Franklin Graham, Amygdalas, and the Futility of Fighting with Fear

Franklin Graham, Amygdalas, and the Futility of Fighting with Fear December 9, 2015

Amygdala of the brain, artwork
Amygdala of the brain, artwork

I made the disastrous mistake of accidentally reading today’s Islamophobic diatribe from Franklin Graham (how did this show up in my newsfeed? I *blocked* all FG posts ages ago!?).

But instead of getting mad at him or losing my shit over the comments (because seriously – my head pops off and fire erupts **exactly like** on InsideOut, which is the most emotionally accurate film ever made – don’t even try to debate me on this.), I scrolled through comments, careful NOT to read them, and prayed a blessing on each Image Bearer who commentstands either in solidarity against Muslims, or against those who’re against Muslims.

Because listen: Scared people don’t need to be yelled at or berated. They don’t need to be mocked. They don’t even hear it.

Their amygdalas are triggered and they’re in fight-or-flight mode. People aren’t reasonable when their amygdalas are dictating response. That’s the whole point of the amygdala: it’s a total system override.

And dudes, once the amygdala is triggered, it takes like 20 minutes to calm it back down. And each time it’s re-triggered (like, for instance, when one keeps trying to argue with or prove it wrong), that time is compounded. And then, even after a scared person has calmed down, every time she thinks about The Event, the amygdala is re-triggered and the clock starts over.

The amygdala is actually super useful when you’re actually in danger, but it totally sucks at deciphering Actual Danger from Fear-mongering Lies.

So anyway, scared folks don’t need to be argued into reason (because that’s literally impossible); they need to stop living in fear of other Image Bearers for whom Jesus shed His blood.

And to get out of Fear mode which makes monsters of humans, people need Love.

Because Perfect arguments insults bible verses Love Casts Out Fear.


Of course, we are right when we passionately call-out, name, and condemn bigotry, discrimination, phobias, and oppression of other people. They are Image Bearers first, always, and only. And it is wrong to abide or tolerate any kind of speech or behavior that either loudly perpetuates it or quietly ignores and enables it.

But bottom line is, scared people need to experience in those deep soul corners only Christ can access the Love that drives out Fear and makes Peace in the middle of a battlefield.

Ultimately we all want/need to walk the Narrow Road where to Live is Christ (selflessly and self-sacrificially) and to Die is Gain (death has lost its sting; kill me, and I’ll go to God – what can death take that I need?).

But to even consider venturing off the Fear road and onto the Narrow Way, they need Love.

I cannot change hearts by arguing with amygdalas. I can accomplish literally no things by arguing with amygdala – other than keeping the amygdala in charge.

But I can actively pray blessings and Love into their Selves, where Fear is systematically and totally disempowered by Love – just as Light drives out Darkness.

I say “they” like it’s not “we.”

Really, this is for all of us, including me.

As it turns out, a quick antidote for the triggered amygdala is choosing to pray blessings upon rather than cursing the one whose comments triggered it.

Ps: this amygdala stuff is legit science. You can look it up.

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