Sunday, October 15, 2017

What is the Judeo-Christian Tradition?

I saw John Fea link this a little while back. I think the term to describe the political theology of the American Founding is as problematic as any other competing ones. To hear George Washington tell the narrative, yes Jews and Christians worshipped the same God. But so too did Muslims and unconverted "Great Spirit" worshipping native Americans.

A taste:
The inclination to incorporate Jewish thought into the fabric of society is noble and important, especially in light of political history. But some scholars point out that “Judeo-Christian,” unlike the term “Abrahamic,” can also serve to exclude other religious minorities, such as Muslims — which can have unwelcome implications. The term “Abrahamic” is more inclusive because all three major monotheistic religions trace their lineage to the figure of Abraham.
Personally I think "generic monotheism" gets at the political theology of the American Founding. But if the "generic" part makes it too weak, Dennis Prager's "ethical monotheism" will do.


Tom Van Dyke said...

But some scholars point out that “Judeo-Christian,” unlike the term “Abrahamic,” can also serve to exclude other religious minorities, such as Muslims — which can have unwelcome implications.

That's because Islam had zero nada zip do-dah with the American Founding and its principles.

"Judeo-Christian" refers to the Bible, and to a lesser degree [or perhaps greater degree], Christian political theology. Even today, Islam--at least as practiced outside the West--offers little that is compatible.

Art Deco said...

You used to hear about a group called 'the National Council of Christians and Jews'. It appears to have evaporated. I think it was a modest claque of denominational figures engaged in 'interreligious dialogue' but also a quote source for news stories. I think the organization was formed in the 1950s and the use of the term 'Judeo-Christian' may have been popularized by them. John Anderson was one to use the term. You might find it in Ronald Reagan's public speeches.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"In more recent years the ICCJ and its members increasingly engaged in the Abrahamic dialogue: the encounter between Jews, Christians and Muslims."

As is the custom of the modern-left project, when it comes to religion, one size fits all. Differences are smoothed over to the point that distinctions are no longer drawn.

To the topic though, it is interesting that anti-Semitism has become far more the province of the secular left than the Catholic Church and Protestant evangelicals. This is a recent turn, starting with Vatican II in the mid-1960s, and for the evangelicals, the "dispensationalist" fad of the 1970s [think Hal Lindsey's "Late Great Planet Earth"] as well as an active romance of evangelical leaders by Israel in the 1980s.

And before someone attempts to bifurcate Israel from Judaism, let us remember that evangelicals believe the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is literally the Word of God--whereas they do not believe the same about the Qur'an. Add in the New Testament book of Revelation and the End Times and there is a genuine theological phenomenon going on here that does not include Islam.

As for the term "Judeo-Christian," although I prefer it to other proposed terms like "theistic rationalist"--which I believe conceals more than it reveals, namely the Jews and the Christians and their Bible[s]--it is admittedly a neologism, less than 100 years old.