America is facing a growing poverty in these days. We are going broke an alarming rate, and we need to do something quickly to change our corporate fortunes.

This is a national paucity of the gravest kind: a base level lack of compassion for the welfare of other human beings. It is trickle-down cruelty flowing from the top; an unapologetic callousness that revels in its contempt for people who are hurting or hungry or vulnerable—and it is changing us.

Though they claim to embrace both the Golden Rule and the command by Jesus to love others as they love themselves, supporters of this President seem incapable of asking (or simply refuse to ask) a seemingly elemental question undergirding both:

“What is it like to be someone else?”

What is it like to be a Mexican parent, living in such fear and lack and urgency that you would take your children and all that you could carry, and brave arrest and dehydration to cross into a place offering the possibility of rest and refuge?

What is it like to be a Muslim in America; to be openly vilified and verbally assaulted for your profession of faith; a faith as elemental and meaningful and life giving for you as your own tradition is?

What is it like to be a young black man pulled over on a traffic stop; having seen all the bodycam footage and cell phone video, and knowing that the rules that keep most people safe in such situations, don’t always seem to apply to people who look like you?

What is it like to have a child diagnosed with a quickly spreading cancer that they cannot possibly combat without it financially crippling them; to feel helpless in the face of a priceless loss that is preventable?

What is it like to be an LGBTQ teenager, bullied from birth and told from your pastor, your classmates, and your Vice President that you are less than, that you are an abomination; that you should not be able to use the bathroom you feel safest in, or adopt children, or marry the person you love?

These humanity-defending questions never seem to make it through the barricades of fear and prejudice and knee-jerk middle finger malice that seem so commonplace, and as a result, we grow poorer and poorer. We once were the richest of nations in this regard, it is there in our Constitution and etched at the feet of the personification of such empathy:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

At the end of the day, the crisis facing us is for the collective soul of our country. It is not disagreement on policy that is doing the greatest damage to us as a people, it is a scarcity of kindness in the face of pains and need and grief, that is bankrupting us perhaps beyond repair.

When people openly deride other human beings while they are at their most vulnerable; when their default response to suffering is ridicule and incendiary rhetoric—we’ve lost the best of ourselves, and we are morally bankrupting ourselves.

There is a poverty of empathy in this President’s America, and until we recover a prosperous compassion that seeks to understand the hell other people are going through, we will never be the same again.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.