Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Steven Waldman on "Judeo-Christian Heritage"

I missed this when it first came out. Read it here. It's good. A taste:
I want to unpack this phrase Judeo-Christian heritage, which is both empty and wrong.

Sure, we were deeply influenced by some Biblical principles. The idea that we had immutable rights to liberty -- that couldn't be taken away by a King or a parliament -- came from a religious conception of man as created in God's image. Those rights were, therefore, "endowed by our Creator."

But the construction of our government was also influenced by Rome, and yet we don't talk about being influenced by the Zeusian-Ceasarian heritage. Locke and Montesquieu influence the Founders views greatly yet we don't applaud our Anglo-French Heritage. Obviously some folks focus on the Christian influences in the hope that it can ward off either pure religious pluralism, secularism or excessive separation of church and state.

Nonetheless, let's go further and posit that of the many influences on our nation, religion was one of the most important.

But "Judeo-Christian"? Nuh uh. First of all, the Judeos were not really at the table. As of the Constitution's ratification, most American states didn't allow Jews to hold office.

Second, the religious tradition that influenced the American founding was not Christianity in general but Protestantism in particular -- often in fervent opposition to Catholicism....

If we're going to talk about the important religious influences of the Founding Era we should be referring to our "Protestant heritage," which was quite significant, not our Judeo-Christian heritage....

I think this is more or less correct. We could speak of a broadly defined "Judeo-Christian" or narrowly defined "Protestant Christian" component to the Founding. There was also an Enlightenment component, a Whig component, a Greco-Roman component, an Anglo-Saxon component and so on.

Even the term "Protestant Christian" heritage can mislead. Some folks hear that as the nation was comprised by a vast majority of "born again" Calvinistic reformed Protestants. Nope. Sure there were plenty of them. There were also plenty of nominal Christians who were unchurched and more likely to be in taverns on Saturday nights than churches on Sunday mornings. "Protestant Christian" as a heritage is more important in a cultural, identificatory and minimalistic sense; most folks of that era -- probably around 98% -- thought of themselves as "Protestant Christians" and this includes the uber-orthodox Timothy Dwight as well as Thomas Jefferson who rejected every single tenet of Christian orthodoxy. Both of them could be united under a minimalistic "Protestant Christian" identity. John Adams, a self defined lifelong "Unitarian," bitterly rejected and often mocked doctrines like the Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement and eternal damnation, but was culturally in line with the Puritans of Massachusetts -- his heritage. That's about as far as I am willing to endorse Barry Shain's "Protestant Christian America" thesis.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thank you Jonathan. As a libertarian, you hold to religious freedom. This is good.

Your political ideology, as was the Founders, formed your view of religious freedom.

The Puritans, though, thought that their religious ideology should form their "nation". (spiritualizing the Old Testament).

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Constitution is godless, yes. The mechanisms of the Constitution aren't in the Bible, and few but a few cranks claim that.

But religion was left to the states.

Once again, the issue is misframed, this time by Steven Waldman, whom I tend to agree with.

Further, a nation is more than the sum of its laws---its culture, the spirit of its laws---in this case, "natural law," which can be found in the Stoics, but came to the Founding via Christian philosophers and theologians.

"Judeo-Christian" is an admittedly imprecise term, and serves mostly to keep Jesus' divinity out of it.

Jonathan Rowe said...


I think there may be something to your theory. But what I'd like to see you do is take it as a "test case" to certain forces who use "Christian" and "Judeo-Christian" heritage interchangeably. It will get them to THINK about just what it is about how the theology they personally endorse interacts with the organic laws of the Founding.

I usually don't get good responses when I press this issue to the evangelicals who comprise "Christian Nationalists." Usually the answer I get is "Judeo-Christianity" means "orthodox Christianity" with "Judaism" tagging along for fun.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Another point I like to stress is that John Marshall and Joseph Story -- two notable Founders (Story was a bit of a "post-Founder") who made "Christian Nation" like claims were both "unitarians." Hence their "Christian statism" did not include the notion of Jesus' divinity. And while I don't have as much on Marshall as I do Story, Story apparently was a modified universalist who believed Jews, Muslims, i.e., "good people" could attain salvation.

The question then is, is Story's Christian-unitarian-modified-universalism "Christianity"? If not, is it "Judeo-Christianity"? Most people who throw around terms like "Christian Nation" and "Judeo-Christian" heritage don't know how to answer these questions; but they must be answered in order to have a coherent theory of the political theology of America's Founding and post Founding.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I had just come back to "engage" this entry again, when I read your entry TVD. Thanks.

Liberatarianism is idealistic, as practically speaking we cannot legislate freedom. Legislation means that someone's view gets primacy. Therefore, the "culture" ware between the conservative and liberal.

I think the issues could be divided by one's view of universals. Are our universals, which underwrite human rights, to be interantionally applied. Or are these rights only garunteed to citizens? Do human rights trump national security? Or does national security come first because otherwise, we cannot defend human rights? (I believe the latter).

I just picked up a book by Jan Crawford Greenburg, "Supreme Conflice". It is a book on the Supreme Court and how the Bush adminstrations appointments transformed the color of the judicial branch. It is an important issue, how much power shoudl the judiary have?

smitty1e said...

I submit that a Venn-diagram case could be made that the use of "Judeo-Christian" is an attempt to capture the significant, positive overlap between several modes of thought.

Attempting to expand the overlap and argue that it is more Protestant or Catholic or Jewish seems contrary to the point of the term.

Dave said...

I remember reading an enlightening essay by Bruce J Malina on this subject, but I haven't for the life of me been able to find it again.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Weren't the influences of the founding more philosophical, than theoogcial? I believe so.

The Founders were founding a nation that was not under a Sovereign, such as a King. They believed that government ruled by "law and order" was the Sovereign. Now, the debate is how to define the law, as "living"(changing) or as static.
The courts must determine how they understand the law's intent and application.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Men were created "free". Civilization was what man "imposed upon" human beings. Therefore, the law was made for man, not man for the law!

Rose Wilder Lane wrote in her book, "The Discovery of Freedom", "...the people called Jews are literally a reace of all mankind. Like americans, they have no common ancestry, no common religion or political philosophy, no common appearance, habiys, manners or customs. They have no nationality nor common language. They have in common only one thing, a tradition. It is the tradition that Americans have- an inheritance from men who once asserted, against the whole world, that mean are free. With reason, the "Old World" hates the Jews. Four thousand years ago, a Jew said that men are free. Two thousand years ago, a Jew preached that men are free. In medieval Europe, the Jews came from Spain, knowing that men are free. That knowledge will destroy the whole Old World concerp of the universae and of man, it will break up the foundations of Old World nations and States, and shatter the very basis of their subjects' lives. So they are afraid of the Jew." (pg. 79).

"God" has been whtatever authority that has "ruled". Our Founders understood that men are by nature born free, under God. But, the "under God", And "God" in America is the "rule of law". A law that garuntees freedom to its citizens.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I usually don't get good responses when I press this issue to the evangelicals who comprise "Christian Nationalists." Usually the answer I get is "Judeo-Christianity" means "orthodox Christianity" with "Judaism" tagging along for fun.

Well, you've got them then, Jon. If they can't account for the "Judeo-," they can't use it. "Judeo-" becomes a tool in your box, not theirs.

Avery Cardinal Dulles wrote of a "Deist Minimum," which I excerpted here:


"Judeo-Christianity" is an admittedly imprecise term to describe what Dulles is talking about, and a "unitarian minimum" might be more precise---some special role for Jesus [usually the Messiah}, that God spoke to man and the Bible is more than just "inspired," it's Holy Writ, the word of God.

The Dulles article is good and I hope everyone will take a glance at it. I don't think there's much that Jon or I disagree with in there as I recall.

Our present discussion is more about terms than about the underlying facts.

J said...

The vast majority of Americans at the time of the Revolution--whether political leaders or plebes--may have been Protestant, but that protestantism was not the fundamentalist, Baptist-zealot sort now taken to be protestantism. They were mainly Episcopalians (as were most of the Framers), with some presbyterians (not well liked by all), a few baptist-like hellfire sects, and the unitarian-quaker freaks around Boston--perhaps a few german or dutch Lutheran groups near the frontier. It's only later (after the Civil War) that the presbyterians and baptists sort of take over American Xtianity--mostly as a result of Reconstruction. The irish and italian catholics, and jewish immigrants also arrive after the civil war.

Which is to say, Early America--say New England 1790 or so--was a peaceful, WASP agricultural society that had little to do with America of the
20th century (except perhaps a few wealthy sections).

Tom Van Dyke said...

The vast majority of Americans at the time of the Revolution--whether political leaders or plebes--may have been Protestant, but that protestantism was not the fundamentalist, Baptist-zealot sort now taken to be protestantism

True. Not a single contributor or regular commenter here disagrees with that. J, this blog is an oasis from all the fighting on the internet. That's why it's so cool and we spend any time on it atall.

Jon and I and Brad and the major contributors seldom have fights about the facts---

"may have been Protestant, but that protestantism was not the fundamentalist, Baptist-zealot sort now taken to be protestantism..."

I might be too easy on those people, and Jon might be too hard, and Brad doesn't give a shit, but we and our contributors too all agree completely with this assertion of fact, even after all our homework.

The "Protestant" argument is actually a lot more subtle, that in separating from the Roman Catholic Church's claimed authority to interpret the scriptures, "Protestantism" opened the door to free thought.

And through that door, American Protestantism rejected the literal meaning of Romans 13, that earthly authorities should be obeyed because it's the Will of God.

[And as I often point out, Luther and Calvin were more supportive of the strict Romans 13 argument than even the great Catholic thinkers like Aquinas, Suarez and Bellarmine, all of whom rejected The Divine Right of Kings.]

So, if you want to hang here in this oasis, just apply your considerable knowledge to the discussion that's taken us years to work out a common ground for. Kick back, make a mai tai, and enjoy.

The discussion around here isn't over by a long shot, and you are invited.

Pinky said...

Judeo-Christianity is peculiar to the foundations on which Fundamentalist Christianity is built.
What it means to the Fundamentalist is difficult to explain to a non-fundamentalist thinker.
Try thinking of Christianity as the "son" of Judaism--not like it's parent; but, having come from the parent.
I don't think the term Judeo-Christian came into popular useage until after the rise of Christian Fundamentalism in the first third of the twentieth century.
I want to include a quotation from Barry Shain for Angie's benefit. Here it is from page 277:

"By the 19th century, at least some of the confusion surrounding the meaning of civil liberty had been resolved, as civil and political liberty were no longer readily confused. Noah Webster explained that 'political liberty is sometimes used as synonymous with civiil liberty. But it more properly designates the liberty of a nation.' Civil Liberty properly described 'the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty, so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interests of the society, state, or nation.' And regarding the two meanings of civil liberty that were distinct from political liberty, Webster continued in the middle of the 19th century to use the communal understanding of civil liberty. This is evident because he defined civil liberty as the residue of the individual's natural liberty that remained after the society's needs were met as determined by the political community. This is the traditional sense of the term. The more modern alternative held that civil liberty defined a set of individual privileges and exemptions (radicalized prescriptive liberties) from corporate intrusion--in effect, a private space into which the corporate body could not legitimately intruded."

Pinky said...


Last four words above, "...could not legitimately intruded" should have read "...could not legitimately intrude."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is my understanding that the Bill of Rights is what has been the "changing and challenging element" for the Supreme Court. So, just as our understanding of man, his environment and science changes, so do the laws that transcribe a "civil society". This very "difference" is what defines America from other nations.

I am reading a couple of books that will probable shed more light on the subject, as to how things have been understood and how they have and are changing...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Certainly, you do not prescribe to a "feudalistic system" or form of government, do you?

Daniel said...

I think Judeo-Christian, as used to describe the Founding has two, fairly distinct meanings. One, already used in this discussion is "Christianity minus the divinity of Christ." At times writer like Frances Schaeffer seem to use it in that sense.

But the second meaning is probably more often the correct meaning, which is "the moral code associated with Christianity with explicit ceremonial references to Christ and to the Ten Commandments." It is "Judeo-" because we post the Ten Commandments. It is "Christian" because it comports with someones definition of Christian morality or law. In some sense, this is an accurate depiction of the Founding. Of course, since the definition begs many questions, it permits the base-skipping that often occurs with claims that 18th century references to Jesus are endorsements of 20th century Christian Fundamentalism.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I think that you are correct in saying that our values are based on Christian ideals of "life, liberty".

Life and liberty need to be defined though, which is what laws do.

One is not allowed to take another's property, which is a limitation on freedom. Society (all people) are protected by such laws. But,when our laws do prescribe how a man is to live. This is where the 'moral debate" gets "ugly".

A conservative would demand that abortion be outlawed, as it protects life, whereas, a liberal would demand that civil liberties be granted to a homosexual couple in protecting liberty. Which is of most value and why? Life or Liberty?

You may think the debate is clear cut, but I don't think so. Think about healthcare and the many and various decisions that will have to be made that protect and provide for life and liberty. These are debates that will define our society in the future and they are very important!

Pinky said...

The Revolutionary Americans were almost 100% completely tied to the ideas revolving around original sin as taught in Reformed Protestantism.

Their FUNDAMENTAL belief was that humanity was cursed by the Fall and filled with lust and licentiousness. This belief over rode their thinking on just about everything civil and political. They wanted to have a watchful eye on everyone's personal behavior.

Daniel said...

Angie VDM,
What I think is clear cut is that, if I get to define the terms, the Foundation of the US is Judeo-Christian. However, as I define those terms, this gives us very little guidance with respect to current political questions. If fundamental Christian moral principles are to be a guide to our polity, the definition of those principles remains disputed. If "Judeo-Christian" is largely symbolic and ceremonial then we must decide which ceremonial references are appropriate.

Somewhere in the background, I think the heritage of Christendom profoundly affects who we are. When we try to grab that heritage and use it as a stick to beat our opponents, we change it to fit our own framework and presuppositions. We cannot avoid doing that change because the Christian understandings of today are not the Christian understandings of Thomas Jefferson or of George Washington or of Jonathan Edwards or of Paul Revere or of William Penn.

J said...

Certainly, you do not prescribe to a "feudalistic system" or form of government, do you?

No--though life as a Knight was probably fairly exciting (as long as your King won).

In principle, I'm with the Jeffersonians, rather than yankees such as Adams and Hamilton, the George Patton of the Amer.Rev. Better Locke, a bit of sundayschool than Hume and the Tories (and whether they admitted or not, the Federalists were in the aristocratic-republican tradition). Hamilton basically wanted to re-create the Stuart monarchy, I believe, though with a President-King the lords could control, instead of a mad King.

At the same time I acknowledge the hypocrisy and shortcomings of the Jeffersonian faction and anti-Federalists.

Let's not forget, however, that Virginia barely had the votes to secede in 1860 or whatever: most North Virginians sided with the Federals.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

You said, "Their FUNDAMENTAL belief was that humanity was cursed by the Fall and filled with lust and licentiousness. This belief over rode their thinking on just about everything civil and political. They wanted to have a watchful eye on everyone's personal behavior."

This is fundamentalism's tenet via Puritanical origins, as the Puritans were the ones who believed this. I don't think that many of the Founders cared, as they were creating a political (civil) realm that did not dissolve into questions about the transcendental notion of supernaturalism's speculations. They were "natrualists". And many of them would not have been "morally proper" according to the Puritanical standard.

The Founders did not believe that nature was innately evil, but that it needed "direction", or guidance, which is our form of government (based on classical understandings). Otherwise, the Founders would have been "rulers and judges" like the Taliban.

I have been reading some material about the disagreement between natural law and consequentialistm, which I think might "fit" this debate.

I am no philosopher, except by interest, so anyone "out there", please feel free to inform me. I do not think that indoctrination via some interpretive supernaturlistic scheme is valuable because it limits the possibilities of a child's exposure and interests and it harms the "public good", in that it leads to questions that are hard to resolve. The debate over what to expose the child and what constitutes "life and liberty" are valid ones, though.

Pinky said...

If you ask me, the Founding Fathers pulled one over on the mass of Americans--thank goodness for that.

Most of the Founders were a little too well read to swallow the Reformed Protestant drill; but, like our leaders today, they were well aware of the fact that they had to go along with that drill in order to be in a position to lead.

The mass of Americans wanted nothing less than local control over everything--right where they could keep a close and watchful eye on their lustful and licentious neighbors.

I picked up a copy of this book http://www.amazon.com/Nature-American-Founding-Constitutionalism-Democracy/dp/0813926661 yesterday. I found a couple of 15% discount coupons and with my membership it only cost me a bout $25.00.

By the way, my desktop computer crashed and so I don't have the HTML for posting links. Will some gentle soul help me out, please?


Pinky said...

I hate the keyboard on my laptop.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

--right where they could keep a close and watchful eye on their lustful and licentious neighbors.

This is why I hate small minded communities. I love cities.

Dishonesty is the only policy for 'leading" then? That is unpalatable to me. I listened to what the atheists had to say when I believed the "story line". So, I presumed that others would prefer to hear what is really the reality. And I would much prefer being considered an atheist/agnostic or whatever else "they" might want to label me. Certain mind-sets are not going to "learn" or "change" because they are and will "always be right". It is best to let them think they are right and leave them alone....

Pinky said...

When the people put impossible demands on leadership, those who would lead might just find they are in a box where they will have to be dishonest.
And, that plays into the idea that man is a "Fallen" creature.
And, it gives us some clues regarding the way Colonial Americans felt about their tendency to be dishonest. The further a government was from the local community, the less trust they could be given. How many of us, today, trust our leaders to be perfectly honest with us? I don't.
The Repormed Protestant ethic is still wsith us--we all exhibit it to some degree.
But, can you imagine where we would be today if we were stuck back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? Osama bin Laden might be the norm.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I find that small town politics are "good ole boy systems" that pull from fewer people to fill the vacancies and needs of the community. And many times there are conflicts of interest and the ethical violations are not deemed important, unless someone "outside the good ole boy system" comes in and asks questions. Then, it may be too bad for the "outsider" who will never find any more "open doors" for him, as he has made his enemies and the troops gather round to build their fortress more resistant to these "outsiders".

Small towns have protocol that is almost impossible to challenge or change, because those in power (the big fish in a little pond) are sometimes prouder than those who are really powerful (big fish in a big pond).

At the national level, the balance of power is played out before many to hold those in power accountable. And the issues are so complex that it keeps the policy makers humble and "on their toes".

I value the energy, openness, and diversity in the cities we have lived. Those who live in these cities are open to free thought, because of such complexity and diversity.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Small towns are like the tribal mentality of the Osama bin Ladens.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Pinky is onto something about man being "fallen." It's a worldview. Weltanshauung, they call it.

Let's assume the Bible account is only myth. The fact remains many Founding-era thinkers, almost all of them I think, including Adams and Madison [and their philosophical influences too], were suspicious of man's "reason."

Reason is corruptible by man's passions, is what they said, and rightly. We can rationalize anything. Christ, they even rationalized the Holocaust.

Look how they used the Bible to justify slavery back in the day. But even the cleverest American sophist of all, Thomas Jefferson, couldn't bring himself to drag the Bible into justifying his slaveholding. Because in his way, Jefferson was an honest man.

What I'm saying is that even if we back off the theology of "original sin," the Founders believed more in the ability of man to lie to himself than his ability to tell himself the truth.

That's human nature. Just ask your five-yr-old how the lamp got broken. By the time he's done telling you, he believes it himself.

Pinky said...

What I'm saying is that even if we back off the theology of "original sin," the Founders believed more in the ability of man to lie to himself than his ability to tell himself the truth.

So, Tom, can you give an example that shows that is true about the Founders?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thought the clasics taught that man's character was of ultimate value, our Founders believed that "self-governance" was what was understood to be "appropriate", as they believed that people were given 'natural rights" under God to be "free" moral agents.

So, I do not adhere to some "moral authorities" deciding for another what their life should be or do.

Some would suggest that this is the demise of our society, because of "civil rights" of the individual, but I think that persuasion is the most powerful form of governing or leading others.

bpabbott said...

Phil / Tom,

I had not considered the concept of "fallen" as being a sort of cognitive dissonance.

The sort of cognitive dissonance I'm thinking of is when a good person, say a communist who recognizes thefailings of his social/political/economic system reconciles (1) I'm a good person, (2) Good people do good things, (3) I promote and support commmunism, (4) therefore, communisim is good.

Tom, regarding, "Founders believed more in the ability of man to lie to himself than his ability to tell himself the truth."
[I've added emphasis to "more"]

I expect rationalization of congitive dissonance is very common, and corrupts reason more often than not. However, those rationalizations don't necessarilly lead to harm to others. Personally, I expect they only do harm in a minority proportion of cases.

Have in inferred correclty? ... or do you imply that the founders expected the corruptions to man's reason overwelm the truths in more cases than not?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I cannot stand to watch those I love be undermined, and devastated because of poltics. And because of my experience, I highly admire Hillary Clinton, though I may disagree with some her political views.

I have written before that I have admired how Ms. Sandford as handled her husband's affair. And I can imagine on a small scale how the public's scrutiny in such matters cause great pain and humiliation. These are strong women.

bpabbott, raitonalization is a human condition because we are vulnerable creatures that need protection. And when that protection is absent, we seek to find a defense and justification for what we do. All humans need affirmation, support and community, as we are social animals.

This is where myths play into helping us rationalize away our limitations of character. Providence is "useful" then, in appeasing our conscience.

But, I think that our habeous corpus is the ultimate in defending justice. We are innocent until proven guilty. Those that believe in a "fallen nature", as in origninal sin believe that people are guilty until proven innocent. This sets up the scenario for ego defense and rationalizations.

We all formulate our understandings differently depending on our potential, and interests. One person can develop in many ways, as they put their "worlds" together. This is why free societies are so important. Otherwise, we live under tyranny, which circumvents true justice which is universal and individual.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I like what you say about justification and communism. We ignore the facts, as you say.

And some use our capitalistic failings in the same way. These de-ride the free market by referring to abuses. Just because a system can be abused does not deem it "inappropriate" for society's flourishing. The demise of the system lies in the proper use of it.

J said...

Thought the clasics [sic] taught that man's character was of ultimate value, our Founders believed that "self-governance" was what was understood to be "appropriate", as they believed that people were given 'natural rights" under God to be "free" moral agents.

That's the Lockean view, really, a view which the Jeffersonians highly esteemed. I don't think that's necessarily the view of all the Founders, however.

Peruse a few chapters of the Federalist Papers. "Publius" often sounds like he (i.e. Ham./Mad/Jay) has doubts about those supposed natural rights. Adams too had no love for the common man.

That said, the Constitution, like the DOI, does uphold some rights as unalienable--like the writ of Habeas Corpus.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

So, J, the concept of nationalization or centralization of government was held by a "ruling elite" class that were educated to rule. These held themselves above the masses, as they understood that a Utopian government was not practical.
Wasn't this Hamilton's view?

Those that held to a more 'localized' view of government were traditionalists that held to a "common purpose" in serving the local community. These understood the values and needs that are 'local". Wasn't this the understanding of State rights? States seem to be defining themselves more and more independently from other states, due to these very reasons.

It seems that what is "brewing" today with the debate between religious freedom, civil rights and legislation is a very difficult one.

On one hand, we have judges ruling in opposition to parental rights concerning home-schooling in N.H., which may set a precedent against rights in parental custody battles.
The extreme view would uphold a Statist view of protecting the child from parental ignorance, but at what costs in setting this precedence?

On the other hand, we have family values, which serve family interests, used for protection of radical sects, which are dangerous to our society at large. The right of religious freedom of conscience when it concerns the child's health and public welfare is also of concern to the courts, in the public interest of society.

And yet, we have some "elites" doing disservice to Western civilization, as far as I am concerned, when it concerns multiculturalism.

Yale Press was to print a scholarly publication, "The Cartoons That Shook the World". It is an academic acccount of the caricatures of Muhammad printed in the Danish newsaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 (Washington Times, pg. 38). These illustrations were pulled from publication by Yale's president. Speculation is that this action might be due to financial dealings in the Middle East in furthering Islamic studies in the West.(Washington Times, September 7, 2009, pg. 38)

While furthering understanding is important to diplomacy. Diplomats do not negotiate their culture away by undermining basic values. Our understanding on everything from the human rights movement to ethical business practices in the West is based on the "rule of law". And while we are desirous of understanding diversity because this IS our culture, those who believe in radical Islamic ideology are not open to "outsiders", who are "infidels". Lying to infidels is known as a cultural value and practice. And we in the West seek to "do business" with those who adhere to this kind of "understanding" or worldview? Woe be to us.

Brad Hart said...

I tend to cringe whenever these general labels (i.e. "Theistic Rationalism," "Judeo-Christianity," "Key Founders" and all the others employed on this blog) simply because they are doomed to exclude somebody. Sure, Waldman is right when he states that "Judeo-Christianity" tends to omit Jews and Catholics...EXCEPT for Charles Carroll. And there were Jews involved in the Revolution. As I recall, our former blog mama did a post on the Jewish soldiers who supposedly taught Washington all about Hanukkah. In addition, the term "Judeo-Christian" would have been completely and totally foreign to the founding generation.

Now, I'm not saying that these general terms don't serve a purpose. On the contrary. They can and do help us "sort out" things and "classify" what influences played a larger role than others. HOWEVER, I think it's a mistake to insist on maintaining labels. They can and sometimes do cause different groups to oversimplify the founding history. You've all heard people (smart and dim) proclaim that the founders were "deists," "atheists." "Christians," etc.

One of the things I love most about this blog is that it almost always destroys such labels. I think we should continue that trend.

Pinky said...

nada mas que
There is a question that is surfacing.
It is about the difference between those rights that were seen as being attached to individuals and those which were seen as attached to society--the group.
I believe the answers will help us better understand the mind set of the Revolutionary and Founding-era American.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Aye, Pinky. At least, Madison was arguing that it would be the states, as the legitimate representatives of the people, would enter into the Constitution, making it a FEDERAL government and not a NATIONAL one.

[Caps are Madison's, from The Federalist.]