Scripture makes it clear that God wants to calm our fears. Messengers and the Lord himself say it over and over, hundreds of times, making it one of the most repeated ideas in the Bible.

Abiding fear may have been useful in millennia past when we humans were prey for other species and primal enemies of other tribes. But today, mostly because of media, our fear runneth over. Secular news reports, especially on television, focus on mayhem and blood instead of the other 99.99999% of what happens every day. That gives a skewed picture of reality. Adding to the problem, cop shows, crime dramas, disaster flicks and horror films whip up a false hurricane of alarm that sweeps us away on a tide of terror. Based largely on fear, social media turns discourse into nasty tribalism.

Our human tendency to categorize means that an event like 9-11 leads us unfairly to fear an entire group, like Muslims, who actually have a rich teaching on peace and respect for others. We may even hold a wrongheaded grudge against Trump voters or backers of Biden, even though we are really all on the same American and human teams.

Instead of allowing television, film and social media to form our minds, we should try the real world for a change. Join an interfaith group. Get to know your neighbor, or even a stranger, who votes the opposite ticket from you. Take a trip to a red state or a blue state and chat up locals in diners and kombucha bars.

I rode my bicycle across America in the spring and summer of 1987 at age 22. Many people feared for me and pleaded with me to carry a gun. They were sure I’d be kidnapped and murdered. Instead, I met middle America and it embraced me. People saw my laden cycle and weary bones and offered food, drink and lodging. They chatted, confided and confessed. Whether a Vermont hippie or a Wyoming rancher, they set me off in the morning with good will and lunch. I discovered then that people are fundamentally good and to be trusted. That has been an advantage in my life and I wish everyone felt it.

Strangers — no matter how they vote, where they live or how they worship — can be our joy and salvation.