The Conservative Republican movement in America is a case study in what fear does when it fully grips a group of people; the emotional net result of being weaned for decades on a steady diet of culture war rhetoric, targeted disinformation, racial stereotypes, incendiary sermons, and plain ol’ white nationalism.

In this environment, the human heart become unable to manufacture empathy for the other, as it finds encroaching enemies everywhere it looks.

Someone in the grips of this kind of prolonged enmity can no longer seek the common good, because it doesn’t recognize how our fortunes are tethered together.

They become terrified of all difference: losing the ability to see the beauty or worth in anyone who does not look or talk or think or believe or vote or worship or love the way they do.

Having long-since jettisoned any notions of understanding a different perspective or being willing to thoughtfully engage a difference of opinion, they now know only how to boycott and ban.

In the absence of any intellectual creativity regarding the complex challenges of crime, of hunger, of sickness, of violence; people default to a simple strategy of blaming, condemning, and eradicating.

Worst of all, when fully addled by this continual exposure to irrational fear, this life becomes a zero-sum game where anyone else’s gain is interpreted as their loss.

At that point, human beings lose the ability or the desire to collaborate or compromise with anyone. They exist solely in a battle posture against those they’ve come to believe are imminent threats, which includes an ever-expanding portion of humanity.

And now we find America brutalized by a group of people who are at war — with everything.

They rage against the LGBTQ community, against the rights of women, against immigrants, and Muslims and Jewish people.

They go to battle with scientists, with medical professionals, with Atheists, with the FBI, with election results, with Liberals, with the Media, with the Constitution.

They mount their incessant brutal assaults upon athletes and entertainers, upon librarians and school teachers, upon theme parks and drag queens, upon beer companies and participation trophies.

To hell with the sick and the poor; with the evaporating natural resources and the rapidly-warming planet; with the unemployed, underserved, and underfed; with the daily mass assassinations at schools and shopping malls. To hell with sorrow and need and loneliness. Those inconveniences merit no urgency, garner no grieving, elicit no such passion.

It must be an exhausting existence to be terrified by so much and hostile to so many. I try to imagine what it feels like to be so viscerally sickened by the breadth of diversity around me and relentlessly in a fear-birthed battle posture toward it — but I can’t.

If there is a dividing line in America, this is it. It is the line between joyful people and miserable people; those who live open-handed toward the world and those whose fists are balled tightly; between people who are compelled by compassion and those fueled by anger; between people who want a bigger table — and those feel it belongs solely to them.

As disheartening as it is to witness people this internally toxic, it’s a cautionary reminder of who we do not want to become, of what we can’t let the fight do to us. We have to steadfastly cultivate beauty inside us despite the outside ugliness; to never be defined by how many things we hate.

May we who oppose this never-ending campaign against the world, never become so devoid of lightness that we resemble those who wage it. May we never applaud someone’s suffering or weaponize our religion to do harm or grow comfortable with hearts that are only capable of anger.

We will passionately move together in these days, but we will do so recognizing that we are inextricably bound together here.

We will fight for the outcasts and the vulnerable and hungry. We will fight for the lonely and the hurting and the desperate. We will fight for the progressive and the moderate and the conservative.

We will fight or the blue voters and the red voters. We will see hatred and ignorance and violence as the only enemies. We will not become people at war with the world. We will fight for everyone. We will fight for everything.

John Pavlovitz

Alessandra Tarantino (AP)

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.