I wonder if ism’s are not so much a form for labeling or categorizing things but rather a way to separate us from each other and reality. While confirming the authorship of a quote for Signposts, I came across a comment about Roman Catholicism’s exclusivism. When I was a non-believer, I had assumed that Protestants were the more open and accepting group. Now that am a believer, and inside the Catholic Church, I find that it is reversed. Catholics tend to be more open and accepting. (Note the words “tend to be”.) Catholicism is like a giant umbrella. It covers a very wide range of diverse people, cultures, ideas, histories, etc. There is even room for diverse opinions on theology (within limits of course). The very orthodox sit, kneel, stand, and pray next to the unorthodox and the conservative communes with the liberal in the same pew.
I am suspicious of claims of Catholicism’s exclusivism. Why are there so many Protestant denominations? Two groups within a congregation have an issue on a point of doctrine. They can’t agree, and so they split. You cannot belong to “their” group unless you agree with them. Thousands of Protestant denominations, one Catholic church, who is being exclusive?
Those outside of the Church could claim that I am blinded by the propaganda from Rome. (I am not sorry to say that Rome had nothing to do with my conversion.) The walls of the Church to them are a narrow and confining prison for thinking. On the contrary, the Church is a wide, open space, much more like a large, open playground. There is space to run and explore, play and work, all within a safe environment. The walls of the Church are not to keep people in, but to keep out the whimsical fads of the current culture. (Just look at Dispensationalism for one example.) Unfortunately those outside the Church walls only see walls, and they are blinded by them.
The Church is not a building. It is not doctrine or dogma. It is people. It is the people not only of this present time, but all people throughout history since (and a very strong case can be made for those before) Good Friday. The Church spans time and history into eternity because the Church is the Body of Christ.