You hear this term a lot these days. It gets used so much, even we atheists use it, and in so doing, are allowing fundamentalists to set the terms of the argument in their favor. Let’s learn what they mean by this term, and what the effects of those values have had on modern history.
First, what DO they mean by this term?
Prominent champions of the term also identify it with the historic American religious traditions. The Jewish Conservative columnist Dennis Prager, for example, writes:
“The concept of Judeo-Christian values does not rest on a claim that the two religions are identical. It promotes the concept there is a shared intersection of values based on the Hebrew Bible ("Torah"), brought into our culture by the founding generations of Biblically oriented Protestants, that is fundamental to American history, cultural identity, and institutions.”
Well, that’s not so bad is it? Or… is it?
Remember - Judaism is no more monolithic than Christianity is. This guy is a conservative Jew. That means he is in line with certain values fundamentalist Christians have, because those Christian fundies got much of their fundamentalist values straight out of the old Testament. (Ignoring for the sake of argument that the Christians cherry pick only those things that they think they can actually get away with and ignore the rest.) So, yeah, he’s got a lot in common with America’s fundies, including misogyny, religious intolerance, rigid adherence to rules, opposition to gays, and preference for religious education, including creationism and the belief that they have the right to force others to adhere to their rules, since if their “nation” fails to do so, their god will kill us all. They also share a righteous support for the State of Israel. (More on that in a bit)
But, Jews who belong to the Reform Movement don’t share those views. They support women’s rights, including the right to choose contraceptives or abortion, gay rights and a few other more liberal beliefs fundies abhor. Their support for Israel is weaker, too.
Speaking of support for Israel, while American fundies may support Israel, and gain support from Jewish groups (especially orthodox groups) for doing so, the reasons each group has for their support of Israel is very different! Jewish folks naturally have some connection, Israel being the first ethnically Jewish state for a couple thousand years or so, and one can see how it can be something to feel a connection to.
But American fundies have a very different reason, that being the biblical book of Revelation and its “predictions” of Jesus’ “Second Coming”. Scattered through the supposed predictions are constant references to Jerusalem, the Jews and certain occurrences that are supposed to happen to herald that much anticipated event.
This school of thought believes that they can influence an eventual (and quicker) Second Coming by ensuring that these events (such as the rebuilding of the Temple) do occur. Indeed, they see it as their duty to god and that they are commanded by him to MAKE these things happen, and they have maneuvered themselves into positions of influence to ensure through US foreign policy that they do. This school also sees this as proof of America’s strength being supported by god and a result of our adherence to a rigid program of worship of god, from which comes the growing program of revising US history to closely match their narrative of this country being founded as a Christian Nation.
I mean, how could it possibly be so successful and strong if it weren’t, right?
Thus was born the modern concept of “American Exceptionalism”. This term embodies all of that, holding that with the US being so guided by god that we can pretty much do whatever we wish.
Thus, the US has been pushed into a constant state of conflict with various “enemies”, culminating with Muslims and Islam now being pushed to the top of that list, necessitating the alteration of two thousand years of Christian history to wipe out the historical repression and oppression of Jews so we can logically make them allies.
Hence, the term “Judeo-Christian” which conveniently leaves off the “Islamic” part of the Abrahamic trio. Nice, huh?
Of course, this also leaves out of the narrative the part where, in Revelation, the Jews who do not convert to Christianity get thrown into the lake of fire along with Satan… is this a nice thing to do to your allies? One also isn’t supposed to note that in the entire book of Revelation, it never quite mentions that the city of god - Jerusalem - was taken and held by Muslims for almost 1500 years. Odd how a book with such important predictions of the future never quite bothered with that little detail of how the Jews were to gain it back. I guess they hadn’t ever heard of the United Nations…
In short, the term “Judeo-Christian” is not really a term that describes the historical foundation of the US as a Christian nation. It is a term that hides the historical truth, sets the terms of the conversation to a false narrative and bids to make that false narrative the future history of this country.
Let’s not let that happen, ok?