Poison. It’s a pervasive thought in Western culture. Think of Sleeping Beauty and Hamlet. Poison is even in Disney. “So, my pretty. Where do we go with all of this?”
An interesting thought of recent scholars would suggest that poison was behind the Salem witch trials. It started with poison and ended with appalling death and suffering. The theory goes that the inhabitants were poisoned by a fungus called ergot which grew on their rye. The fungus produces a chemical very much like LSD. The poison would be more rampant among the young with the core group of accusers being young girls. Since it grew on rye, it would be more a disease of the poor which is again true. Cold wet winters cause the fungus to grow. We end up with an intriguing theory that makes us take another look at such things as witch trials, Black plague and phenomenon like St Vitus dance.
While this is very interesting it misses the point. Most of the anti witch activities were in Germany where there was conquest and reconquest between Catholics and Lutherans. Some were accused up to 3 times as different armies went through the region. The though was, people who oppose us must be evil and this society was ordained by God.
Fear is the real poison that rampaged through Salem. The pastor was on the outside of the existing social milieu. The city refused to pay taxes to pay the pastor and run the church. The city opposed God’s work. Therefore they must be evil.
Imagine if you were young and impressionable and you were filled with all this talk of evil. What would you see? How would you respond to the problem? You would respond the way the adults and leaders of your community did.
Fear is a poison that has never been appointed by God. It is a weapon of people. It is a very imperfect weapon as it kills indiscriminately, sometimes even the perpetrator. God says “I will trample Satan under your feet.” God tramples. We do not. Love casts out fear. It’s a spiritual promise. Our wells can fill up with poison very quickly. Maybe instead of condemnation, it might be time to try something else