I have been thinking about what it is that bothers me most about the sort of unnecessary exclusion that can occur in more fundamentalist circles.
Musing on the effects of fundamentalism within the Christian church, I am thinking what most puts me off about having a firm belief and practise in doctrines that leave us feeling we are offending God by merely associating socially with those who do not share our depth of doctrinal belief and practise, is that it removes the focus from allowing God to be the overarching God of the universe. It denies his inscrutable being in so many ways. It says we do not believe our own Scriptures that tell us that we do not know our own hearts the way God does. Exclusionary fundamentalism that uses fear of those who are "not us" to keep us socially and culturally isolated from possibility being tainted by their "other" influence removes God from the throne of not only judgement but of mercy and compassion. We take God off his own throne and replace his judgements with our own, effectively putting us in God's place. In our attempts to achieve moral and spiritual purity we can become overly judgemental, lacking in compassion, arrogant, self-righteous, sarcastic and downright nasty toward those who do not share our doctrines and practises in their entirety.
On the other hand the Christian God is demanding. He demands that we make every attempt to learn to know him, to obey his commands to us, to avoid personal sin as much as we are able to hear and obey and repent and atone. While there are some pretty thin lines between obedience to what we either accurately or inaccurately believe to be the truth through biblical revelation and overstepping into self-righteousness, we can also be in danger of geting caught up in a lot of wishy-washy syncretism and inclusion of the wrong practises that are just as harmful to our spirits and our spiritual communities as being overly judgemental of others.
Striking the balance takes a lot of thought, prayer, humility, open mindedness on all sides of this issue, fostering an ever growing personal relationship with God and dependence on the Holy Spirit to continually assist us in sorting through our doctrines and practises.
I absolutely believe we can learn good things from other religions, their philosophies and their disciples. I believe we can have more dialogue together about where we are in agreement. However, we have to understand that there are some areas where we cannot combine our beliefs into one. Some ideologies are simply incompatible with each other. eg If a Muslim person, a believer in one god was to join in worship with a Hindu person, who believes in many gods, is that person still a Muslim? Well, not according to the definition of that religion.
Aaaah...this walking by faith business is quite a deal isn't it? Being a Christian is never boring, that is for certain!! There is SO MUCH to think about and enjoy learning about...constantly!
Back to my musings...I guess if I am going to spend a lot of time thinking about something connected to God and church life, I might as well pick some huge issue like this that takes years of thought and study, right? haha