A Play in One Act
Heber: . . . and that’s why we should all recognize that Mormons are Christians.
Aquinas: Whoa, whoa. I understand your enthusiasm. The label of Christian is really valuable. But it also has a set definition. And I don’t think Mormons are in that definition.
Heber: Why not? We believe in Jesus, don’t we? Christianity is defined by one thing: Belief in Jesus.
Aquinas: That’s where you’re wrong. In fact, there’s a lot more to Christianity than belief in Jesus. Throughout human history, the word “Christian” has included a complicated package of additional, interrelated ideas. There is the Nicene creed, the Trinity, and a variety of other beliefs. And no entity satisfies that particular combination except for mainline Christians.
Heber: But those are peripheral, cultural, possibly wrong. And when you look at it, even those have changed repeatedly over the years.
Aquinas: Yes, there has been some shifting over time. But the label has always included some basic attributes, beyond simply a belief in Jesus. The Trinity, for instance.
Heber: And, who exactly defines it that way?
Aquinas: The Christian community!
Heber: You mean, people who are satisfied with the existing system? Isn’t that a little self-interested?
Aquinas: It’s no more self-interested than your group seeking social validation by trying to glom on to an existing, respected label. This illustrates my point. Part of the value of these terms is that they don’t just include everyone.
Heber: Maybe so, but the way that the understanding has changed over time shows that only the most important core attribute matters. And at its most fundamental level, Christianity is about belief in Jesus, and Mormons have that. Therefore, we should be included.
Aquinas: Hey, I’m happy that you believe in Jesus. But you don’t get to just go around changing the definition of a word. It’s not a single-axis thing. When people hear the word Christian, they make a set of assumptions. If we dilute that, it will undermine public understanding about the institution of Christianity.
Heber: Why would my inclusion in the definitional umbrella of “Christian” affect other people’s beliefs? I’m not hurting anyone.
Aquinas: You’re undermining two thousand years of tradition! You don’t get to just change definitions like that.
Heber: Why not?