I mentioned in a recent post the ongoing multi-blog discussion around Pathos on the theme of whether Mormons are Christians. A recent guest post by Steve Webb offered a different approach by asking whether Mainline Protestants are Christians, thus encouraging a three-way comparison between conservative Christians, liberal Christians, and Mormons who might be either, or both, or a third entity.
Certainly on some things, conservative Christians and Mormons might be lined up against the mainline or liberals. I'm not sure how many liberals think Jesus was pre-existent, but conservative Christians and Mormons would agree on this, however much they would then disagree on his nature.
But such comparisons only tell us so much. I remember a Muslim autorickshaw driver in India emphasizing to me how much he loves Jesus. If loving Jesus is what matters, then we can draw a wide and inclusive circle. But calling this man a Christian for that reason, when he self-identifies as a Muslim, would seem to me to be a mistake. He would presumably also accept the virginal conception of Jesus, as do conservative Christians, while most liberals again would not take such stories literally.So the question obviously depends who is asking, and what definition of Christian they are using. There is a long history of conservatives excluding both Mormons and liberal Protestans, for different reasons. And while liberals have tended to want to be inclusive, they have sometimes felt compelled to affirm that owning slaves, supporting war, and hating your enemies put those conservatives who did or do such things beyond the pale.