Judaeo-Christian (updated)

by John Quiggin on October 22, 2017

My son Daniel pointed out to me a feature of Trump’s speech to the laughably named Values Voters summit which seems to have slipped by most observers. As summarized by Colbert King in the Washington Post

Telling a revved-up Values Voter audience that he is “stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” Trump suggested to the crowd, which already thinks a “war on Christianity” is being waged, that invoking “Merry Christmas” is a way of fighting back.

But “Happy Holidays” is exactly an expression of Judaeo-Christian values, coined to embrace the Jewish Hanukkah as well as Christmas. In this context, King’s suggestion that “Happy Holidays” is secular misses the point. The majority of secular Americans celebrate Christmas (happily mixing Santa Claus, carols, and consumerism). They say “Happy Holidays” as a nod to religious diversity among believers, not because they feel excluded from Christmas.

Insistence on “Merry Christmas”, by contrast, is a repudiation of the claim implicit in “Judaeo-Christian”, namely, that Jews and Christians have essentially the same beliefs and worship the same god, and that the differences between the two are ultimately less important than the commonalities. On any interpretation of Christianity in which all who reject Christ (including, I imagine, most of us here at CT) are damned, “Judaeo-Christian” is a much more pernicious version of political correctness than “Happy Holidays”.

I haven’t got to a proper analysis of this, so I’ll turn it over to commenters.

Updated A lengthy and sometimes heated comments thread, from which I’ll extract the following: “Judaeo-Christian” has been used in all sorts of ways, from an inclusivist way of speaking about the two main religious traditions historically present in European and the US, to a “supersessionist” Christian doctrine, in which Judaism is an imperfect forerunner of Christianity, to a code word for Islamophobia. Obviously, Trump and his audience were mainly using it in non-inclusive ways. Even so, there’s no way it can be consistent with a purely Christianist objection to “Happy Holidays”. The contradiction reflects the collapse of modern conservatisim into “irritable mental gestures that seek to resemble thought”.

{ 109 comments }

1

kidneystones 10.22.17 at 5:40 am

One comment only and on topic. And a suggestion.

With all due respect to your son (and good for him for keeping up with the news!), a quick check of the genesis of the expression “Happy Holidays” on the tubes and via Google Books yields some interesting results. The term occurs in print frequently in the 1800s and is almost always entirely secular in meaning.

So, on that count at least Trump seems to be right. The secularization of the holiday with an explicit demand that folks (businesses, especially) cease employing the term ‘Merry Christmas’ is the explicit complaint of those keen to end the ‘War on Christmas.’

Trump’s actual relationship to Christian orthodoxy most resembles that of a Medici pope – tenuous at best – a big fan of the glitter, acclaim, and power, but not much for theology or text. Trump perhaps has some faith. And if he does I sincerely hope he keeps his core beliefs (if we can employ such a term) to himself. He seems pleased and proud of his daughter’s conversion to Juidaism, and even prouder and pleased with himself for being so ‘open-minded.’ It’s always about Teh Donald, after all.

Which leads me to my request re: Trump. Here’s what an NYT subscription gets one from Charles Blow in 2017 through September (non-Trump columns in italics) – The Death of Compassion; Trump, Archenemy of Truth; Pause This Presidency; A Ticket to Hell; Trump and the Parasitic Presidency; Disciples of a False Prophet; Birth of the Biggest Lie; The King of Crash and Burn; Dwindling Odds of Coincidence; Creeping Toward Crisis; (April 10 Syria); 100 Days of Horror; A Fake and a Fraud; Resilience of the Resistance; Trump’s Degradation of Language; Senators Save the Empire; (May 8 Republican Death Wish); Trump Is Insulting Our Intelligence; Trump’s Madness Invites Mutiny; Blood in the Water; The Flynn Affair; Donald Trump: The Gateway Degenerate; Trump’s Incredible Shrinking America; James Comey Cometh; The Resistance: Impeachment Anxiety; (June 15 Rhetoric and Bullets); Trump is Girding for a Fight; Trump’s Obama Obsession; The Hijacked American Presidency; Putin Meets His Progeny; Scions and Scoundrels; Trump Savagely Mauls the Language; Trump Is His Own Worst Enemy; The Kook, ‘the Mooch’ and the Loot; First They Came For…; Satan in a Sunday Hat; Feasting on False and Fake; (Aug 17 The Other Inconvenient Truth); Failing All Tests of the Presidency; Donald Trump, King of Alabama?; Trump Raises an Army; In Defense of the Truth; Inner Racism Revealed; Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell; Dispatch From the Resistance; Is Trump a White Supremacist?; A Rebel, a Warrior and a Race Fiend…”

My favorite of course is ‘Trump’s Obama Obsession.’

Lots of interesting things are happening and JH’s OPs really are varied. However, Corey closing comment is blunt and on target. The topic of Trump doesn’t bring out the best in the way that most other discussions can do. Comments quickly become personal, and the invective predictable and dull.

Surely the Catalan situation; or Roy Moore’s struggles; or the Obama Uranium sale; or new Netflix series; or…, might lead to more varied and less fractious debates. How about the purging of the Bernie wing of the Democratic party at the DNC ? Or the election of a 31-year old leader in Austria? Or art?

The comments section here quickly became indistinguishable from that of Reddit, or 4-chan, even when Corey posted an extremely useful and thoughtful excerpt from an academic analysis of Trump. I’d be happy to accept all of the blame for this phenomena had I any confidence such an admission might actually improve the quality of discourse.

The Flaubert discussion; the OP, and most of the comments on Utopias among others demonstrate what the CT community can produce. The fact that practically nobody seems able to discuss Trump without frothing at the mouth suggests to me other topics might better command our attention.

Because it’s not like Charles Blow and his ilk are likely to change the topic and tenor of their discussions anytime soon.

Let the spittle fly!

2

J-D 10.22.17 at 5:56 am

To me, it has long seemed that the term ‘Judaeo-Christian’ expresses the view that Judaism exists only as a prelude to or rough draft of Christianity, which is, as far as I understand it, approximately the standard Christian view, but which ought to be expected to be offensive to sincere Jewish believers and which from an unbeliever’s point of view is simply a factual error. I don’t suppose that most people who use the term are consciously endorsing this Christian appropriation of Judaism — they probably just haven’t analysed it — but where’s the flaw in the analysis once performed?

3

Farah Mendlesohn 10.22.17 at 6:14 am

Yes well, that’s because “Judeao Christian values” always was an extension of Philosemistism. As I have had to point out more than once, Jews and Muslims have a lot more in common if you look at our basic philosophies around issues such as how charity should be given, abortion, treatment of workforces etc (this has nothing to do with the actual practice which is of course varied). “Judeao Christian values” has always been a way of disappearing us. The low point for me was when Archbishop Sentamu used the phrase while standing outside Clifford’s Tower in York. That would be the tower in which Christians burned Jews to death in the thirteenth century.

4

John Quiggin 10.22.17 at 6:33 am

@1 My check doesn’t agree with yours.
http://www.knoxmercury.com/2015/12/09/christmas-vs-the-holidays-a-little-perspective-on-our-favorite-schism/

The use of the term in the 19th century appears entirely unrelated to the modern usage.

5

Z 10.22.17 at 7:07 am

I dislike the “Judeo-Christian values” slogan.

Not only do I find it exceptionally lazy at a basic theological level (not so much in common in that respect between Judaism and the strong push towards soft polytheism that permeates Christianity, from Incarnation to the Trinity to marial and saints cult) but I am also constantly appalled by the ahistorical insinuation: who can look at the last 1100 years and claim with a straight face that it is in within Christianity that Jews were abled to live according to their own values? Who exactly persecuted, exiled and ultimately exterminated them? From where were Jews expelled and where did they find refuge?

Finally, I feel almost directly attacked (“disappeared” as Farah Mendlesohn accurately observed) when the slogan is used to contrast with the Arabo-Islamic world, as it usually at least implicitly is. What happened the Sephardi and to anyone with a strong familial or cultural connection to the Sephardi community? Do we not exist?

6

Warren Terra 10.22.17 at 7:08 am

Please don’t use the term “Judeo-Christian”. It is very hateful.

I know many people use it with all good intentions, thinking it constitutes some sort of pluralistic broad-minded acceptance. Sorry, but they’re wrong, or at least they don’t know the full score. There may be legitimate academic uses where it’s more appropriate than “Abrahamic”, but those are rare and largely moot. The vast preponderance of the term’s use (ccertainly in American public life) is by bigoted Christians who know nothing of Judaism, care less, and are using the term to falsely mimic high-mindedness and to subsume and supplant Jewish identity, to dictate to Jews what their history and purpose is and what their ideals should mean. Not coincidentally, many of these same people harbor Millenialist convictions that tell them the purpose of the Jewish people is to congregate in Israel and get annihilated in holy warfare in order to hasten the return of the Christian messiah.

The very term “Judeo-Christian” is of a piece with popular assertions and assumptions that the Christian religion is primarily descended from Judaism (rather a suspect idea) and that Judaism’s purpose was to incubate Christianity and then either to be frozen in amber or to disappear. Pretty much the only Jews you hear using the term are Quisling lapdogs like Daniel Lapin, using it to curry favor from powerful Christian bigots. And you’ll note that you never, ever hear the terms “Christeo-Mormon” or “Christeo-Islamic”.

In short: please, please don’t use the term “Judeo-Christian”, at least not without serious awareness of what you’re doing and the way others use the term, the horrid beliefs they have that will necessarily freight your use of it.

7

John Quiggin 10.22.17 at 7:29 am

@6 I was going to mention the contradictions inherent in the way Mormonism and Islam are treated in this framework, but I decided to leave it to commenters to bring it uo.

8

Painedumonde 10.22.17 at 8:55 am

Isn’t Christmas a hijacked holiday anyway? Surely no self-respecting Christian believes that Jesus Christ was during the season of the winter solstice. Surely the melding of the pagan winter festivals with the feast of the celebration of the Son of Man could have nothing to do with whether one says “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.”

Surely this all posturing, whataboutmeism, that the persecution lays not with others by with themselves.

Have a spooky Halloween!

9

Sancho 10.22.17 at 11:02 am

This all seems a bit over-thought. “Judeo-Christian” gained popularity post-9/11 among evangelical Christians who wanted to justify holy war in the middle east by using Israeli Jews as a proxy for themselves.

There wasn’t a lot of theology to it.

10

nastywoman 10.22.17 at 11:06 am

That’s why I prefer ”Happy Hanukkah” – or ”Merry Hanukkah” then nobody can tell you that you are waging war on “Merry Christmas” – and if I may let me compliment @1 –
I always get such a kick out of such comments especially if they are sooo ”on topic”!

11

Fred Vincy 10.22.17 at 11:13 am

John, I’d go beyond “contradictions” to say that I hear the phrase “Judeo-Christian” as a dogwhistle that allows the speaker to be anti-Muslim while (a) avoiding saying so explicitly; and (b) avoiding (and maybe even coopting) an audience that would challenge the speaker as anti-Semitic if he or she just said “Christian”. I’d be interested if any commenters are aware of sources that consider this angle.

12

David Steinsaltz 10.22.17 at 12:22 pm

I’ll just agree with most of the commenters here by saying that I have always experienced the term “Judaeo-Christian” viscerally as soft antisemitism. In fact, until now I never thought much about whether other people might not experience it that way. It feels to me like an ideological equivalent of the infamous posthumous Mormon conversions: We show our respect by suggesting that, on some level, you are good enough to become one of us, whether or not you choose it, or even are aware of it. Jews are being drafted onto the evangelical Christian side of the culture wars. By speaking of Jewish religious values as though they were merely an incomplete predecessor of Christian values, Jewish autonomy is erased. This is an important power play in a culture that assigns special importance to “sincerely held religious beliefs”. Jewish perspectives are disqualified from this special respect (and freedom from scrutiny), because only the moral traditions that align with Christianity are recognized as religious.

13

SusanC 10.22.17 at 1:26 pm

Judaeo-Christian might (perhaps) be ok if you’re referring to aspects that Christianity has inherited from Judaism and has in common with it. But, as the OP rightly points out, you really can’t use when you’re talking about Christmas or the whole Jesus thing.

P.S. The leaflets from our local council outlining the programme of events for the winter holiday season makes for quite entertaining reading once you realise they’re deliberately avoiding ever saying “Christmas”.

14

Ted Lemon 10.22.17 at 1:33 pm

@8 so many Christmas carols refer to the Nativity occurring in winter, despite it having occurred in a climate that at least in modern times rarely goes below freezing in midwinter. There is really not a lot of deep reflection on this point in Christian communities I’ve engaged with. I don’t think I heard the notion that the Church had coopted a pagan holiday by tying it to the winter solstice until I was in my late teens, and I was hanging out with some serious skeptics at that point.

15

steven t johnson 10.22.17 at 1:40 pm

The conservative position on Christmas is straightforward enough I think. It is something like this, the US is a Christian country. Holding that there is some sort of implicit charity in acknowledging, by using some neutral expression like Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings, that there are religious minorities (tolerated out of the goodness of our hearts,) is an attack on the people who prefer to acknowledge the Christian holiday. It implies they are bigoted because they are testifying to their faith. In that sense it is a War on Christmas, and one vastly more deeply offensive than even the maddest excesses of commerce.

It is not clear that one can really draw a distinction between secular and non-denominational in the US, without surreptitiously assuming that Christian denominations are superior to non-Christian denominations.

As to the term “Judeo-Christian,” it is so far as I know something that arose to acknowledge the enemy/loser image of Nazi-style anti-Semitism, and the rise of Israel, now a fellow member of the colonial-imperialist club of superior nations. The prospect of Jews going to their own country instead of staying here has always been appealing to a certain segment of the Christian population. So it permits a socially acceptable kind of anti-Semitism, where Judaism is Zionism, and vice versa.

16

AnthonyB 10.22.17 at 2:37 pm

I’d be fine with the “soft polytheism” of Christianity turning into the hard variety. As Nietzsche is always noting, the Classical gods aren’t moralizing gods, neither with respect to humans nor to themselves. (Some gods of the older generation, e.g. the Furies, are moralizing busybodies.)

17

Ebenezer Scrooge 10.22.17 at 3:03 pm

I think that “Judeo-Christian” has had two different meanings.
A few decades ago, it was an attempt to be inclusive: to treat add a new (junior) partner to the American cultural enterprise. “Of course America has been a Christian country from Day One, but we’re all for diversity here.” It may have been a bit patronizing to Jews, but hey–much better than Henry Ford!
But nowadays, the usage is defensive: a dead-ender battle in the culture wars. “Judeo” remains part of the formula because the culture warriors believe that Israelis are about the only white people around who proudly bash their wogs. (This is false on so many levels, but I think that the culture warriors believe it.) I don’t think that the Book of Revelation has anything to do with it. The culture warriors decide what they want to believe first, and then look to Bible snippets for support.

18

Tim 10.22.17 at 3:20 pm

The “War of Christmas” ™ is just an extension of white evangelical persecution complex in the US. Which is finally waining a bit since its top cheerleader (Bill O’Reilly) was fired. And I’m amused that someone is attempting to find logic in the “values” espoused at the Values Voters summit.

19

bianca steele 10.22.17 at 3:20 pm

I’m not sure there aren’t people (Christians, obviously) who honestly don’t understand that Jews have different beliefs. Whether they’ve been misled by the “Judeo-Christian” slogan or simply think their understanding of the Hebrew Bible must be the same as a Jew’s–especially if they incline to “literal” readings of scripture–I don’t know.

I don’t go as far as Warren, though. I think many people, including Jews, see it as an attempt to describe the origins of a now largely secularized culture.

20

Jim Harrison 10.22.17 at 3:22 pm

For me, “Judeo-Christian” is the type specimen 0f a modern idea, i.e., a superficial, largely empty concept that is somehow regarded as a tenet of faith for right-thinking people. Unearned edification. It had its uses in the day when Jews were becoming white people; but the formula, like the fins on a vintage Chevy, hasn’t aged well. “Abrahamic religion” makes more historical sense, though I tend that some people object to it, especially if you include Marxism as its fourth branch.

21

jhe 10.22.17 at 4:02 pm

1. A person uses the phrase ‘Judeo-Christian values’ is invariably talking politics not values.
2. A person who uses the phrase should be challenged on whether they mean the intersection or the union of Jewish and Christian values and for an example beyond the Decalogue. This will almost certainly support my first assertion.

22

BruceJ 10.22.17 at 5:35 pm

@8

Isn’t Christmas a hijacked holiday anyway? Surely no self-respecting Christian believes that Jesus Christ was during the season of the winter solstice.

Pretty much the standard modus operandi of the early Christan religionin it’s various conquering evangelical phases: grab a local pagan holiday, file off the serial numbers, slap a ‘christian’ name on it and in the immortal words of Firesign Theatre ( Track:Temporarily Humboldt County, Waiting For The Electrician, Or Someone Like Him):

Oh! By the way, Domini Domini Domini, you’re all Catholics now! God bless you!

Look closely at most, if not all of the more obscure ‘church’ festivals in mesoamerica, and you see a direct line to Aztec, Mayan and Incan rituals and holidays.

Easter gets it’s very name of Oestre, a germanic fertility goddess whose festival is in the springtime, and Christmas is essentially a Christian theme slapped onto Saturnalia, the roman mid-winter festival.

23

DMC 10.22.17 at 6:02 pm

Warren beat me to the punch! Indeed, the scholarly preference is for “Abrahamic” as the more inclusive term as it would encompass even Mormons and Mandeans. “Semitic Monotheism” seems a bit too ethnically focused for general use.

24

Joshua W. Burton 10.22.17 at 6:19 pm

“Well, we don’t celebrate Christmas, but we do have Tu b’Shvat.”

In the spirit of 1960 Robert Heinlein in the USSR, winding up his Intourist guides by firmly opposing “the democracies” to Russia at every rhetorical opportunity, I make it my habit, upon hearing “Judaeo-Christian” anything, to consistently drive “monotheists” into the conversation as a synonym for “Jews and Muslims (and a few others), as opposed to Christians, Hindus, animists, etc.” If further provoked, I turn to Deuteronomy 13 as a conversation stopper.

The stance of Sincere and Slightly Persecuted Jew cuts through an amazing amount of bad-faith moral-majoritarian piety; I commend it to anyone who can pull it off. Roy Moore? Take two tablets and call me when he keeps the sabbath. Chick-Fil-A? A treyf chicken joint run by bigots, what’s not to love. When does life begin? Start from Genesis 2:7 and the sotah ceremony in parshat Naso; we’ll get to Sanhedrin 72b in the Bavli when you’re a little older.

25

Lee A. Arnold 10.22.17 at 6:29 pm

All I want for Xmas is a picture of Jesus kneeling with the football players.

26

Aardvark Cheeselog 10.22.17 at 6:35 pm

I found myself thinking of Alan Watts’ Myth and Ritual in Christianity, where there is a sort of offhand remark that Protestantism, with its emphasis on learning from the Bible, is not so much Christianity as a sort of “Hebraism.” So there is that, as a possible defense of the notion that “Judeo-Christian” means something, even if in practice it has contempt for Judaism.

27

Suzanne 10.22.17 at 6:46 pm

Since the late nineties I have always been partial to “Happy Festivus!” Mr. Costanza’s holiday, with its ritual Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength, bears a certain resemblance to the family gatherings of my youth. “Festivus” also has a nice neo-pagan sound to it. Dated media references aside, I use “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” as seems appropriate in the circumstances. I have the impression that “Judeo-Christian” is used in the U.S. primarily by right-wing blowhards and is to be shunned.

Trumpy’s latest salvos with regard to the War on Christmas are yet more red meat for the base. I’ll say this for him: He knows his audience. The Never-Ending Campaign has already raised $7 million from small donors by using the crusade against protesting NFL players as e-mail bait. I expect this business will be good for several millions more, at least.

28

Raven Onthill 10.22.17 at 6:49 pm

The book often cited on this (I haven’t read it) is Mark Silk’s 1980s Spiritual Politics. Silk is still around, a Professor at Trinity College, and has a blog. There, he recently wrote:

During the 1930s, “Judeo-Christian” came into American public discourse as a way of opposing Fascist anti-Semitism. After World War II, it became the watchword of an America standing for human freedoms against Communism.

With the rise of the religious right, it was transformed into a synonym for traditional sexual mores. In the Bannon-Breitbart world view, it has been reduced to the underpinnings of economic nationalism.

Call this the degradation of the Judeo-Christian dogma.

29

Raven Onthill 10.22.17 at 6:51 pm

Oh, bother. The automatic copyediting function buried the URL for Mark Silk’s remarks. Here it is: http://religionnews.com/2017/08/28/steve-bannons-judeo-christianity/

30

chedolf 10.22.17 at 7:08 pm

“Judeo-christian” is a bullshit term no one used before the 1930s, the point of which is to elide the contradictions between the components.

31

Joshua W. Burton 10.22.17 at 7:52 pm

Mark Silk’s 1980s Spiritual Politics (h/t Raven Onthill @11):

With the rise of the religious right, [Judeo-Christian] was transformed into a synonym for traditional sexual mores.

Which might be less baldly irreverent if this rising religious right were even loosely keeping or advocating traditional sexual mores.

32

novakant 10.22.17 at 8:56 pm

I’ll go further and say that any compound of “xyz values” is BS – but hey, I’m a Kantian…

33

Stephen 10.22.17 at 9:07 pm

Farah Mendelsohn @3:

Without in any way wishing to support the persecution of Jews, by Christians or others (or any permutation of faiths you can imagine), pedantry drives me to point out that according to the histories available to me Jews were not burned to death in the stone Clifford Tower, York, in the thirteenth century.

In the twelfth century, many Jews were let into the wooden castle of York by the authorities, for their protection in a time of troubles. Reports for what they are worth say that they expelled the castle’s garrison, for reasons that can only be imagined, and then when they found themselves attacked in response killed themselves and set fire to the castle. You may not find that credible: I am not a twelfth-century historian, and honestly don’t know. The Clifford Tower was certainly built later.

34

JanieM 10.22.17 at 9:15 pm

bianca steele: I’m not sure there aren’t people (Christians, obviously) who honestly don’t understand that Jews have different beliefs.

It seems like a lot of people who call themselves Christians have only the most tenuous connection with their own supposed beliefs.

35

Stephen 10.22.17 at 9:22 pm

Warren Terra @6:
You write “The very term “Judeo-Christian” is of a piece with popular assertions and assumptions that the Christian religion is primarily descended from Judaism (rather a suspect idea) and that Judaism’s purpose was to incubate Christianity and then either to be frozen in amber or to disappear”.

Well, it’s difficult to read the New Testament (not that I agree with it) without coming to exactly that conclusion. Likewise, it’s difficult to read the Old Testament (ditto) without coming to exactly the opposite conclusion. And it’s difficult to read the Islamic texts (ditto), as far as I can see, without concluding that the purposes of both Judaism and Christianity – Moses and Jesus both being major prophets – was to incubate Islam and thereafter to be tolerated as inferiors, in lands where they submitted to Islam, but not otherwise, and certainly not in once-Islamic lands they have reconquered.

Which leaves me much more unhappy about people who speak approvingly of “the Abrahamic religions” than those who speak about “Judaeo-Christians”.

36

Michael Connolly 10.22.17 at 9:58 pm

15-steven t johnson. What you call the “conservative case” is based on fiction or ignorance of American history. The so-called War against Christmas is a thoroughly Christian – indeed, protestant (originally, Puritan) affair.

Decorating churches at Christmas was forbidden by law in Massachusetts Bay Colony; taking the day off was a finable offense. The Pilgrims themselves made a point of working on Christmas Day, 1620. As late as 1870, classes were being held in public schools in Boston on Christmas Day” and children who stayed home to celebrate were punished.

“Prior to the Victorian era, Christmas in the United States was primarily a religious holiday observed by Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans. Its importance was often considered secondary to that of Epiphany and Easter.” [Note: this means a minority of Christian Americans celebrated Christmas.]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_controversies#cite_note-34

Britain suppressed Christmas celebrations throughout the Cromwell era – and reservations about, if not hostility to, Christmas continued for centuries, being alleviated only in the mid-19th century through the efforts of Dickens or Prince Albert (a German, remember) or even, perhaps the influence of American culture, depending on whom you read.

Arguably, our sense of the holiday owes more to the publication in 1822 of The Night Before Christmas and the work of other artists and authors in New York state, than to old Christian traditions…. The US Congress proclaimed Christmas a national holiday in 1870 – 250 years after the Pilgrims arrived and almost 100 years after Independence. ..

https://books.google.com/books?id=EUc13_ourtYC&pg=PA44&dq=Christmas+Puritan+New+England&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html

37

Bloix 10.22.17 at 10:59 pm

Banned commenter deleted

38

Bloix 10.22.17 at 11:39 pm

Banned commenter deleted

39

bianca steele 10.22.17 at 11:45 pm

a sort of offhand remark that Protestantism, with its emphasis on learning from the Bible, is not so much Christianity as a sort of “Hebraism.”

This is the kind of thing I had in mind, primarily: the assumption that because it’s “Hebraic” in some sense it’s part of Judaism.

I’ve always understood “Judeo-Christian” to mean morality, broadly, not just sexual “morals”, and the whole Western intellectual tradition, takes precedence over theology and theological differences. Apparently not anymore.

40

steven t johnson 10.23.17 at 12:13 am

Michael Connolly@36 is quite correct about the foolishness of conservatives in regards to Christmas. About the only quibble I would make is to add the importance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to establishing Christmas as a favorite holiday. Truth is no more a value for political conservatism than consistency. (Popular versions of Burke in which “conservatism” has something to do with respect for tradition, caution, prudence, what a philosopher might call epistemic humility are purely apologetic. Respect for tradition never impelled a political conservative to acknowledge the facts of history.)

41

Raven 10.23.17 at 1:25 am

chedolf @ 30: “no one used [Judeo-Christian] before the 1930s”

First recorded in 1895-1900

42

alfredlordbleep 10.23.17 at 1:43 am

Tim @18
The “War of Christmas” ™ is just an extension of white evangelical persecution complex in the US. . . And I’m amused that someone is attempting to find logic in the “values” espoused at the Values Voters summit.

Yeah. And why not say White Christians’ Values summit instead of Values Voters summit? Aren’t liberty, equality, fraternity values? F’rinstance. Large groups are attracted to those values too (it is said).

Christianity by way of euphemism? Just as the Republican Party isn’t referred to as the White Christians’ Party.

Just like the ones I used to know

(Maybe the White Christmas Party) (Do you hear Bing warming up?)

43

Sally 10.23.17 at 2:32 am

Holidays is a contraction of HOLY and DAYS. That is what Holy-day/s is. So by saying Happy Holiday/s, you are saying happy holy day/s.

Hard to see how Holy-Days is not Christian.

44

Whirrlaway 10.23.17 at 3:42 am

‘Judeo-Christian’ describes a hypothesized culture, not any extant religion. It’s an attempt to secularize the moral content of fundamentalist Christian (not particularly Jewish) values (such as heterosexual purity of a certain kind), with the goal of legitimizing codification in secular law.

45

J-D 10.23.17 at 5:03 am

bianca steele
Just as the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ can signify (and in practice often does, although probably not invariably) an attempt at Christian appropriation of Judaism, so can treating Jewish intellectual tradition as part of Western intellectual tradition signify a related form of appropriation. How is the Rambam (Maimonides) any more ‘Western’ than Ibn Rushd (Averroes) or Ibn Sina (Avicenna)? (I suppose they too could be deemed part of ‘Western’ intellectual tradition, but can’t that be considered a further attempt at appropriating somebody else’s culture?)

46

Collin Street 10.23.17 at 6:38 am

Hard to see how Holy-Days is not Christian.

I invite you to consider the origin of the word “shibboleth” in english, and the import the concept carries in its original context.

47

Raven 10.23.17 at 7:12 am

Sally @ 43: “Hard to see how Holy-Days is not Christian.”

Not that it’s not Christian, but it’s not only Christian, as other religions have holy-days too. One might be wishing happy holy-days to a crowd including not only Christians but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. — and this is the possibility that Trump would foreclose by insisting on “Merry Christmas!”

48

TM 10.23.17 at 7:42 am

Judeo-Christian is the religion that worships egg-laying bunnies because the Bible says so.

49

Z 10.23.17 at 9:54 am

bianca steele and the whole Western intellectual tradition, takes precedence over theology and theological differences

I agree with J-D: a “whole Western intellectual tradition” – or even a whole Western cultural tradition – that includes a Christian component and a Jewish component (and presumably a Greek and Roman component) necessarily includes in equal part an Arabo-Persic component. In fact, I would go further and say that in many cases the Jewish component has been incorporated in the Western intellectual tradition, and the Greek component persevered in it, because of interactions between the Christendom and the Arabo-Persic cultural world.

About Christmas and Judeo-Christian values, I once sat on a school board that was debating whether to prepare a nativity show. Someone remarked that this might feel exclusionary to “children of non Judeo-Christian background” and it was incumbent on my neighbor on the right to point out that as a Jew, she did not feel particularly connected to nativity shows while I had to remark that many variants of Islam, especially the Western Turkish one, are very open to nativity celebrations.

50

bianca steele 10.23.17 at 11:58 am

J-D @ 45

Fair point, though I’ve seen Judeo-Christian-Islamic, and most histories I’ve seen mention Ibn Rushd, Avicenna, and Maimonides as important thinkers. But that isn’t really what middle Americans meant 1950s – 1970

As for Christianity as “appropriation” of Judaism, I’m surprised to see anyone saying it isn’t (unless you date “Judaism” from the period when the Talmud was written down, I guess). I have to wonder where people are getting such an idea, though I know better than to ask on the Internet. It does seem a little late to be worrying about it.

51

bianca steele 10.23.17 at 12:02 pm

Sorry, hit submit too soon: 1950s – 1970s by “Judeo-Christian”. They meant that Jews and Christians (of all denominations, though primarily Catholics and those from mainstream Protestant churches–evangelicals were barely recognized in much of the US at the time) could naturally understand each other, and lived by pretty much the same principles.

52

Bloix 10.23.17 at 4:52 pm

Banned commenter deleted

53

CJColucci 10.23.17 at 5:58 pm

About Christmas and Judeo-Christian values, I once sat on a school board that was debating whether to prepare a nativity show. Someone remarked that this might feel exclusionary to “children of non Judeo-Christian background” and it was incumbent on my neighbor on the right to point out that as a Jew, she did not feel particularly connected to nativity shows while I had to remark that many variants of Islam, especially the Western Turkish one, are very open to nativity celebrations.

I would never have dared make up such a scene in a work of fiction. For all one can say against it, the internet is a wonderful place precisely because you can find out things like this.

54

Raven 10.23.17 at 6:10 pm

Bloix @ 52: With regard to “Happy Holidays!”, dismissing the etymology is somewhat disingenuous. The U.S. and other nations also have secular holidays now, but generally when people say “Happy Holidays!” they are not referring to Presidents’ Day or Veterans’ Day (or Victoria Day or Canada Day), etc., but to that melange of religious festivals of light surrounding the winter solstice, such as Saturnalia and Hanukkah… and derivatives.

Speaking of Saturnalia, I do think it ironic that one of the biggest starring characters in the biggest commercial ‘Christian’ holiday these days is originally… not a Germanic, but a Mediterranean god, variously named Saturn (by the Romans), Kronos (by the Greeks), Dagon (by the Phoenicians), and Ba’al Hammon (by the Carthaginians), not then recalled as a nice cuddly grandfather to children, alas, but as a devourer of children.

55

Theophylact 10.23.17 at 8:35 pm

The only people I know of who apply a term equivalent to “Judeo-Christian” to themselves are “Messianic Jews” and their proselytizing organization Jews for Jesus. But the proper term for them is “Christian”.

56

alfredlordbleep 10.24.17 at 12:27 am

Z @49
In fact, I would go further and say that in many cases the Jewish component has been incorporated in the Western intellectual tradition, and the Greek component persevered in it, because of interactions between the Christendom and the Arabo-Persic cultural world.

I take this to mean texts of classical civilization, destroyed by (early) Christians, was preserved by “Arabo-Persic” scholars. . . Similarly, intolerant Protestants destroyed Catholic sacred music in a purifying phase during the Renaissance. As usual they, and they alone, knew Truth.

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alfredlordbleep 10.24.17 at 12:30 am

Errata
Formatting awry in previous. Shows html doesn’t work as planned.
“were” for “was”.

58

Anarcissie 10.24.17 at 12:50 am

Recently, given things as they are, I thought I had better be learning more about the Nazis, especially their initial appearance as they came marching up the road, so I began reading Victor Klemperer’s I Will Bear Witness. This remarkable document mentioned another work from Professor Klemperer’s hand (literally — the Nazi state was afraid of his typewriter and seized it) called Lingua Tertii Imperii, that is, ‘language of the Third Reich’ in Latin — the Professor guessed correctly that the Nazi police would not be able to read Latin, and so they failed to seize it. I sent away for this book and have just obtained it (in German). I opened it in the middle somewhere, and what should pop out but a discussion of the Nazi problem with Christmas, to wit, that it celebrated the birth of a Jew who promoted values rather at odds with theirs, and yet was thought of with great affection by the Volk. Part of the Nazi solution was to denature the person and the holiday. The Nazis had some help from the language in that the German word for Christmas — Weihnachten — doesn’t mention Christ or a mass, but means something like ‘holy night’, so it was possible to pretend that it was a sort of vague tribal celebration. Just so, Judaeo-Christian, as some of you have noted, denatures at least Judaism and possibly Christianity as well. In my youth it was just some more bland, boring plastic furniture from the Established Order, but Mr. Trump seems to know how to seize on such things and make them into weapons for his armory. All right, so much for this little semi-relevant coincidence. I do recommend Professor Klemperer’s work to you, though. Try AbeBooks; there are lots of copies of his work floating around that nobody wants to read.

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J-D 10.24.17 at 12:53 am

bianca steele

Obviously Christianity has adopted/continued elements/features of Judaism; that isn’t what I meant by ‘appropriation’ in this context. What I meant (see my original comment above) was that the specific term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is often used to signal that Judaism as being treated as no more than a prologue to or rough draft of Christianity, denying its distinct independent identity, which to an unbeliever is a factual error and to a sincere Jewish believer potentially offensive. (I acknowledge that this is not the case if, for example, the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is used to refer to groups like the Ebionites, but personally I think I would be inclined to avoid that usage now because of the more common current use.)

Also, I don’t perceive any problem with referring to a Judeo-Christian-Islamic intellectual tradition, but in the context of the usual current uses of the term ‘Western’, appropriating Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina to a ‘Western’ intellectual tradition seems to me another denial of a distinct independent identity; obviously it would be possible to devise a definition of ‘Westerner’ that would include them, but that’s not the way the word is generally used now.

There’s a difference between suggesting ‘these ones are ours as well as yours’ (acknowledging a shared identity) and suggesting ‘these ones are ours and therefore not yours’ (appropriating an identity).

60

Heliopause 10.24.17 at 1:27 am

Maybe the 100% lockstep doctrine of elite media and political discourse that the two most worthy nations on Earth are the USA and Israel might have something to do with the widespread use of the term “Judeo-Christian”? Just a thought. And if you consider the term problematic maybe you should look beyond Trump and the evangelicals and consider the legions of social liberals in government and media who fervently disseminate this doctrine? Just spitballing here.

61

Heim 10.24.17 at 6:34 am

As nearly everyone knows Santa Claus emigrated to China a long way back. Do not most of the toys say “Made in China”. AND the Christmas holiday is about ‘Buy stuff will you”.

62

faustusnotes 10.24.17 at 7:25 am

Am I alone in finding this christmas vs. holidays thing completely weird? I admit I’ve been out of the west for 11 years now so maybe I’m just out of touch but wtf? As far as I know in Australia we always just said merry christmas and nobody was bullshitting with happy holidays when I was in the UK in 2009. Here in Japan christmas is super popular (though completely alien to christianity), and most muslims I’ve ever met celebrate it so they can give their kids presents (it’s not like Jesus isn’t one of their most loved figures, after all). Of course the virgin birth is at the centre of the dispute between Muslims and Christians but you don’t see that in the nativity scene (at least I’ve never seen any depictions of God raping Mary anywhere ever), and I can’t conceive of any Muslims I’ve ever met finding such a thing offensive – is there really anyone in the world who thinks they would? (I know now someone is going to give a link to some weirdo Muslim group that does, but they will have almost zero relevance to most Muslims living in Christian countries). I really don’t understand how this became A Thing, and I don’t understand why right-thinking (or for that matter, thinking) non-Americans care about it. It seems to me like another example of a pointless, petty American cultural spat getting international significance because Americans talk too much. (Which isn’t to say I disapprove of blog posts about it, I just want to have my 2 cents worth about what a foolish sideshow the US war on christmas shenanigans are).

63

J-D 10.24.17 at 7:56 am

faustusnotes

Of course the virgin birth is at the centre of the dispute between Muslims and Christians

No; the account in the Quran agrees with the traditional Christian view that Jesus was born of a virgin.

64

SusanC 10.24.17 at 9:47 am

@62. Last “winter holiday season”, the shop near me -which has a Muslim owner – was advertising halal turkeys for Christmas. The owner wished me a merry christmas, then paused to say of course christmas wasn’t a muslim holiday, but whatever.

In my experience, Christmas has become thoroughly secularized and crosses religious boundaries. The government is careful not to say christmas in official leaflets (being mindful that the citizens are of many religions), but hardly anyone else cares.

And the part of my family that is Methodist would say that the real Christian festival is Easter, while Christmas is a slightly suspect pagan remnant. So we’re all agreed that its not a religious festival, whether we’re jewish, muslim, or protestant, so it kind of works…

65

Suzanne 10.24.17 at 4:57 pm

@62: “As far as I know in Australia we always just said merry christmas and nobody was bullshitting with happy holidays when I was in the UK in 2009.”

Why is “Happy Holidays” bullshitting? Would you send a Jewish friend, or a Jewish working colleague, a “Merry Christmas” card?

It is true, as many have pointed out here, that the Christmas season is secularized in many respects. However, it has not been entirely emptied of religious significance by any means. At one workplace of mine some years ago, a Jewish employee raised objections to the Christmas tree in the lobby; next year there was no tree. (At other offices they split the difference. I’ve seen businesses with both trees and menorahs.)

66

TM 10.24.17 at 7:32 pm

65: Why would anybody object to a decorated tree? Here I can’t follow the purist stance of US-liberals. As an atheist I don’t see any reason to feel offended by that custom, except that I would join many Christians in denouncing the commercial debasement of what was once a rather quiet, reflective holiday.

67

Mike Schilling 10.24.17 at 7:47 pm

It is not news that “Judaeo-Christian” means “Christian”.

68

bianca steele 10.24.17 at 8:59 pm

J-D @ 49

Yes, I think we agree. What I didn’t think was offensive, or much in question, was the idea that even if Christianity isn’t seen as superseding Judaism, it can still be seen as continuing Judaism, and bringing the Law, knowledge of the one God, or however you’d like to describe it, to non-Jews. I was surprised to see people who think this is both untrue and offensive to Jews; as a Jew, I never saw it that way, and I think I could even scrounge up written sources in support.

I did not mean to imply that all the writers who are read as contributing to the “Western” tradition should be described as persons who are “Western”, obviously. You seem to be objecting to a specific practice, which you allude to but don’t name; would you mind clarifying?

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bianca steele 10.24.17 at 9:00 pm

In drafting my previous comment, it occurred to me that you don’t hear the term “three major world religions” much anymore. I’m not sure what to make of that.

70

Peter T 10.24.17 at 10:03 pm

Shop sign seen in Goa many tears ago:

Mohamed Qurayshi – Purveyor of Christian Religious Artifacts

71

SamChevre 10.25.17 at 1:17 am

Faustusnotes @ 62
Of course the virgin birth is at the centre of the dispute between Muslims and Christians

No, that’s completely wrong: Muslims believe not just in the virgin birth, but that Mary was ever-virgin, while only some Christians believe that. There’s a reason that Mariam is one of the most common woman’s names in Pakistan.

72

Joshua W. Burton 10.25.17 at 2:24 am

Suzanne @65: Why is “Happy Holidays” bullshitting? Would you send a Jewish friend, or a Jewish working colleague, a “Merry Christmas” card?

I would hope so. My new year’s cards go out each September to friends of all faiths in the hope that Christmas and Diwali and Festivus cards will come back in due season. (It’s convenient that we’re a few months ahead, giving our correspondents ample time for a festive reply.)

“Merry Christmas” in the street from strangers is a different matter. I always reply brightly with “and a happy Kwanzaa to you!” which is taken well by some and very badly by others, in both cases just as I intend it.

73

derrida derider 10.25.17 at 3:10 am

Yep, most of the above is overthought.

“Judeo-Christian” is just a term that allows you to say “Christian” without exposing you to charges of anti-Semitism, in circumstances where using “Christian” alone would make it clear that you are in fact exactly the sort of person who some decades ago would have been an obvious anti-Semite.

This sort of person often goes on to speak of “true Christianity” in a blatant No True Scotsman move.

74

derrida derider 10.25.17 at 3:30 am

Suzanne, observant Jews – indeed non-observant ones – are fairly rare in Australia. As a consequence while we have plenty of racial and religious sensitivities we don’t much have that one.

It is of course hilarious to anybody who knows anything of the history of Xmas to see Christians taking it seriously. It was originally invented as a plugin replacement for Saturnalia, Constantine not being foolish enough to take a public holiday away from the plebs and a shopping spree away from the merchants when he converted the empire. It is of course the wrong solstice given the biblical account. And all those ancient traditions are either pagan in origin, not ancient, or, as with the Christmas tree, both pagan and not ancient (Prince Albert – Victoria’s husband – popularised it in Britain and from thence in the US). Then of course there is the commercial aspect to the festivities:
“Angels we have heard on high
Telling us go out and buy”
– apologies to Tom Lehrer

I actually have a fundamentalist sister who refuses to celebrate Xmas on these grounds. Her cult has plenty of wacky beliefs, but is at least logical and consistent on this one.

75

Raven 10.25.17 at 4:02 am

TM @ 66: “Why would anybody object to a decorated tree?”See here.

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Warren Terra 10.25.17 at 8:54 am

@ #66 “Why would anybody object to a decorated tree?”

In a private business, it’s probably fine, though possibly inconsiderate to non-Christian employees and patrons who may feel they’re being excluded from a company activity. Part of this depends on how strongly it’s emphasized and whether other events are celebrated.

In a public institution, it’s Establishment Of Religion. We’re supposed to have rules against that, and for good reason.

@ #68 I simply don’t get how you can’t understand that the notion that Christianity can “be seen as continuing Judaism, and bringing the Law, knowledge of the one God, or however you’d like to describe it, to non-Jews” is profoundly offensive. It’s like those jackasses who dress up in fake Indian headdresses in baseball stadiums. It’s claiming ownership of someone else’s identity, and doing so in almost complete ignorance of the source material. And the central notion of it – that Christian belief or theology is in any important way closely related to Judaism – is fairly silly once you start looking beyond Christian appropriation of the Tanakh, which in any case they read very differently. Evangelism, a focus on the afterlife, even an affection and respect for the deity – all of these are fundamental to Christianity and are missing or strongly deprecated in Judaism.

77

TM 10.25.17 at 8:59 am

Raven: interesting but doesn’t answer my question (was it intended to?)

Btw there are other customs involving decorated trees, for example the Maibaum erected before May 1 in some German speaking areas (sometimes it’s a Maypole, sometimes it’s an actual tree). That too of course goes back to some Pagan origin but the current practice is not related to religious motives. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Carnival all have religious (pre-Christian and Christian) origins but are now mostly practiced in secular forms. Christmas isn’t that much different in that respect. I understand that sincere Christians are dismayed by the secularization and commercialization of the Christmas holiday. What I don’t understand is that conservative Christians in the US promote promote that very commercialization as a culture war tactic.

78

TM 10.25.17 at 11:32 am

WT 76: But it’s just a decorated tree (as opposed to, say a crucifix or a Ten Commandments engraving). It’s a custom that appeared in the 19th century in parts of Europe. What about Thanksgiving and Halloween, should non-Christians feel excluded by those customs because they do have a Christian component?

79

bianca steele 10.25.17 at 12:16 pm

Warren @ 76

I’m struggling to see how to reply without being insulting, or speculating about the difference between what you say here and elsewhere. What I was sort of curious about initially was whether the idea that Christianity has nothing to do with Judaism (and whether “we” shouldn’t say “Judeo-Christian” because it’s offensive to “them”) is coming from Jews or Christians.

I’m kind of shocked at the idea that it might be offensive to consider that there are different religions, or different ways of interpreting the same text. There’s nothing Christianity has “stolen” from Judaism except ideas. There are some beliefs that are so different as to be “offensive” to Judaism, in the sense of sacrilegious, but that’s not the same thing.

There are some behaviors that are offensive in the normal sense, like claiming now to be the “only real Jews,” or telling Jews how to interpret their own religion in line with Christianity (ex. insisting the first sentence of the Sh’ma has three parts to indicate a secret belief among Jews in the Christian Trinity, as some of today’s “Jews for Jesus” do, apparently). I’m a little dubious about modern-day Christians who have Christian-only Seders because Jesus did, personally. But Christian missionaries treat other world religions in the same way, and most Christians can comprehend that there are different beliefs around.

80

Z 10.25.17 at 1:00 pm

bianca steele @51 [Americans in the 1950s] meant that Jews and Christians […] could naturally understand each other, and lived by pretty much the same principles.

I agree they meant that, but then again I always wonder “Jews and Christians […] could naturally understand each other, and lived by pretty much the same principles” in opposition with who exactly it is not natural to understand and who does not live by pretty much the same principles?

If they were really talking about Jews and Christians generally, then the latter had just exterminated the former on a scale never seen before in History a mere decade away, an experience which would I think entail not naturally understanding each others so well and not quite living by pretty much the same principles. If they were talking about American Jews and American Christians, then why choosing such a religiously loaded terminology? Wouldn’t it better to say that by and large Americans more or less got along together (with rare and notable exceptions)? Doesn’t the religious terminology at least implicitly suggest that maybe American Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Chinese, Natives (inter alia) are not naturally understood and do not live by pretty much the same principles?

alfredlordbleep I take this to mean texts of classical civilization, destroyed by (early) Christians, was preserved by “Arabo-Persic” scholars

I think my (completely unoriginal) thesis is even stronger. I think I’m saying that if a structure were to be put on the broad Western canon, then the Arabo-Persian world would in many cases appear as the central nexus without which no joint understanding of (say) Aristotle or Hipparcus on the one hand, the Golden Age of medieval Jewish thinking on another and the late Middle-Ages and early European Renaissance on yet another could be achieved. So I think I’m saying that a cultural universe which includes (again, for instance) Ptolemy and Archimedes as well as Leonardo de Pisa, Thomas of Aquinas and Copernicus as well as Maimonides makes absolutely no sense if it doesn’t include Ibn al-Haytham (Al-Hazen), Al-Khwarizmi, Omar Khayyam or Ibn Khaldun.

81

Suzanne 10.25.17 at 9:02 pm

@72: Perhaps — if you know your friend or colleague well enough to be certain that they won’t mind or merely wonder what you were thinking. I think you would be taking a serious chance of looking tone-deaf, at best, if you sent a “Merry Christmas” card to a Jew or anyone you knew to be of the non-Christian persuasion without having that prior knowledge, but YMMV.

@74: A Jew – or Jewish person (I always think of Jonathan Miller’s line from Beyond the Fringe – ‘I’m not really a Jew. Just Jewish. Not the whole hog.’) wouldn’t have to be all that observant to be bothered by a deluge of Christmas cards, quite a few of which feature nativity scenes. Probably many faithful Christians don’t necessarily believe that Christ was literally born on December 25. Many do, of course. They take their belief seriously even if we do not, although we are of course free to say what we like on an internet board.

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J-D 10.26.17 at 2:03 am

bianca steele
I haven’t answered your question because I don’t understand it. Can you quote a particular statement of mine whose meaning was not clear to you?

83

Collin Street 10.26.17 at 10:09 am

Suzanne, observant Jews – indeed non-observant ones – are fairly rare in Australia.

I wouldn’t say rare. About a hundred thousand, which is… roughly comparable with south american or french or maltese, according to the wiki.

[australian secularism means that many people don’t really talk much about their religious practices, so unless the person you’re talking to is flamboyantly jewish there’s not a lot to give it away…]

84

bianca steele 10.26.17 at 11:24 am

Z @ 80

Yes, this is the famous “privatization of religion,” to which so many religious conservatives object, and in 2017 may well be on the verge of overturning. I don’t know what we might get after that. Some religious conservatives object to the idea of a secular “public sphere,” and might even claim it’s inherently Christian, somehow, in predominantly Christian countries, but even if this is true in some ways–and I think it would have to be proven case-by-case–most religious people have found ways to cope with this without losing their religious identity, given some amount of time to adapt. Most liberals, I think, believe all religions can pretty much accomplish this adaptation, and wouldn’t exclude Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. They might not use “Judeo-Christian” themselves, but not object to it–they might see it as a (weak) attempt to overcome a tradition of antisemitism.

I think most Americans over 50, in most places, hear “Judeo-Christian” in this way and would resent its cooptation by the fundamentalist conservatives mentioned so frequently in this thread (who are, I assume, also Americans, so is the problem one the US is imposing on the world?). I see a choice between this liberal privatization of religion, a theocracy, and the entire banning of religion.

85

bianca steele 10.26.17 at 12:24 pm

J-D @ 84

I went back to your first reply to me, which I took to be an objection to my comment about whether Christianity inappropriately “appropriates” (in the modern political jargon) Judaism. Though it seems not really to pay much attention to what I actually wrote.

If instead you didn’t understand my other paragraph, what I meant is when a scholar promises to give us a “Jewish” understanding of his argument, specifically claiming that Jewish people living today would find it sufficient, then instead produces a Protestant theologian’s reading of the Hebrew prophets, labeled “Hebraicism.”

86

Katsue 10.26.17 at 1:17 pm

@22

I note that in most languages, Easter derives its name from the Aramaic word for Passover.

@74

I’m not sure what it means to say that a particular Christian custom, German in origin, is both pagan and non-ancient. Given that paganism in Germany was basically wiped out in the reign of Charlemagne, then any non-ancient German Christian custom must, by definition, be non-pagan.

87

Warren Terra 10.26.17 at 4:24 pm

@ Bianca Steele #79
If you don’t understand how thoroughly offensive it is when Christians attempt to subsume, terminate, and redefine the Jewish identity, after the best part of two thousand years of frequent persecution and occasional genocide of Jews, I don’t know what I can do to get the idea across. To resent such behavior is not to display intolerance of other religions, and has fnck all to do with “sacrilege”.

88

J-D 10.26.17 at 7:53 pm

bianca steele
Aha!

In the modern contexts in which the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is most typically used, it has, for many people, implications similar to the implications of ‘telling Jews how to interpret their own religion in line with Christianity’.

89

bianca steele 10.26.17 at 8:26 pm

@87

I believe “subsume, etc.” is exactly what I did say was offensive. I also think it’s offensive when people accuse others of doing the opposite of what they actually did, and wonder what your motive might be in doing it to me. Though I don’t wonder too hard, since this is the Internet, and I value my mental health.

If you think modern-day Christians are all attempting to steal Jews’ whatever-you-think it is, you are probably ill-suited to living in a majority-Christian, or even post-Christian country, or even posting on the worldwide Internet. You might find it more congenial in the year 1432.

90

Raven 10.26.17 at 9:32 pm

Katsue @ 86: “I’m not sure what it means to say that a particular Christian custom, German in origin, is both pagan and non-ancient.”

“The modern Christmas tree is frequently traced to the symbolism of trees in pre-Christian winter rites, wherein Viking and Saxon worshiped trees.” Cf. Donar’s Oak.

The revivals would in this sense be “neo-pagan” with a Christian gloss.

91

Raven 10.26.17 at 9:46 pm

TM @ 77: “Raven: interesting but doesn’t answer my question (was it intended to?)” — Well, yes. One would think that, not just Jews, but all those very strict Christians who so heavily thump the Old Testament about sins, would therefore shun the idolatry repeatedly pointed to and forbidden in decorating trees for “holidays”.

92

AnthonyB 10.27.17 at 1:37 am

An additional data-point:
Carl Schmitt (a proclaimed anti-Semite) used the term “Judeo-Christian,” and did so during (rather than after) the Nazi era. It occurs at least twice in “The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes” (1938). I have not seen the German text but hardly think this could be a mistranslation (University of Chicago Press, 2008, pp. 11,14).

93

derrida derider 10.27.17 at 2:38 am

If they were really talking about Jews and Christians generally, then the latter had just exterminated the former … – Z @80.

Now that is genuinely offensive to Christians (of which I am not one). The people who perpetuated the Holocaust considered themselves very explicitly NON Christian, and were certainly not considered Christian by other ‘Christians’. Are all those identifying as Christian supposed to carry some sort of blood guilt for the Holocaust even unto the seventh generation?

In accusing others of bigotry, best remove the beam from your own eye before pointing out the mote in your neighbour’s.

94

TM 10.27.17 at 8:27 am

Katsue 86: Since the numbers got messed up, I’m not sure what you are responding to. The Christmas tree is a 19th century folk custom. It has no specific Christian meaning, it is not supported by any scripture or church teaching (likewise the Easter bunny and Easter egg – they are pre-Christian fertility symbols and if anything, conservative Christians should oppose such Pagan claptrap). It is not a Christian symbol at all; the evergreen tree symbolizes life and the candles stand for light in the dark. Such symbols appear in all (or at least many) cultures.

I think it would help to distinguish folk custom from strictly religious rituals. That folk customs developed in the context of the religious calendar, in a time when the church had more dominion over people’s lives, doesn’t mean that any custom vaguely related to religious tradition must be banned from a secular society. We don’t consider Halloween and Thanksgiving a threat to secularism, then why Christmas decoration?

The Pagan thing is a bit more complex. Traditions that are clearly Pagan in origin are still alive in Alpine regions, especially around Carnival (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percht). Carnival itself was a Christian appropriation of earlier Pagan spring customs but has long since gotten a life of its own. Perhaps it makes a difference whether you grew up in a culture where folk traditions are still part of people’s lives.

95

bianca steele 10.27.17 at 11:51 am

If I wasn’t clear enough: you are saying the existence of Christianity is itself offensive to Jews. If you forgot where you said that, Google “hatchet.”

You have shifted the discussion from whether “Judeo-Christian” is offensive to whether Christianity is.

What is it that you think is similar to football fans waving toy tomahawks? The Ten Commandments? The idea of the Sabbath? Religious officiants wearing robes? The deep engagement with Greek thought?

We had an honest disagreement on what “Judeo-Christian” means and has meant. Now you’re essentially claiming I’m not really Jewish. No, there is no way I can do this without being insulting.

96

Z 10.27.17 at 12:14 pm

bianca steele who are, I assume, also Americans, so is the problem one the US is imposing on the world?

I don’t think it is strictly a US problem. Judeo-Christian, Judeo-Christian values, Judeo-Christian roots of civilization are frequently heard in Europe; often to point out even if only implicitly the supposedly problematic place of Islam.

Most liberals […] believe all religions can pretty much accomplish this adaptation […] They might not use “Judeo-Christian” themselves, but not object to it–they might see it as a (weak) attempt to overcome a tradition of antisemitism.

Well, I applaud the attempt to overcome a tradition of antisemitism by emphasizing how close Jews and Christians can be, but I deplore that the same movement that makes two population closer seemingly push others further away.

97

Raven 10.28.17 at 5:05 am

derrida derider @ 93: “The people who perpetuated the Holocaust considered themselves very explicitly NON Christian….”

(1) I think you mean “perpetrated”.

(2) Would those be the folks who wore belt buckles saying Gott Mit Uns ?

(3) Especially would that refer to the fellow who ordered the Holocaust from the top down — who also wrote, “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord” — and who also scheduled Kristallnacht on Martin Luther’s birthday?

98

Raven 10.28.17 at 5:16 am

bianca steele @ 95: The first — and, as I write, only — hit on “hatchet” in this thread is in your #95 (find-function says that’s 1 of 1)… so: ????

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kidneystones 10.28.17 at 5:42 am

Katsue and others.

The eradication of paganism in ostensibly Christian communities remains an issue in the modern church and can be traced textually back to Bede and even earlier. The literature on the topic is immense – I just searched Bede and paganism and retrieved a long list of well-researched and thoughtful modern studies. Important synods over the centuries have attempted to hammer out a more or less coherent theology which incorporates at least two very different visions of god – that of the OT and the NT. That theology explicitly rejects paganism in various forms, such as Arianism and Pelagianism as theologies http://www.gutenberg.org/files/38326/38326-h/38326-h.html#Pg032, but also pagan practices – such as the worship of nature in various forms. The eradication of deviant theologies, of course, was the great mission of Luther and his contemporaries and set up two very different theologies, which nonetheless shared practices in common. Each community, as you rightly note, incorporates orthodoxies in different ways. French accounts of the history of Christianity focus much more on Arian Christianity which was dominant in large parts of France and the area we think of as modern Turkey. Arian Christianity, like Celtic Christianity, is much more alive to the possibility of magic, of multiple gods and goddesses in practice, and to an elastic adherence to gospel. The clearest surviving material evidence of this form of Christianity as a dominant theology is displayed in the Arian Baptistry. In a striking mosaic mounted centrally within the baptistry we can clearly see an anatomically correct Jesus (extremely rare) immersed in the river Jordan flanked by John the Baptist and a figure generally regarded as the pagan deity of the river god Jordan. The iconography of the accompanying figures (costume, color, size, stance, attributes) implies similar stature and importance in the miraculous event. http://www.turismo.ra.it/upload/gallery/scopri_territorio/arte_Cultura/unesco/battistero_ariani/battistero_degli_ariani_particolare_del_battesimo.jpg
The dove appears above and dispenses the holy spirit, thus transforming a human Jesus into the divine son of god – a core teaching of Arians and in direct opposition to the tripartite nature touted by the Church of Rome and most Protestants.

Bede online is easy to locate online and worth a skim. The tales of Saint Augustine arriving in Britain and of Patrick in Ireland are usually told by post Arian authors (such as Bede) keen to re-define deviant Christian theologies as practices of pagans. The fact is that the Roman Church, particularly, allows for a great deal of practices, praying to saints and their images, which are explicitly at odds (obviously) with OT teachings. There are fundamentalists (in the broad sense) who insist that one set of practices is correct, and all others wrong. This key word search will take the interested to a plethora of images and texts: ‘arian baptistry the river god jordan’. (Great discussion, btw, on Judeo-Christianity.)

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kidneystones 10.28.17 at 6:13 am

Sorry JQ for not responding to your reply to my @1 earlier. And, again, kudos to all for a great thread. Reluctant as I am to question your source, I will.

I’d never heard of Ngram and was pleased to give it shot. Given the sampling of Google texts it kicked up. You rely (it seems) on a single secondary source, rather than exploring used to generate his droll column. Please correct me if that is the case. Regarding Jack’s methodology I have two comments. The first is general: google books ability to retrieve text reliably remains somewhat uneven. As good as the OCR is/was when the books were scanned, I’ve encountered enough anomalies and inconsistencies to do the OCR again on any pdf I download using Acrobat Pro. Even then documents need to be reviewed page by page for omissions, depending on the importance of the task. The second and more particular question concerns Jack’s decision to search Ngram using only the upper-case search parameters, which kicks back a very different set of dates and data than a lower-case search. I appreciate the link, however. Thanks! Doubtless Google will improve the software. I stand by my original comment, btw.

As for Jack, here he is in his own modest words:”Jack Neely is the director of the Knoxville History Project, a nonprofit devoted to exploring, disseminating, and celebrating Knoxville’s cultural heritage. He’s also one of the most popular and influential writers in the area, known for his books and columns. The Scruffy Citizen surveys the city of Knoxville’s life and culture in the context of its history, with emphasis on what makes it unique and how its past continues to affect and inform its future.” Cheers!

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kidneystones 10.28.17 at 7:06 am

And better evidence that Trump is full of it (again!) from the Harvard Business Review:
https://hbr.org/2016/12/how-fox-news-created-the-war-on-christmas

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bianca steele 10.28.17 at 11:37 am

J-D:

That’s what I said myself, right? Apparently you, Z, and Warren are objecting to “I wouldn’t go as far as Warren does,” and ignoring what I did say.

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Raven 10.29.17 at 6:00 am

kidneystones @ 100: More than questioning chedolf’s source in #30, it’s worth questioning how well that source justifies the claim “no one used [the term] before the 1930s” — given that it’s an OCR search only of Google’s library of books, not of all other printed literature, e.g. periodicals. And as you hint, one must wonder how many mentions were OCR’d as ‘jvde0-<hr¡5†¡an’, thus not “found” in the search.

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J-D 10.29.17 at 7:10 am

bianca steele

That’s what I said myself, right?

I don’t know. Was it? I don’t think you said it in those words, and it wasn’t clear to me that what you did write was equivalent to:

In the modern contexts in which the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is most typically used, it has, for many people, implications similar to the implications of ‘telling Jews how to interpret their own religion in line with Christianity’.

However, if you do agree with that statement, then there’s no other point I know of on which we are in disagreement. Does there appear to you to be any other point on which we are in disagreement?

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Z 10.29.17 at 11:14 am

derrida derider @93 Now that is genuinely offensive to Christians (of which I am not one)

I think one cannot have it both ways: in the slogan Judaeo-Christian values, either Jewish and Christian are given their narrow religious and theological meaning, and in that case as I said in my very first comment, I find the slogan very lazy as the precise beliefs of both religions are quite different to say the least, or it refers to the general values people broadly identifying as Christian and people broadly identifying as Jewish supposedly share – perhaps in contrast with other people – in which case the fact that people belonging to the former category exterminated people belonging to the second one within living memory surely counts as a serious data point in evaluating the claim.

Bianca Steele offers a third understanding in terms of general culture and general recognition of the fact that within the American context, both Jewish and Christians have reached a modus vivendi in which religion is both respected and privatized. I agree that many people use the expression in that sense (so with somewhat good intent) but I still dislike the implication that other people do not or might not subscribe to this modus vivendi and the implication that religion somehow has something to do with it.

Are all those identifying as Christian supposed to carry some sort of blood guilt for the Holocaust even unto the seventh generation?

Well, if you’ve read me closely (or at all), you see that I’m in fact strongly opposed to the idea of framing this in religious terms, so that the idea of blaming Christians for the Holocaust, far from being my thesis, is a reductio ad absurdum of the thesis of ascribing specific values to people based on their general religious beliefs. That being said, I do believe that Europeans should definitely carry the weight of the Holocaust for some time. I had never given much thought to how long precisely, but seven generations sounds pretty OK to me.

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kidneystones 10.30.17 at 4:25 am

100@ Good point. And then there’s the use of the term in other languages, eg. French.

Lots and lots of examples of judéo-chrétien turn up when filtering for the 19th-century in Google books.

A discussion of the etymology plus variations: http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/jud%C3%A9o-chr%C3%A9tien

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Raven 10.30.17 at 11:51 am

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Bernard Yomtov 10.31.17 at 2:30 am

DD@93

The people who perpetuated the Holocaust considered themselves very explicitly NON Christian, and were certainly not considered Christian by other ‘Christians’. Are all those identifying as Christian supposed to carry some sort of blood guilt for the Holocaust even unto the seventh generation?

Ah yes. We all know how true Christians, like, say, Catholics in Poland, resisted the Holocaust and, even before 1939, were protective of the rights of Jews.

We all know how strongly the Vatican objected, and refused to have anything to do with the Nazi regime, and how it excommunicated (not a single one of the many) priests who cooperated with the Nazis.

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Raven 10.31.17 at 11:00 pm

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