Defending the Faith: Christianity is all about community

Published: Thursday, July 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Brown contends, "The appeal of Christianity lay in its radical sense of community: it absorbed people because the individual could drop from a wide impersonal world into a miniature community whose demands and relations were explicit." Converts valued "the sense of belonging to a distinctive group with carefully prescribed habits."

Precisely the same observation is often made with regard to the Latter-day Saints. As, with appropriate adjustments, is this one:

"It was possible to achieve in a small group, 'among the brethren,' relationships that were being achieved in society at large at a heavy cost of conflict and uncertainty. As a member of a church, the Christian could cut some of the more painful Gordian knots of social living. He could, for instance, become a radical cosmopolitan. His literature, his beliefs, his art and his jargon were extraordinarily uniform, whether he lived in Rome, Lyons, Carthage or Smyrna. The Christians were immigrants at heart … separated from their environment by a belief which they knew they shared with little groups all over the empire."

Daniel C. Peterson is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at BYU, where he also serves as editor in chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. He is the founder of MormonScholarsTestify.org. He blogs daily at www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/.

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