As we enter a more complex yet promising world of intercultural understanding, one aspect of the growing pains comes in the form of that American favorite, politically correct dialog stoppers. You know them; when talking about race, ethnicity, class, defense, crime, and the perennial election trio, Guns, God and Gays, healthy dialogue can be shut down completely with powerful (but usually meaningless) accusations such as "you're a racist", "you're soft on crime by opposing the death penalty", "you support terrorists by criticizing the president, "you don't support the troops", or my favorite, "you're for abortion" (I have yet to meet anyone who is "for" abortion; but we deal with real life, not fantasy). Its the modern sound bite version of "when did you stop beating your wife?", a paradoxical statement that makes us freeze, unwilling to take the risk of continuing our statement thus continuing progress down the path of a social and political pariah.
And so goes this country's skittish relationship with the pronounced majority, the "Christians" of the right. You know them, they address every moral/ethical issue with the punitive sword/shield approach of the pre-Christian Old Testament: Denounce gays, welfare, peacemakers, poverty, tolerance, and mercy. Fear the Almighty, lest ye be smitten!
But these "Christians" (reminiscent of the Inquisition) seem to ignore the New Testament (and the Beatitudes) which encourages not exclusion and fire & brimstone theology but rather a more compassionate approach, one that includes, forgives, heals, promotes peace, tolerance, humility, and which nurtures. I hope we can all strive to be that kind of person, no matter what our religion (if any).