I like Justin Whitaker's on-line writing. He and I would probably get on quite well in person. However, one of my comments didn't make it through Justin's filter on the comments for his blog entry "Are Mormons Christians?" I'm not entirely sure why; I was dead serious compassionate when I wrote it.
The split, however, between Mormons and (other) Christians comes in the understanding of the Trinity as three separate beings in a unified purpose rather than one God in three Persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Christian belief in the unity of the Trinity, or “triune God” is found most clearly in the Nicene Creed, or Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, completed in 381 CE. Before that, and after, there were other followers of Jesus who held different conceptions of both Jesus’ divinity/humanity and the nature of God. The List of Christian Heresies compiled over at wikipedia is telling of the amazing diversity of beliefs within the community of people claiming to follow Jesus. That diversity should tell us something: that the ascendance of this one particular way of understanding the nature of Jesus and his teachings was one historical contingency among many...
But perhaps, in this age of increasing cosmopolitanism, the best thing to do is simply ask: Dude, are you a Christian? Yes? Okay then. Cool. Let’s talk about what that means to you and I can share what that means to me. Allowing others to identify themselves empowers them. Accepting their choices opens the door to dialogue, where both parties can learn and grow.
"Allowing others to identify themselves empowers them. Accepting their choices opens the door to dialogue, where both parties can learn and grow."
I am an ex-Christian. I'm an ex-Catholic, in particular, though for a spell I tried liberal Presbyterianism. Christians who follow the Nicene and other creeds are very particular about how they self-identify. For them, "Christian" has meant a very particular thing. To admit Mormons as Christians would be to challenge Christians' own self-identity. It's sort of disrespectful to them not to acknowledge that.
Moreover, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints carries rather unique baggage for traditional Christians; it's absurd to downplay that. The facts of Joseph Smith's life are well-documented, unlike, say Jesus (if he even existed.) It's easy to doubt much of the claims of the Mormon faith. (And don't get me wrong, the Mormons I've met are by and large some of the nicest people I've met, unless the subject of discussion turns to religion or politics.)
So given that it's so easy to doubt the Mormon faith, putting that in an equivalence class, "spiritually" with the mainstream -and yes, even fundamentalist Christian religion is going to be a non-starter for the majority of Christians.
It will call into question their faith, and will, in so doing, be disempowering to them.
Really, I'd be insulting Asians or African-descended folks or others if I claimed to be anything but of European descent (though way back when, no doubt, all "races" were one.)
Moreover, I agree with fundamentalist Christians that Christianity is fundamentally different from other religions. All paths do not lead to the same place, and if I'm wrong and go to hell, I hope I can do some good there.
I think this Mormon versus Christian thing is a really trivial issue, given the issues we face right now. As an ex-Christian, can't we just recommend that Christians who say that Mormons aren't Christians and Mormons who say they are to agree to politely disagree on this point?