It seems there is something in many religious people that loves to punish and exclude others. It’s particularly overt in conservative circles but, make no mistake about it, it’s just as prevalent in progressive circles. The only difference is that progressives tend to be a lot more subtle about it. Whether it’s the overt exclusion of excommunication or the subtle exclusion of the cold shoulder, the damage is done and the message is clear – you are not okay. While excluders often claim and most often believe they are acting on behalf of God, the truth is that they are acting on behalf of their own fear and need for certainty. The presence of those who see the world differently from the way we see the world serves as a reminder that we don’t have everything all figured out. The fear begins when our particular explanation for “how things work” is what we use to justify refusing to consider new information or try out new perspectives. It is a fear rooted in laziness and uncertainty, so much so that anyone who is different poses such a threat that they must be eliminated from our group – never mind that such practices were completely foreign to Jesus because for most of us Jesus has nothing to do with our religion, our claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Healthy religion and spirituality push us to stretch beyond the confines of comfortable into the uncertainty of growth, and growth never occurs in a vacuum!