There’s something incredibly frustrating about America’s extremism debate. There are truths we all know, but we just don’t want to apply them consistently. Here’s one such truth: The more hateful and vicious rhetoric that’s culturally upstream, the greater the risk of violence downstream. We know this because we know human nature.

If you participate in politics, ministry, or any other cultural enterprise centered on a cause, you know that engagement, energy, and action work like a funnel. At the top of the funnel is the general idea—“We must win the 2024 presidential election” or “We must ease the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”

At every level of interest or action beyond the broad idea, engagement both narrows and intensifies. Let’s look at humanitarian aid, for example. Lots of folks will passively agree with the general, virtuous principle. Fewer people will share news stories. Fewer still will share donation links. Fewer still will donate. And the smallest number of all will put their bodies in the field, serving refugees and sometimes even placing themselves in harm’s way.

What’s the constant? The more you care, the more you do. So while the maximum level of commitment is at the very bottom of the funnel—many steps removed from the general idea—that commitment is inextricably linked to the idea itself. If that commitment is linked to an idea rooted in love, then it can show humanity at its best.

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