A devout Mormon is going on the record to say he's not a Christian.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times this week, David V. Mason, an associate professor of theater at Rhodes College, distanced himself from fellow Mormons who maintain that they are Christian and declared, "I'm perfectly happy not being a Christian."
"I want to be on record about this. I'm about as genuine a Mormon as you'll find - a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian," he stated.
His "I'm a Mormon, not a Christian" statement was made in response to the rising debate on Mormonism and whether it's accurate to label members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of the Christian community.
The spotlight on Mormonism intensified with Mitt Romney becoming the first Mormon nominee of a major party in a presidential election.
Evangelicals, in large part, do not consider Mormons to be Christians. The LDS doctrines on God, Jesus, and salvation are vastly different from that of historic Christianity, they contend.
But Dr. Tal Davis, a leading evangelical expert on Mormonism, recently noted that Mormons have been trying to downplay theological differences when presenting themselves to the public.
"They're trying to present themselves in sort of a mainline sense," he said.
The dispute about whether Mormons are Christians, Mason summed, can be reduced to Jesus.
"Mormons assert that because they believe Jesus is divine, they are Christians by default. Christians respond that because Mormons don't believe - in accordance with the Nicene Creed promulgated in the fourth century - that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Jesus that Mormons have in mind is someone else altogether," Mason explained. "The Mormon reaction is incredulity. The Christian retort is exasperation. Rinse and repeat."
Tired of the "acrimonious niggling" between Mormons and Christians over the Trinity, Christ and other basic tenets, Mason said he's fine not being in the "Christian" circle.
"Being a Christian so often involves such boorish and meanspirited behavior that I marvel that any of my Mormon colleagues are so eager to join the fold," he stated.
"In fact, I rather agree with Richard D. Land, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who calls Mormonism a fourth Abrahamic religion, along with Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Being set apart from Christianity in this way could give Mormonism a chance to fashion its own legacy."
Land, who also serves as executive editor for The Christian Post, wrote in an editorial last year that instead of throwing around the "cult" term when identifying Mormons, it would perhaps be more helpful to describe Mormonism as "a new religion."
With months left before the November election, Mason isn't anticipating much of a change in the Mormon identity debate even if the first Mormon occupies the White House.
"Maybe a Mormon in the White House will hasten that moment when Mormonism will no longer plead through billboards and sappy radio ads to be liked, though I suspect that Mr. Romney is such a typical politician that, should he occupy the Oval Office, he'll studiously avoid the appearance of being anything but a WASP. This could set back the cause of Mormon identity by decades."