WorthyAdvisor has an excellent point. I’ve already given my further thoughts in comment over there, but I’ll cross-post them here:
One of the reasons I really enjoyed studying early Christianity along with all the polytheistic traditions I could get my hands on working on my RS degree is that the way religious groups and movements get going is relevant to our work. We’re still in those first couple hundred years, the pre-Nicean Creed time, so to speak. Of course, the process is accelerated in many ways because of modern communication technology.
People remember that Christianity schismed and reformed and divided into the many denominations it has now, but amazingly few people recognize how varied things were early on before there was a clear single authoritative Church, when people were still figuring out what to DO with this new movement, this new inspiration, how to be recognized in positive ways, how to differentiate themselves from what they weren’t, and the many different interpretations of what the source of their inspiration really signified.
Mind you, I’m hoping we don’t have our forceful unification battles trying to shove all our variations into a few specific boxes – we didn’t all come out of one box in the first place, so there’s no real chance of shoving us all into one box. But for each of our traditions, there’s a lot to be learned from how other traditions have grown and stabilized and stumbled and festered and split and grew apart and stabilized separately again.