Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Religion Dispatches: "What Do We Mean By 'Judeo-Christian'?"

I can't remember whether I caught this from 2011 here. The article is valuable because it traces the history of that term. A taste:
The first recorded uses of the term “Judeo-Christian” were in England in the 1820s, though it was used quite differently than it is in today’s political rhetoric. The term was first coined by protestant missionaries who used it to refer to those Jews who had “seen the Christian light” and chosen baptism, though it took more than a century for “Judeo-Christian” to enter the general lexicon.

The term was actually popularized by liberals in the 1930s at the newly-founded National Conference of Christians and Jews who, concerned about the rise of American nativism and xenophobia during the Depression, sought to foster a more open and inclusive sense of American religious identity. Prominent protestant clergy who were members of the NCCJ’s National Council eschewed efforts to convert Jews—a somewhat radical stance that, along with a determination to change entrenched attitudes towards non-Protestants, alienated many conservative Christian groups.

Liberal Jews, meanwhile, led by the leaders of the Reform movement, welcomed the effort while most Orthodox Jews rejected the term and all it implied. To more traditional Jews “Judeo-Christian” seemed to suggest a new hybrid, one that threatened to erase important distinctions between religions as the classical Jewish tradition had warned against.

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The article is good as history, but it's rather obviously the work of a liberal Jewish Democrat.

“Judeo-Christian” as used in the current religio-culture war is a convenient neologism to describe what Dennis Prager calls "ethical monotheism," and which comports closely to traditional Biblical morality.

It's useful--although not historically accurate--to apply it retroactively to the American Founding, which although was conspicuously absent of Jews, was still monotheistic and generally in harmony with biblical morality.

To fast forward to the present day, there is an irony that 'conservative" protestantism, which was marked by a great hostility to Catholicism not to mention Jews, is now the greatest ally of both, as their common enemy are the militantly secular Children of the Enlightenment.

[I use "Enlightenment" poetically here--it's argued by some that our current modernity is actually the enemy of the Enlightenment.]