the bad things that happen to us other than Evil. Sometimes, it’s called “traffic,” “bad choices,” or “a rainy day.” Not all malodies are the result of some spiritual force.
Second, we must be careful to not dismiss all problems as having no spiritual component. There is an evil being who “seeks whom he may devour.” Though God is stronger, the evil one is still strong. It is a mistake to assign him too much authority. And it is a bigger mistake to assign him no authority at all.
Make no mistake. The Salen Witch Hanging was a horrible time in our past. Witches and demons aren’t the cause of everything wrong with your world. But we do wrestle against the powers of darkness, Paul warned us. And we cannot go into battle without the full armor of God.