You see them on the news every night. Extremists. Hate groups. The lunatic fringe. And you cringe every time some new radical or abusive psychopath makes the papers again, because you know that strangers and even friends are going to be wary of you now. You suspect they’re afraid you’re like that too. You feel caught in the crossfire between the frightening, hateful fanatics who call themselves by the same name you do, and the bigots who tar you all with the same brush. You’re a Christian.

“The bad news is that we’re all part of the same body,” says Amy Laura Hall, an associate professor at Duke and the creator of Profilgategrace.com. “The bad news is that somebody like George W. Bush and I are part of the Methodist church, and he’s condoning what I and many in the community say is torture. But the good news,” she continues, “is we’re part of the same body. Therefore we have a responsibility to keep engaging in political discourse, and conversation with people on all opposing sides.” Not that it doesn’t get exhausting, battling the scorn from both within and without.

As a practicing Catholic, I have lived my entire adult life being skeptical, questioning and critical of the backward policies of my institution, and the horrific crimes committed by its members and perpetuated by its authorities. These days, I figure most people associate my religion with child molesters and Rick Santorum. But I have stuck with my faith – albeit a very different one than the traditional image of some papal ring-kissing, birth control-hating freak that tends to get more attention — because the values I learned directly from a Christian upbringing are the values I still try to apply to my life every day. And if you, as either a conservative Christian or a staunch nonbeliever, think that’s easy, it isn’t. It’s a struggle. But it’s an often wonderful struggle.

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