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I received such beautiful e-mails a month ago, after writing a column about respecting Christianity. People thanked me so kindly, almost cathartically -- so relieved that someone had pointed out that they were not all crazy, right wing, fundamentalist Klan members. That column, however, was somewhat simplistic. In it, I made the distinction between "good Christian" and "Christian-who-wants-to-disenfranchise-me." Since then, I've realized that there is a continuum, and I just can't find the proper place in my heart or my head for the vast population of middle-ground Christians. On the one hand, I want to say that they are "good." They believe in peace and love, they are kind, thoughtful and considerate. They try to emulate Jesus in their daily lives, and I must admit, the man had the right idea. There are certainly worse role models. Even I have been tempted to get one of those "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets, and not just for the kitsch appeal. This way of life comes from honest, productive religious devotion. This, I am fine with. This, I respect. This, is beautiful. Yet, the flip-side of all this beauty is frightening and deadly. Those who accept the Bible as the literal word of God accept quite a bit. I take issue with a lot of scripture, so I'll limit the scope here to the most fundamental issue I can imagine: love. The physical expression of love between same-gendered people is prohibited by the verbatim Judeo-Christian god. So how then should I feel about these people who love God, love peace, love me and happen to think that I will be damned the moment I consummate love with another man? It's not hate; it's not even conscious bigotry -- it's obedience. The question, then, is how relevant is that obedience? -- how volatile? How dangerous are these people, really? I suppose it depends on perspective and scale. On the most micro of levels, there is no threat. I don't feel like I'm in physical danger around these middle-ground Christians. Take a few sociological steps back, though, and the circuit of one-on-one interaction unfolds into a massive machine, where the Christians in question are green lights on the control panel. Their opinion is abstract, intangible: Physical homosexuality is "wrong." It's not for mere humans to punish these "sinners" -- that's God's job, so the green lights just glow calmly and don't directly hurt anyone. They do, however, activate a neighboring mechanism: it's those pesky "Christians-who-want-to-disenfranchise-me." Once you accept that homosexuality is abstractly "wrong," it won't take long to conclude that it's also evil. The signals zip through the machine as each circuit reinterprets literal Christian dogma until, at the end of the assembly line, far away from those calm green lights, emerges Rev. Fred Phelps, dancing on Matthew Shepard's grave. In my column a month ago, I was angry that the extreme right had soured me on innocent groups of Christians. Since then, I can't stop wondering how innocent they really are. Their dogma helps validate homophobia. Even the kindest Christians, if they believe every word of the Bible, are part of a killing machine. That may sound harsh, but it's true, and difficult to deal with. It's hard to look at a pacifist and know they've only kicked a pebble down a hill -- a pebble that gathers earth and turns quickly into a rock, then a boulder, and will land on: who? her? him? ze? me? You probably think it's a stretch. You're wondering if I started out with an irrational fear and built up this contrived metaphor to validate it for myself. I wish you were right. I wish I could see people for people, and not for their macro-sociological function. If I ever accomplish such a change, I'll be happier -- blinder and happier. Until then, I apologize to the "Topic/Support/Conclusion" gurus of journalism, because I see nothing final here -- I'm still working this out. Around these people, I still feel like a conflict-monger, as I watch them radiate that serene glow found only on souls who are unswervingly secure in their beliefs. It's heartbreakingly beautiful up close. But I can't not step back, and watch that glow turn into a mechanical green light, as tranquility gives way to death. I can't end it at this. It doesn't seem right.

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