They call themselves Christians
A pastor supporting Gov. Rick Perry of Texas dismisses Mormonism as a cult. Supporters of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, insist that Mormons are Christians. And soon the Internet is featuring articles on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and addressing the question of whether its adherents should be called Christians.
This is nonsense, but it is nonsense with a pedigree.
The followers of the God of Love have been much given to contumely about one another from the very earliest days of Christianity. The Book of Acts describes a spat between Paul and the followers of James in Jerusalem that is unconvincingly papered over. The Council of Nicea was convened by imperial authority because squabbling between the Arians and Athanasians was disrupting public order. The Roman Catholic participants in the Fourth Crusade happily bypassed Palestine and sacked the Greek Orthodox city of Constantinople. The Inquisition was on the hunt for Protestants; Protestant Britain inhibited Roman Catholics’ civil liberties. Must I go on?
Given the variety of beliefs and practices of people who have described themselves as Christians over the past two millennia, it is ill-advised for any denomination or sect to claim to determine who is or is not a Christian. Besides, like the issue of who is ultimately to receive salvation, the question is not one susceptible of resolution by any temporal authority.
In American political discourse, Christian has come to be identified with a spectrum of politically conservative evangelicals, who, though numerous, do not have an exclusive claim on the term. Other Christians now tend to identify themselves by their denominations instead.