Long before I ever came into my period of "questioning" my beliefs, throughout the years I never really understood why Christianity was divided into the thousands of denominations we have today. I suppose if we wanted to know how, we would have to look at church history and the reformation from the Roman Catholic Church and so on. But I just always thought the idea that we as Christians needing to "further define our beliefs" by creating sub-genres for ourselves (over petty issues like "I dont believe in baptizin' no babies!") was rather silly.
Thus in the past 8 or so years of being "saved" Ive never really considered myself any particular denomination (well when I was a little kid I called myself Catholic having no idea what that meant, but my dad was! And later in life I would sometimes call myself a Wesleyan if people asked since the church I was baptized in was Wesleyan). But I never really felt that urge to box my beliefs up and brand them with a label for all to see that Im "part of THAT group". I was saved, I was Christian, I believed in the Bible...and that was good enough for me. Even when I found myself becoming a Christian Universalist this past year, I was reluctant to embrace the label. Not because I was ashamed of it, but its easy for people to see "universalist" and equate that with "Unitarian"(which Im not going to get into the difference right now). So before I even get a chance to talk about my beliefs, already people will assume things about me and my beliefs that aren't necessarily true. Though I suppose that will happen no matter what I do or call myself, and even the "Christian" label itself has those general assumptions attached. Anyway, getting back to the point...
I suppose one could say that denominations and sub-groups exist, to keep groups of people happily worshiping God the way they want; which I would say is an important thing in essence. I mean, I wouldn't want to rattle the old folk with our "loud" worship music and make them squint at power point slides if they didnt want to (which is obviously why most churches have contemporary and traditional services). And I wouldn't want to force people to attend services where speaking in tongues and convulsing on the floor are regular activities, if they didn't feel comfortable with that brand of "holy spirit fun".
But the real problem ive begun to see is that denominations, whatever "pros" there may be to them, keep Christians very divided. Every denomination, or sub division we create for ourselves as believers in Christ, only creates more separation in what is supposed to be one body of Christ. And a body divided...is not really a fully functioning body the way it was designed to be. Paul talked about the subject a few different times I believe, but I think he really sumed it up in 1 Corinthians 12:17-19
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the nostrils be? But, as a matter of fact, God has arranged the parts in the body--every one of them--as He has seen fit. If they were all one part, where would the body be?
Every person, no matter what denomination, or how different their beliefs may be...functions in a certain way that another person cannot(or perhaps cannot yet). Each individual "member" has the ability to see and do things that maybe another person with another personality and perception cannot. For example, some people may be more equipped to do prison ministry because their background is that of an ex-felon. Or more related to what I'm talking about, some people may have been shown a side of "truth" that maybe another person isn't yet able to see. Just like the brain is unable to perceive smell without the use of the noise. Nor can it perceive sound, without the use of the ear. Certain body parts do certain things, but they're all pretty much needed to be connected as one, in order to be a healthy, working, full-fledged body.
One line in a lyric by ascitiesburn kindof attests to the absurdity of divided believers,
And if we are the Body, how'd the pretty man get so ugly?
How'd He get all these, spaces between each limb?
Anyway, this is an important reminder to me, because as my beliefs and perceptions drift further away from what I always call "mainstream Christianity", Ive really questioned my place in a system I no longer fully embrace. Ive found it increasingly hard for me to fellowship, participate in church and play the smiling "im okay everybody!" game, when I feel there are many lies about God and His plan being preached and largely unexamined. However, I'm coming to find that I should not let that in anyway hinder my fellowship with believers that ascribe to the mainstream(though many times its actually they who want nothing to do with me). And if anything, that should be all the more reason to participate in the mainstream Christian system(at least from time to time); to help people to think about what I feel God has been showing me, and in turn, learn some things that I don't yet see or understand.
Universalism and all the things Ive learned have been great, and I would love to attend a church(or perhaps even start a small group/house church) that believes in such things at some point. But on the other hand, the body of Christ does not need more division. It needs more unity, to fully function and perform the will of God on Earth. It needs tolerance to accept the fact that not everyone interprets the bible the same, and not everyone has the same perspective on things. Just because someone doesnt believe the same as you, doesnt necessarily mean that they're wrong; it just means that God perhaps has not yet revealed to them what hes revealed to you. Or maybe even Hes revealed some things to them, that you haven't been yet shown (and here you thought you had God all figured out? lol).
I guess I'll close by saying this: If we are supposed to be a body, then we should treat each other as invaluable, and irreplaceable parts of Gods will. That doesn't mean everyone has to believe like you, or you have to believe like them. It doesn't mean even that you have to go to church every Sunday or listen to Christian music or attend the same Christian events. What I think it does mean though, is that we should cast off this "us against them" mentality, and realize that we could learn alot from one another. Most importantly, we should help each other, in reaching the rest of human kind with the love and teachings of Christ and His salvation.