Recently, in the little worlds that I for some reason still pay attention to, there’s been a lot of talk about whether or not Mormons are Christians.
Growing up in a fundamentalist charismatic home, Mormons were always considered heretical, part of a cult, etc. This was unquestioned. I even got sent to the principal’s office once (I think in 4th grade) because my dad told me to tell a Mormon girl that she was going to hell, so I did. I was just speaking the truth, right?
“Good job, son.”
Honestly, I didn’t have the slightest clue what Mormons really believed, and I had demonized the kids in the my class simply because they were Mormons.
So, what do Mormons believe? Is that a question that even makes any sense?
Or, is Mormonism a cult?
This is the conclusion I came to awhile ago: being a Christian, following Jesus, is not primarily about believing things. It’s about a way of life, a trajectory.
Of course, I know that many Christians – primarily those curmudgeons evangelicals – will already disagree. They’ll start describing some creeds that some important people Decided they agreed on a long time ago. They’ll start quoting verses. And on and on…
I really – seriously – don’t care.
Maybe the word Christian can be defined. But, I think the definition has to include the majority of people who have ever claimed to be Christian. If ones definition does not include the majority of those people, then the definition is historically inaccurate.
If you asked every single Christian who has ever lived “why are you a Christian?” “what makes you a Christian?” and other similar questions, I’m sure there would be some commonality, but, overall, you would get very diverse answers.
And I think this is by design.
Christians, if nothing else, are defined by Jesus the Christ. From my perspective, that’s it. That’s what a Christian is. No other definition works. We can all disagree as to what that actually means for each of us, individually and as groups.
And, yes, there are limits. There are boundaries. There are claims that can be made that are so far beyond reasonableness, that they are ridiculous. But, the difficulty is that none of us actually knows where those lines should be drawn.
Just like most people who happen to attend evangelical churches – or even hold leadership positions in them – don’t actually believe all the things that they’re supposed to, I’m sure the same could be said of Mormons. So, a question like, “what is the official position of the Mormon church on ___?” makes much more sense than “what do Mormons believe?” The latter actually would require us to have an actual conversation with a real person.
I have been attracted to certain progressive Christian communities and conversations because they seem to subvert a lot of these kinds of questions. I wish the same could be said for everyone who wants to throw the word “progressive” or “emergent” around.
Maybe instead of focusing on who is in or out, where to draw the lines, who to exclude and who to include, we should focus on things that actually matter. And we should stop perpetuating the common perception that Christians only or primarily care about these kinds of things.
“We will be known by our…” boundaries? Hopefully not.