I wrote this essay in the fall of 2020, before the election and right in the middle of the extreme tensions surrounding the election, COVID issues, and racial justice issues. I would rather not enter into the fray of current debates when they’re actually happening, and still am not debating any of the issues themselves.

A year later, I feel that the tenets still apply, and I finally felt comfortable sharing this. The second part is written to Christians specifically, but if that isn’t your category, I hope you can read the post for what it is, and understand my heart.

We are living in a time and place that is being cultivated by the extremities of fear.

Besides fear of COVID and/or fear of conspiracies around COVID, we now have even more fear being pumped into us as the election grows closer and closer.

Our two political parties have shifted their bait – more this year than ever before. They have gone from having a platform of ideals, beliefs and stances to having a platform constructed of nothing but fears.

They have learned that due to social media, nothing sells faster, draws people in deeper, and makes them more evangelical for a cause more efficiently than fear.

Fear radicalizes even normally logical people.

The fears I see used the most – and this is not an exhaustive list, are:

The Republican Party controls by the fear of:

  • Loss of rights (especially religious and gun rights)
  • Loss of money (through taxes and social services)
  • Criminals and unrest
  • Corrupt / conspiratorial rulers
  • Censorship
  • The concept that life as we know it will be over (with regards to freedom and democracy)

The Democratic Party controls by fear of:

  • Poverty – individually or community-wide
  • Death / disease
  • Injustice and inequality
  • Global warming and environmental issues
  • The concept that life as we know it will stay forever (with regards to racism and injustice)

Here’s how those fears bloom, with the help of social media, into hatred.

Step One: Fear is offered in an attractive way (as attractive as fear can be offered.)

…Democrats offer their fear as a bite of compassion toward others, of human decency, and sometimes through shame and fear of being ostracized/cancelled.

…Republicans offer their fear as a bite of patriotism and religion, the two often so braided together that they cannot easily be unwound, and causing religious people to slowly and unknowingly replace their actual religion with the religion of patriotism, liberty, and freedom.

Step Two: Fear is ingested by those already bent toward those beliefs. As it digests, it morphs and grows.

Step Three: Fear is shared. On social media, through sharing articles that confirm one’s fear of choice. Often accompanied by a status such as “This is terrifying” or some other hot take to impress on the readers the urgency of fear realization.

“Do you realize that unless we do something about this fear, there will be much suffering and grief?”

…But then the sharer sees other people in their social media feeds sharing the opposite fear from the opposite party.

“Did you know that caving to that fear creates extreme suffering and grief in this other way??”

Step Four: They read that opposite fear and it creates deep indigestion and anger as it mixes dissonantly with their own fear.

And hatred is born.

Step Five: Their social media posts, which used to be pleading and fearful and even informational and informative at best, mold and curdle. They turn in their phrasing and slant and become accusatory and hateful, damning and exclusive.

“If you don’t buy into my fear, then just unfollow me!”

“If you are going against my fear, then I will take it as a personal attack on myself and my family.”

Insert anything you wish into those fear spots…

…Wearing masks / not wearing masks.

…Gun control / Right to bear arms.

…Racial injustice / Critical Race Theory.

…Getting a vaccine / not getting a vaccine.

But here’s the bottom line:

ALL of those people on both sides of every issue are being controlled by fear, and being used to breed hatred. And by so doing, they are fulfilling the prophecies that they are fighting against.

…They are fulfilling the fear that life as we know it will be over – because we are a fractured, polarized nation feasting on fear and hatred, rather than seeking logical and compassionate discourse that first looks to love, see, and understand others.

…They are fulfilling the fear that life as we know it will stay forever – because when the discourse is being focused in a negative, hateful, accusatory way, it is not constructive, does not bring anyone over to their cause but only causes the “other side” to further entrench,  and only grows the rifts that they want fixed.

…They are fulfilling the fear of being censored by spreading hate and violence haphazardly, which often leads to spreading misinformation without realizing it.

We must step away from the fear, and from the devices / channels / apps / media / political parties that are using us as vessels of fear. We must be committed to separating our emotions from our discourse, and practice seeing issues from both sides. We must embrace the idea of nuance, as none of our societal issues are rightly answerable by one extreme or the other.


To my fellow Christians:

Over the past two years I have watched as the above pattern has leached through the Christian community at an accelerating rate. It has infected our churches, our community groups, and our families. Social media has been full of the taking of sides, the forming of battle lines, the rude jabs that take place on the internet between people who claim to love and respect each other, and the continuous pushing of fear-agendas and conspiracy theories.

We as Christians are called to live in a different place than this. On a different plane of mental existence. With different focus and priorities and perspective.

Psalm 43 (The Passion Translation) says:

“For you are where my strength comes from and my protector, so why would you leave me now? Must I be covered with gloom while the enemy comes after me, gloating with glee? Pour into me the brightness of your daybreak! Pour into me the rays of revelation-truth! Let them comfort and gently lead me onto the shining path, showing the way into your burning presence, into your many sanctuaries of holiness. Then I will come closer to your very altar until I come before you, the God of my ecstatic joy! Then I will say to my soul, ‘Don’t be discouraged; don’t be disturbed, for I fully expect my Savior-God to break through for me.’ Yes, living before His face is my saving grace!

Specifically regarding the fear that Christians are losing a battle in government, The New Testament’s words about government never had to do with Christians gaining power and influence or not losing their rights. Also, we can clearly see by looking at many of the politicians who have claimed to be Christians that Christian Power does not always promote Christian Values. In fact, often it does the opposite – it corrupts, it exposes hypocrisy (politicians using Christianity to gain votes and then having their own lives exposed) and it ultimately drives many, many people away from Christ.

What the Bible does tell us, repeatedly, about Government, is to submit to it.

1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Romans 13:1-2 (ESV)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 

If we find ourselves in a place where we are suspicious and rebellious against everything that our Government suggests, urges, or promotes, or in a place where we’re quicker to follow any random conspiracy theory than our government, then perhaps we need to reassess our hearts and see if we’re doing that out of true biblical conviction, or out of a seed of fear. Regardless of whether the government is right or wrong, we have been commanded to be subject to it.

On a related note, the Bible tells us not to worry. A LOT.

Psalm 37:8 (NIV)

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Philippians 4:6-8 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What if we applied the second part of that passage to what we allow ourselves to post — or click through and read — on Facebook? And what if, instead of sharing and growing fear, when we feel fear, we apply the first part of that passage?

I know it’s not easy. I’ve personally struggled with fear of judgment from others, and fear of where all of the radicalization of opinions will lead to. I have had too much fear to post this essay about fear. Ironic, no?

So I’ll tell you what I keep telling myself. If you find yourself in a place of great turmoil, anxiety, or depression with regards to anything having to do with the here and now, the temporal, the political, or even the viral, I recommend reducing your social media time, turning off the news, closing your browser windows, moving away from the present, and immersing yourself in the Kingdom of God. The peace that passes understanding is the solution to your fears. It is the reason for our hope. It is the balm to our anxiety and depression caused by living in this fear-addled time. And it is what truly matters.


This post is not about any of the specific issues that were mentioned as examples, and will not be a place for debate about those issues. Any comments trying to spread fear or debate issues will be disallowed, for the safety of the environment and the keeping of my sanity.

3 thoughts on “Radicalization by Fear.

  1. I can tell that you have a good heart, and that you are struggling with the polarization of our culture over the last few years. My intent here is to be kind, but if you need to delete my comment, I understand.

    Some of the things that we are told to be afraid of are not actually real, or are being misrepresented. For instance: “Critical Race Theory” is a *legal* theory that is taught to graduate students. It is being used as a boogeyman to mean “teaching (white) children that racism is real”. Simply teaching the actual history of this country should not be controversial.

    Meanwhile, some of the things we are told to be afraid of, we are not nearly afraid of enough as a society. Climate change will destroy our lives, our planet and our future, and we should be afraid of it – and thereby driven to act on it. It is a fact and it is one we’re not facing up to.

    I agree that online discourse can become toxic. Facebook is dangerous and people love to argue, and sometimes we need to avoid the news for our own sanity. I wish you peace and good mental and physical health. But I also wish clarity for you, to see that you can’t “both sides” your way into a middle ground that doesn’t exist.

    1. As I said, I’m not here to discuss the issues, so I won’t address the ones you brought up. My point was not that *every* issue has a happy middle ground that is the solution. I do think that most issues are much more nuanced than the extreme of either side of them, and few have easy plug-and-play solutions.

      My point is that fear, if it drives us to hatred or the inability to have respectful and logical discourse with others, is ultimately not productive, and will not lead to solutions to the things we fear, nor convince anyone of our viewpoints on any of those issues.

      My hope is that by talking about and identifying our root fears, and then being able to see the nuances that may be getting missed because of them, we can all reach a greater understanding for and love of each other.

  2. I love this, it is so true. I do think it is a really hard issue though because the very nature of fear tells us we must listen to it. There are indeed things to be afraid of, and there might be things we can do to prevent the things we fear from coming to fruition. Fear creates a sense of urgency which feels utterly necessary when faced with such huge potential problems. I too have noticed people close to me who seem to have completely opposite fears as each other and yet both are completely sincere in the fear and their belief we must do something about these issues. (And thus believe we must stay afraid, lest we lose that precious urgency.)

    There was a philosopher, I forget who, who said there are only two emotions and thus two motivations: love or fear. Pondering on this has helped me immensely in parenting. Every once in a while I start to fear that my children need to be different than they are, more polite, less lazy (they aren’t lazy :-)), more generous, and I get this immense urge to implement stricter controls or put my foot down once and for all. But upon reflection it’s not hard to see that it’s fear and not love behind it. Fear is the thing that tells us we must be in control, now, and at all costs, even if it is the cost of your relationship with your kids.

    But love, love doesn’t say that those things don’t matter, it just remembers that relationships do matter and that we and our children are human and not robotic. Love knows that it is important that our children learn these things but love also remembers that humans take time to learn things. Love remembers that our children have emotions that must be listened too and sympathized with. Love remembers that we cannot mold them into the ideal children but only encourage and assist and watch what their stories will be be. This is not fatalistic: in the end, love cares more than fear does, and the things it cares about are more real and less about appearances.

    I’ve found myself afraid of many of those issues (on both sides) lately. Just letting go of the fear feels like ignoring the problems. But this idea of love versus fear has calmed me much. Love is not inaction, but neither is it the desperation for control that leads us to resent or hate those who resist that control.

    I miss your lighthearted posts, I would read those when I was anxious at night and feel better. But I hope these hard and more serious times lead us to a better understanding of life and love, like all times of change have the potential to do. Thanks for this articulation and for the bravery it takes to choose love over fear. :-)

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