If one were to rank the issues about which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is most sensitive, near the very top of the list would be the persistant accusation that Mormons are somehow not Christians. This is literally the first question in the FAQ section at www.mormon.org.Well saying Mormons are Christians because Mormons are sensitive about the issue seems like about the worst argument you can make. Christians believe in love and truth, not love instead of truth. But why should this even be something for Mormons to get bothered about? Joseph Smith asked God which Christian church has the true faith. God allegedly told him that none did. OK, so the Mormon faith that Smith taught would be different from historical Christianity. They talk about the apostasy in the very early days of the church. If Christians are apostates in their thinking they why do they want to claim to have the same faith as Christians?
In responding to this charge over many decades, the church has sought to emphasize its Christian identity. Besides numerous discourses on the subject, the Church has projected a Christian image through the use of visual and material culture. For the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, the Church acquired and displayed its now iconic reproduction of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Christus” statue, which appears on numerous websites and publications. In 1996, the Church changed its logo to feature the words “Jesus Christ” more than twice the size of the other words in the name. The image was meant to communicate the centrality of Jesus Christ to the faith. Church leaders continue to offer impassioned sermons on the topic in recent years.I know the Mormon church has tried to seem Christian. They see it as an evangelization strategy. People will join the Mormon church easier if they think it is Christian. But is there more the Christianity than Logos and statues? Do you simply have to have a high view of Jesus?
The Catholic answer is baptism. Mormons baptisms are problematic for a variety of reasons. The short answer being their understanding of the words used in baptism are radically different from the Catholic understanding. That is something you need to be careful with. Many of the same words are used by Mormons but they mean something completely different in the Mormon context. So then they really aren't the same words.
This election season has brought out renewed efforts from some evangelical leaders to “clarify” for their audiences that, in spite of being permitted to vote for a Mormon candidate for president, they are under no circumstances to consider Mormonism a part of Christianity. This policing of the boundaries of Christianity raises the question of who gets to decide what Christianity is. Different Christians have drawn the boundary differently, depending on whom they are seeking to exclude. For many centuries Protestants drew the boundaries such that Catholics were out of the fold of Christianity, commonly charging the Pope as the Antichrist. Catholics returned the favor. Devastating wars were fought in Europe over precisely who was a Christian and who was not.He is right here. Protestants are quite arbitrary about how they decide who they call Christian and who they don't. They don't have an objective standard and so definitions change with what ideas are fashionable. Petrey is essentially arguing that this is good and Mormonism is now fashionable because of Romney so what is the big deal? If Christianity has no borders then it has no meaning. The fact that the protestant cannot give a clear answer to the question, "What is a Christian?" is a good reason to reject protestantism. It is not a good reason to say absolutely every belief system that wants to be seen as Christian should be recognized as such.
I won't copy all the stuff about Adolf von Harnack. He says "Christianity is not about adherence to dogmas, but about life of faith." He is basically wrong. It is about more than dogma but it is about dogma.
Social theory may offer more help than theology in understanding how the boundaries of Christianity are created and enforced. Identity requires both a sameness and a difference over and against which to define oneself. In order for there to be an inside, there must also be an outside. The self always needs an other, and there is no other which is more fraught than the intimate other, who appears so similar as to be almost indistinguishable. Lines must be produced and guarded in order to protect a particular understanding of what counts as Christianity.I don't get what he means here. First he insists lines should not be drawn that would exclude Mormons. Now he says we need to draw lines. But don't you have the same issues of people being sensitive and people lacking authority?
Definitions of Christianity that seek to portray its essence are arguments about what that essences should be, not objective descriptions of fact. They assume the very thing they are trying to prove. Such definitions are rhetorical and ideological, producing similarities between themselves and what they see as authentic Christianity, and downplaying the differences. Those that represent the boundaries as natural and fixed also represent themselves as atemporal, outside of the tumults of time and space. But we know that such definitions fail the test of time.We need to define what the essence of Christianity is for anyone's inclusion or exclusion to have meaning.That meaning needs to pass the test of time. If there is nothing timeless about Christianity then why bother with it?
If our definitions are always provisional, historically situated, and subject to change, what considerations should we make in determining the boundaries of Christianity? One consideration must be the ethical. As countless scholars have pointed out, the process of drawing boundaries can be fraught ethically. Is it just to exclude a group who claim the title of Christians? In answering this question it is useful to consider how defining some people as “outsiders,” as lacking a claim to some standard of authenticity, is the fundamental ideology behind so many of the ugly prejudices in this world. The Christianity police are often guilty of police brutality more than protection of their constituents. Defining Mormonism out of Christianity sets, and follows, a troubling precedent.He seems to have a mindset of brutality. That somehow when we label somebody non-Christian that we go out and beat them up. There may have been incidence of that but it is hardly a reason to pretend everyone who says they are Christian is. We are merely saying we share, in essence, the same faith. What I share with a baptist or a reformed person is the heart of the Christian faith and so I call them Christians. What I share with a Mormon is more like what I share with a Muslim or a Buddhist. That is something less. Because of that referring to Mormons as Christians would be dishonest. Whether this truth is unpopular with Mormons or with Romney supporters or with anyone else does not really matter.
It does not actually mean I think Mormons are all going to hell. I don't think that about Muslims. I don't think all Baptists and Reformed are going to heaven. I don't even think all Catholics are. The term Christian is a public thing. Salvation is between you and God. The fact that Mormons lack the grace of a valid baptism is a big deal. That is God's normal plan of salvation. Still it is for God to judge their souls. Whether you were labeled a Christian while on earth won't play into it at all.