On the semiotics of “Judeo-Christian” as a misdirection

Recently on Twitter there emerged another flare-up of the debate as to whether the term “Judeo-Christian” was coherent, useful, and defensible. In general, I take a very skeptical view of the term, because I think it misleads the public as to the nature of some important facts and dynamics in the history of the West.

Perhaps intellectuals can agree amongst themselves that the term has utility for manipulating the masses, but oftentimes it seems even intellectuals don’t have enough of a grasp of religious history to understand why the usage is literally problematic (I’m not using problematic in a euphemistic catchall manner, I think it’s semantically confusing, not offensive).

First, traditionally Jews and Muslims have been much clearer in recognizing each other as non-idolatrous monotheists, as against Christians. The dominant non-Unitarian nature of Christianity, and the importance of divine representation in both medieval Eastern and Western traditions (with statuary in the latter), were the key issues for Muslims and Jews. This point is not dispositive, but it’s not irrelevant.

In the Western context, it seems American Christians in particular are attached to the term Judeo-Christian. I believe this is the outcome of a specific American history, where different European immigration streams were forged into a common people in the 20th century, especially in the post-World War II era. The general model is the one outlined by Will Herberg in Protestant, Catholic, Jew, the emergence of a white America united by shared values, with establishment mainline Protestantism at the center, and Roman Catholicism and Judaism as helpmates. Though the title of the book points to the real religious particularism still prevalent in that period, it was an early form of what Rod Dreher and his fellow travelers would term “morally therapeutic Deism.” The idea that it didn’t matter as to the details of the confession and practice of your faith, so long as you believed in God and were a good person.

Of course not all people who assert the utility of Judeo-Christian as a category are so religiously naive. But most Christians who adhere to the category seem to have a hard time not understanding Judaism as anything other an earlier form of their religion. In other words, Judaism as Christianity without the Christ.

I think this is very misleading. Rather, Judaism as it evolved after the rise of Christianity, and then Islam, was a distinct religion from the Judaism which Christians are familiar with from their Old Testament. Jewish religion in the first millennium A.D. became the religion of the Pharisees. That is, Talmudic Judaism, or Rabbinical Judaism. What we in the West often term Orthodox Judaism. Though there were schismatic sects, such as the Karaites, developments such as Hasidism, and isolated groups such as the Bene Israel of western India who seem to have practiced a more archaic form of the religion, over time Judaism qua Judaism became the religion which evolved out of the same milieu of Roman antiquity as Christianity. Though Christianity evolved out of the religion of the Hebrews, the Jews, the religion of the Jews evolved at the same time as well. It was not static, in chrysalis.

A whole Jewish Diaspora, what became the Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Mizrahim (and Yemenite Jews and other assorted groups), developed a parallel cultural world to that of Western and Eastern Christianity, as well Islam.* Though Jews interacted with gentiles in a professional capacity, whether as physicians, merchants, or money-lenders, the intellectual exchange was relatively limited (Al-Andalus being an exception).

This may surprise many people, because Jews are extremely prominent intellectually in the West today. But this is a feature of the last few centuries, as they became absorbed by Western culture during the Jewish Enlightenment. Even a Jew who predates this period and influenced the course of early modern Western philosophy, Baruch Spinoza, did so after being expelled from the Jewish community, and occupying a sort of gray land of Deism. Neither Christian nor Jew.

What this gets to is that even if Judeo-Christian has some abstract ideal reality, there was no Judeo-Christian civilization before large numbers of Jews abandoned the civilization of Judaism as it had developed organically over the centuries. The civilization only became labeled Judeo-Christian in rhetoric after most Western Jews had abandoned their customary and traditional religion, whether for a congregational faith more recognizable to Christians in the form of the Reform movement, out and out secularism, and in a large number of cases, conversion to Christianity (to name three individuals of Jewish familial origin who were raised Christian no matter their adult faith, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Popper, and Karl Marx).

The civilizational tension among Jews is evident today in the world’s only Jewish state, Israel. Many secular Jews are for all practical purposes members of Western civilization who happen to have a Jewish ethnic and nominal religious identity. In contrast, Haredi Jews are fully steeped in the mores and orientation of the classical Jewish civilization that matured in early modern Europe. The conflict between the Haredim and secular Jews is not just one of religious observance but of civilizational identity and affinity (with Masortim occupying the middle ground).

Western civilization as a project after Late Antiquity and before the modern period was never a partnership between the Jews and Western Christians. It was the project of Western Christian societies, which eventually fractured during the Reformation, and repaired themselves back into some sort of whole in the wake of the Peace of Westphalia. The transformations of the 18th century ushered in the revolutionary changes which allowed for Jews to become participants in Western civilization as something besides Christians.

In general, though I understand that for the public history is often a useful fiction, I prefer attempting to model the past with the greatest fidelity to the reality we can reconstruct among those with the will and ability to understand. The emergence of Western civilization as we understand it, post-Christian civilization, the nymph stage of the universal liberal democratic civilization which was to conquer the 21st century (but hasn’t, and may never!), is historically contingent on particular peoples, places, and cultural threads. Those threads properly constituted simply make the term Judeo-Christian seem peculiar and inappropriate. Therefore, amongst those who aim to know, the proper appellations must be applied so as to illuminate rather than obscure and obfuscate.**

* Some Jews also existed outside of the world of Christianity and Islam, such as the Cochin Jews of southern India, or the Jews of Kaifeng, who were probably originally an extension of Central Asian Jewry. These groups were part of the Diaspora intellectual and culturally, at least initially (the Jews of Kaifeng eventually lost their last rabbi, probably in the 19th century, and assimilated into the Han majority or converted to Islam).

** I have not written much about Islam in this post, but the term Judeo-Christian also misleads many people into thinking that traditional Christianity and traditional Judaism have more similarities of belief and practice than either do with Islam. In fact Islam and Judaism are arguably more similar than either is to Christianity due to the emphasis on prescribed ritual and law incumbent upon the laity guided by a non-priestly scholarly class, whether it be rabbis or the ulema.

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60 thoughts on “On the semiotics of “Judeo-Christian” as a misdirection

  1. “Judaeo-Christian” is mostly a euphemism for “not Muslim”. Where I live, it is much more likely to be used by someone like Geert Wilders than by Jews. One of the leading orthodox rabbis came out against the term in a recent piece, notably.

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  2. First, kudos to you, Mr. Khan. This is pithy, lucid, and all in all excellent.

    Second, I think many American Christians use the term, not so much to obfuscate, but in a spirit of inclusion (now that Islam is more prominent, one sees more and more of “Abrahamic faiths” rather than “Judeo-Christian”). I wholeheartedly agree that the end result among the general public is obfuscated misunderstanding and confusion.

    Personally, I prefer clarity and accuracy, not spirit of inclusion, in this matter. In any case, inclusion is accepting those who are different, rather than pretending that they are the same, more-or-less.

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  3. I agree that Judaism and Islam are arguably more like each other than either is like Islam. But there is a key similarity in their shared ability to integrate enlightenment values. It’s not at all clear to me what, exactly, this key thing is, but I’m judging by results.

    “with Masortim occupying the middle ground”

    There are also quite a lot of non-Haredi but fully observant Jews…

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  4. There is a segment of Israeli Jewry who want to rebuild the Temple. Aside from the political implications of eradicating Islam from the Temple Mount, just what sort of Judaism would occupy the new Temple? Would it specialize in animal sacrifice? Do the proponents assume it would be a rabbinical Judaism?

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  5. If the term is being used as a political marker (and is working as such), and if Wiki is accurate, the political use is the basis for its 20th century appearance, why is it necessary to consider the theological or historical accuracy of the literal translation of the words?

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  6. Rutger Vos,

    “Judaeo-Christian” is mostly a euphemism for “not Muslim”.

    You’re wrong. The rise of the term “Judeo-Christian” in American political discourse had to do with U.S. domestic issues in the mid-20th century. It was in common usage long before most Americans became concerned with either Muslim immigration, Israel, or other geopolitical concerns in the Middle East (like the rising cost of oil that began in the early nineteen-seventies).

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  7. Rutger Vos (continued),

    BTW, I know you’re not American. But the term “Judeo-Christian” was in common usage in the West long before any modern concerns with Muslims, and it was developed to include people, not exclude them.

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  8. I think “Judeo-Christian” is a way of saying “Christian” (namely as opposite of “atheist” or “secular”) without looking antisemitic.

    Specially, if someone argues that the main root of Western Civilization is Christianism (instead of, lets say, Ancient Greece, the Renaissance, or the Enlightment) this will, implicitly, put Jews as not 100% part of Western Civilization (and, specially after WWII, this will be… “problematic”) ; then the solution is to append a “Judeo-“.

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  9. I wonder how Jewish people feel about people who converted to either Islam or Christianity. I am thinking about Donme or Conversos.

    I knew a Jew once who was very vitriolic against Jews For Jesus, but I think JFJ are kinda culty.

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  10. Bob Sykes: The Third Temple movement does want to reinstitute animal sacrifice. “Men Sentenced for Attempt to Sacrifice Lamb

    My guess is that about 90% of Jews think the Third Temple movement is just nuts. The truly orthodox think the subject is not worth any action until the Messiah comes. The non-orthodox are revolted by the whole idea of animal sacrifice.

    It is interesting to note that the Samaritans* still practice animal sacrifice as their passover ritual. Click here for a great photo article.

    *A tiny (less than 1,000 people) ethno-religious group that lives in Israel. A discussion of rabbinic thought about the Samaritans.

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  11. “Judaeo-Christian” is mostly a euphemism for “not Muslim”. Where I live, it is much more likely to be used by someone like Geert Wilders than by Jews. One of the leading orthodox rabbis came out against the term in a recent piece, notably.

    yes. i didn’t want to get into, but a group of american neoconservatives seem quite attached to the term to emphasize the alliance against islam. though among religiously observant jews i think privately most understand this is tactical.

    Personally, I prefer clarity and accuracy, not spirit of inclusion, in this matter. In any case, inclusion is accepting those who are different, rather than pretending that they are the same, more-or-less.

    same. as someone who is outside the circle here i don’t have a horse in the race either.

    . But there is a key similarity in their shared ability to integrate enlightenment values.

    yeah, but it is different. enlightenment values were developed out of western christian civilization. they spread to jews who accepted them enthusiastically. but, i would argue that the jews became western.

    the same thing happens, and is happening in islam. there are muslims who are “becoming protestant” in many ways without admitting it or asserting it. but demographically very few muslims are embedded within western civilization. most jews were.

    why is it necessary to consider the theological or historical accuracy of the literal translation of the words?

    because most people are not that political. and people take it as a commentary on history and religion.

    Specially, if someone argues that the main root of Western Civilization is Christianism (instead of, lets say, Ancient Greece, the Renaissance, or the Enlightment) this will, implicitly, put Jews as not 100% part of Western Civilization (and, specially after WWII, this will be… “problematic”) ; then the solution is to append a “Judeo-“.

    agree. and jews are part of western civilization. philo, josephus, paul, spinoza.

    my issue is that the term confuses people and they think the jewish presence between 300 AD and 1800 AD was similar to what it is today or began to be in the 19th century. that is false. and falsity is kind of a problem.

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  12. In fact Islam and Judaism are arguably more similar than either is to Christianity due to the emphasis on prescribed ritual and law incumbent upon the laity guided by a non-priestly scholarly class, whether it be rabbis or the ulema.

    You could also say Islam and Christianity are arguably more similar than either is to Judaism, due to the prominence of eternal Hell, the belief that unbelievers per se are going there, and whatever that implies.

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  13. @Razib
    This blogroll is filled to the brink with info about that:
    http://voxday.blogspot.com/search?q=judeo

    So, basically, it was a term that got popular after WWII to evoke sympathy for Jews in American Christians.
    In fact, Jews themselves lobby this term a lot, specially to harness support for things like AIPAC and Israel. It’s a propaganda term, it’s weaponized and it’s much more political than religious.

    Now, it’s disrespectful to both Jews and Christians. Jews don’t want to be associated with Christianity, and Judaism is a completely different doctrine from Christianity. Christians, though, often wear this label because they think it’s inclusive, and anti-semitic do to otherwise. It’s the whole Guilt culture inside the Christian mind (and Western in general too) coupled with Shaming (specially Media shaming, a very strong phenomenon today).

    So, people who don’t understand the dynamics of it (like that guy on your Twitter), often get confused.

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  14. Comments on some details that are not central to the OP (and for what it is worth, I am a third generation non-practicing, non-believing, Jew and nobody in my line since my grandfathers has been bar/bat mitzvahed.*)

    1) Jewish religion in the first millennium A.D. became the religion of the Pharisees. That is, Talmudic Judaism, or Rabbinical Judaism. What we in the West often term Orthodox Judaism.

    This is a not entirely correct simplification. I say this having spent much of the last year reading about the archaeological and intellectual history of post-exilic/2nd Temple Palestine, though a number of the details have since slipped my mind. Certainly, this is widely believed among Jews (including me before this recent bout of reading) but it turns out that the evidence is not quite so clear (for a very brief exposition, see here). Several distinct, sometimes overlapping, religious traditions developed during this period of which the Pharisees were one, and rabbinic Judaism did not draw exclusively on Pharisaic teachings although its founder, ben Zaccai, had previously been a Pharisee (as were both Hillel and Shammai, whom the rabbis revered).

    2) Wittgenstein, Karl Popper, and Karl Marx: Also, earlier: Heine** and Felix Mendelssohn and later: von Neumann (raised secular, converted on his deathbed to Catholicism) and most famously: Einstein. All, I believe, perceived as Jews. Note that as a child, Einstein attended a Catholic school, and von N. attended an elite Lutheran academy with a predominantly Jewish student-body. (Also, the original bearer of my pseudonym).

    3) Some Jews also existed outside of the world of Christianity and Islam… missing from this list is one of the more interesting groups, the Falashas. Also, the Samaritans who have at least as strong a claim on the pre-exilic tradition as modern-day Jews, and even less “Judeo-Christian”

    4) Hodag – religious Jews generally have a horror of converts/heretics though some are willing to make allowances for those who converted so under grave pressure. My impression is that when conversos moved from the Iberian peninsula to France, the Netherlands or Germany in the 16th and 17th centuries and came out as Jews (i.e., often a generation or more after the conversion), there was not too much difficulty establishing themselves in the local Jewish community. On the other hand, I believe today that some Orthodox rabbis required those in the American southwest who claimed descent from conversos to undergo conversion ceremonies before recognizing them as Jews. And, not quite germane, the Falashas, a different Jewish tradition altogether, were required to undergo a formal conversion ceremony when they arrived in Israel.

    *So how am I a Jew? Back in the mid 1970s, an apparently observant young Jew pressed Irving Howe very hard to answer this at an event for his book World of Our Fathers. Howe responded “If you don’t know whether you are a Jew, your neighbors will tell you.” So I remain a Jew – not necessarily a good one, by religious Jewish standards, but still part of the larger community and if I so desired, I could claim Israeli citizenship by virtue of my ancestry, although I do not believe my children could.

    **A couple of Heine quotes on conversion:
    – It is extremely difficult for a Jew to be converted, for how can he bring himself to believe in the divinity of – another Jew?
    A baptismal certificate is the ticket of admission into European culture

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  15. This blogroll is filled to the brink with info about that:

    i blogged about this 10 years ago. so i’m pretty i was talking about this before vox.

    You could also say Islam and Christianity are arguably more similar than either is to Judaism, due to the prominence of eternal Hell, the belief that unbelievers per se are going there, and whatever that implies.

    there are may specific points of belief. i think sharia and halakah are more important because they *pervade* religious life in islam and judaism. thought of hell and damnation punctuate it it islam and christianity (usually on friday or sunday).

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  16. Several distinct, sometimes overlapping, religious traditions developed during this period of which the Pharisees were one, and rabbinic Judaism did not draw exclusively on Pharisaic teachings although its founder, ben Zaccai, had previously been a Pharisee (as were both Hillel and Shammai, whom the rabbis revered).

    this is obvious. so? (the influence of christianity and hellenic philosophy are obvious) i didn’t say exclusively. christianity emerged out of a jewish sect. but it obviously does not follow it emerged exclusively from judaism (this is obvious, but because many don’t conceive of judaism as a ‘sister religion’ it’s not as taken for granted about that religion).

    missing from this list is one of the more interesting groups, the Falashas.

    there is a strong argument that the falashas are judaizers. this is distinct. (the yemenites look to be descendent from converts, but they were not judaizers, they became jewish).

    Howe responded “If you don’t know whether you are a Jew, your neighbors will tell you.”

    only if the neighbors care. in islam and christianity they care. in china the neighbors didn’t care, and the jewish community slowly dissolved due to that lack of care.

    in fact in china the neighbors had a hard time distinguishing jews from muslims.

    On the other hand, I believe today that some Orthodox rabbis required those in the American southwest who claimed descent from conversos to undergo conversion ceremonies before recognizing them as Jews.

    they’d lived for centuries as catholics and mixed with non-jews. the converso communities had only had a generation or so of crypto-christianity, and, often lived only among people of jewish background. the converts to stayed in iberia eventually melted away over time.

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  17. Name,

    So, basically, it was a term that got popular after WWII to evoke sympathy for Jews in American Christians.

    In fact, Jews themselves lobby this term a lot, especially to harness support for things like AIPAC and Israel. It’s a propaganda term, it’s weaponized and it’s much more political than religious.

    One of the books Razib refers to above – Jonathan Sarna’s American Judaism – deals with the history of the term in the United States. He argues that its rise in popularity was almost wholly because of U.S. domestic politics. And that it was American liberals – not American conservatives – who popularized the usage in the spirit of ecumenicism.

    Sarna claims the often rampant anti-semitism in the U.S. in that period caused some American liberals to band together and combat it by stressing the similarities between the two faiths and linking them together. Catholics were also included in this public experiment. Ministers, Priests, and Rabbis would often barnstorm the country together to host interfaith meetings to demonstrate cooperation between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.

    So the term “Judeo-Christian” arose not as term to shut out Muslims – who weren’t even on anyone’s radar in the U.S. back then – but as a prototype of what we would now think of as multiculturalism.

    Sarna doesn’t mention (but I will) that the reigning Democratic Party of the time needed this kind of cooperation to hold together. Catholics and Jews were a major part of the Democratic Party’s strength at the time. Catholics for their numbers and Jews for both their brainpower and urban conglomerations.

    For the same reason, FDR made Columbus Day a federal holiday. It was a sop to both Catholic- and especially Italian-Americans without being insulting to other Americans (who also celebrated Columbus’s achievement).

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  18. people who don’t understand the dynamics of it

    Every frog Nazi, as Razib calls them, to a man, tries to separate the Judeo from the Christian and it goes back to the very same conditions in place when the liberal Christian and Jewish leaders put the term in play during WW2. I do consider myself as having a horse in the race and consider it important to address the actual political use of the term. In the public political arena it has come to be associated with a certain religious sector in addition to covering the original purpose of Jewish inclusion.

    Intellectuals can and should do their thing.

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  19. the usage of these terms/concepts can differ a lot over time. as noted above, ‘judeo-christian’ predates christian zionism and the ‘war on islam’ by decades. but it’s become deployed in both contexts.

    as liberal christians have become secular they stopped talking about ‘judeo-christian’ because it’s too religious. but it moved to the evangelicals now even if they didn’t originate the term/concept.

    curiously, the antisemitic christian identity sect has genealogical origins in british isaelism, which was philosemitic.

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  20. here’s another concept which confuses: ‘the west’ has been racialized so much that both ignorant frog-nazis and public intellectuals don’t understand that it’s not coterminous with white european. ergo, they add russia when that’s not clear at all.

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  21. RK replied:

    only if the neighbors care. in islam and christianity they care. in china the neighbors didn’t care, and the jewish community slowly dissolved due to that lack of care.

    in fact in china the neighbors had a hard time distinguishing jews from muslims.

    In the US when Howe grew up, the neighbors cared. Not so much since some time beginning with The New Deal through the 1960s.

    this is obvious. so? I questioned the statement (emphasis mine): “Jewish religion in the first millennium A.D. became the religion of the Pharisees“. As I wrote, although widely believed, certainly among Jews (unless I am projecting from my former state of ignorance: once I was blind, but now I see!), the available evidence suggests that this is an over-simplification, or it overstates the available evidence.

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  22. marcel, i don’t think you understand what i’m trying to say or something (or the converse). when i say “became” i’m saying the predominant influence was the pharisaical strain. it’s pretty clear that i don’t think jewish identity is static. what are you disagreeing about? do you think another group is a better candidate for the precursor of rabbnical judaism? (orthodox judaism changed in beliefs even in the medieval period with maimonides and his injection of more greek inflected ideas)

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  23. That’s clearer. I didn’t think you were saying Jewish ID is static: that would be pretty inconsistent with what I’ve read on gnxp over the years. I misunderstood you to be saying something along the lines of “Judaism went from the OT Judaism with which Christians are familiar [in some sense anyway] to Pharisaism in the first millenium CE.” It may be that I am reading into your statement my previous understanding: i.e., that rabbinic Judaism came almost entirely out of the Pharisaic songbook, so to speak. This is what I was arguing against: from my recent readings, there was much more going on than that. I also came away from that with a better sense of the predecessors of the Jewish Jesus movement (not so clear how much it survived into Christianity). Here I mean not the Essenes so much as the older and more widespread Enoch tradition related to 1 Enoch.

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  24. ‘the west’ has been racialized so much that both ignorant frog-nazis and public intellectuals don’t understand that it’s not coterminous with white european. ergo, they add russia when that’s not clear at all.

    Yes, again!

    Indeed, even the commonly held idea that the modern West is the heir to classical Greece and Rome is ripe with confusion.* “Frog Nazis” in particular tend to see the two as parts of a seamless continuation of an amalgamated “white history” or “white achievement” when in reality they represented geographical shifts in material and intellectual power centers, a pattern replicated through the millennia over the entire expanse of Eurasia.

    *It was clearly a retrospective “appropriation” by modern Western Europeans the glories of other civilizations (i.e. those of southern and eastern Mediterranean) in an effort to lend prestige to, rationalize, and lend a sense of inevitability to their contemporary power.

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  25. Nice post and good discussion. “Judeo-Christian” is a term that served its purpose in the 1950s / 1960s but sounds outdated now. The daily life of an observant Jew is far more similar to that of an observant Muslim than that of an observant Christian (perhaps Eastern Orthodox Christianity is closer) because both Judaism and Islam have a body of extra-scriptural ritual tradition guided by scholarly authority. I do agree with Razib that this last point seems to befuddle everyday Christians.

    It’s been said that that the standards of religious observance incumbent on traditional “average Joe” Jews is about the same as what is incumbent on Christian monks and nuns (I can’t remember where this analogy comes from but I think it’s apt).

    A comic circulated a few months back that showed an observant Jew visiting a Christian friend’s home and peppering him with questions about his Christmas tree: “How tall does it have to be? How do you know an artificial tree is valid? Are you allowed to keep putting ornaments on after the star is on top?” etc. It was one of those “it’s funny because it’s true” moments.

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  26. “The general model is the one outlined by Will Herberg in Protestant, Catholic, Jew, the emergence of a white America united by shared values, with establishment mainline Protestantism at the center, and Roman Catholicism and Judaism as helpmates.”

    And, that arrangement was probably bound to collapse after mainline Protestantism was largely replaced by secular progressivism. Joseph Bottum’s had a lot to say about that transition:

    https://www.amazon.com/Anxious-Age-Post-Protestant-Spirit-America-ebook/dp/B004FGMD4G

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  27. ‘the west’ has been racialized so much that both ignorant frog-nazis and public intellectuals don’t understand that it’s not coterminous with white european. ergo, they add russia when that’s not clear at all.

    Excellent point. Interchangeably using ‘the West’ for white people and explicitly including Eastern Europe used to be funny, like a desperate attempt to have a big tent white nationalist movement. Knowing now that some of these groups in the US probably receive some material support from Russia, it is a little less fun.

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  28. liberal(ish) public intellectuals who don’t know any better do it too. not out of white nationalism (at least explicitly). it’s just that ‘the west’ and ‘western’ has become so strongly racialized that it ends up including white peoples outside of the conventional western tradition.

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  29. Court Jews going back to the 12th century helped the rise of financial liquidity across societies that would otherwise be siloed kingdoms. And Judaism passed many essential ideas into the West in the form of Christianity.

    The term Judeo-Christian symbolizes a break from the history of e.g. medieval societies forcing Jewish Europeans to wear a Jews’ badge.

    All of the above should be respected.

    Of all the things happening in the world, opposing all of the above and putting this term in your sights is strange.

    The new right failing to convert Jewish liberals from the left is an amazing failure. It’d be a seismic shift in favor of all the causes you support. Unite more than you divide.

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  30. Didn’t the impulse for victim sacralization, which animates much in the current years, develop out of Judaism and Christianity? And if the answer is no, where did it come from?

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  31. Didn’t the impulse for victim sacralization, which animates much in the current years, develop out of Judaism and Christianity? And if the answer is no, where did it come from?

    a certain softness is pretty common to axial age religions. confucians were mocked by some schools for their nonviolence.

    The new right failing to convert Jewish liberals from the left is an amazing failure. It’d be a seismic shift in favor of all the causes you support. Unite more than you divide.

    i’ll let sulla take care of politics. i’m done with attempts to persuade people.

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  32. i’ll let sulla take care of politics. i’m done with attempts to persuade people.

    Epistemic status: we’re speaking about Judeo-Christian as if we’re speaking about empirical data science. But we’re constructing a narrative as subjective as Liberals constructing a narrative that “Whiteness is invalid.” Judeo-Christian simply means that Jews and Christians have had a connected history for 2000 years.

    Liberals are more than 20% done ethnically cleansing Jews from France. (500,000 French Jews down to less than 400,000). If a new strain of White Supremacism emerged that was ethnically cleansing Black-Americans, compassionate people would have to be crazy to wait until even 10% of Blacks had been cleansed before opposing it. Yet Liberals have reduced French Jews by more than 20%, soon to be 30%, and nobody is hitting them for it.

    The Right isn’t learning the lessons of antiquity. To defeat the Huns, Romans fought alongside non-Roman tribes who had just as much to lose as the Romans did. Razib, as a reader for 15 years, please consider that many wayward sons and daughters simply need a more experienced hand to guide them as gently as we guide our own children.

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  33. aurelius, where stand the jews, so do i. no ambiguity in that.

    but, Judeo-Christian simply means that Jews and Christians have had a connected history for 2000 years. that is just false on a deep level, as my post makes clear (obv. jews and christians have had interactions…but unlike some jews and antisemites i don’t have a view of history where jews loom large for most of western history).

    if sulla tells me lie, of course i will. but until then, i can do no other.

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  34. The term Judeo-Christian symbolizes a break from the history

    it moved to the evangelicals now even if they didn’t originate the term/concept.

    I know and have interacted with thousands of Christian Zionists and I have never heard a single one reference themselves with this label. At the same time, I venture that each and every one would claim a Judeo-Christian heritage. I read all of your posts on Judeo-Christian and it is true that Evangelicals equate the Old Testament Jews to present day Jews and that undergirds their current beliefs.

    Many of the same people who express contempt for those that claim a Judeo-Christian heritage are the very same people who express contempt for “bible-thumpers” in their next paragraph. One of your recent tweets said to only look to “your side” when there is a brawl, not when seeking knowledge and truth. This is a part of our brawl, our resistance to further forced alienation from our place in this society that we helped build. If you let the “enemy” tell you what to believe and what you are to be called, there is no point in fighting, you’ve already lost.

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  35. i don’t have a view of history where jews loom large for most of western history,
    Right, generally nobody does. Let’s put it in a data frame. If we have users of Judeo-Christian rate each century for how much they’re referring to that century, the general public would be very historically accurate. The resulting heat map would show:
    1. Strong heat in the eras of the Old Testament and of Judaism passing Abrahamic ideas to Rome and thus to all of Europe.
    2. Then mostly coldness up until the last few centuries (Jews in medieval finance, Jews in Spain and the Spanish Americas, Spinoza, Marx, Freud, Benjamin Disraeli, etc.), building into strong heat in the 20th century.

    Users of Judeo-Christian don’t seem to be misrepresenting history at all. A distribution isn’t made meaningless because it’s a horseshoe.

    aurelius, where stand the jews, so do i. no ambiguity in that.
    Excellent. Thanks.

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  36. Right, generally nobody does. Let’s put it in a data frame. If we have users of Judeo-Christian rate each century for how much they’re referring to that century, the general public would be very historically accurate.

    i don’t think this is true. but i haven’t seen surveys.

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  37. Your article is written in an explorative manner, so let’s make its argument explicit:
    1. Judaism has evolved since it and Christianity forked.
    2. Jews and Muslism are non-idolatrous monotheists, in contrast to Christians.
    3. For much of Western history, Jews lived in a parallel cultural world, until the rise among Jews of the Reform movement secularism, and conversions to Christianity. “Western civilization as a project after Late Antiquity and before the modern period was never a partnership between the Jews and Western Christians.”

    Therefore Judeo-Christian is invalid.

    #1 and #2 are interesting historically, but have no bearing on Judeo-Christian, which is about the big picture in broad strokes.

    #3: Judeo-Christian mostly refers to antiquity and the last few centuries, when Jews genuinely do have a large role. Similarly, if asked to rank European ethnic groups in how much they contributed to Western civilization, many people would say the English. But the reasons they’d cite would be almost entirely in the last few centuries. There’s no justification for limiting our analysis of Jewish influence to “after Late Antiquity and before the modern period.” Those are the most influential periods in Western history!

    #1 and #2 are not relevant. #3 arbitrarily decides antiquity and recent centuries don’t matter.

    The equation fails standards of evidence. The right doesn’t have standards of evidence that low on any other subject. This is good news, because stealing Jews from the Left is a greater coup and a greater cultural evolution than anything else we can do.

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  38. Therefore Judeo-Christian is invalid.

    In the early 1940’s, when the liberal religious leaders launched the use of Judeo-Christian in an attempt to dampen anti-Semitism, to what extent did they contrive their understanding of the two religions in order to support the idea? Did their theology and exegesis “honestly” support their views?

    Evangelicals certainly think that modern Jews are the inheritors of the Old Testament legacy of Jewishness. Unless I am mistaken most Jews believe the same. To the extent that a fundamentalist Christianity shapes ones world view, the perceived affinity for and connection to the Jews is integral and definitive. All my childhood Biblical heroes were Jews. Thousands (if not millions) will be confused or hard-pressed to say whether some proverb or adage comes from the Bible, Aesop or Shakespeare. How factual does religious mythology have to be? Sometimes we can’t handle the truth.

    Razib, you say that you would behave differently under the reign of Sulla, but would you have written your blog posts in 1942 or 1943? If you can hide the candle in order to save yourself from Sulla would you not have hidden it in 1942 in order to save others?

    I’m not challenging the accuracy of your objections to the term. My knowledge is not broad or deep enough to challenge it. There must be scholarly words on this very subject, written either without bias or with the intent to “find” the threads that bind.

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  39. Similarly, if asked to rank European ethnic groups in how much they contributed to Western civilization, many people would say the English. But the reasons they’d cite would be almost entirely in the last few centuries.

    i don’t know if that’s true (if people would say that). and it’s not really true as a fact.

    i don’t have a problem with the term “judeo-christian.” it points to something real (though “abrahamic” or something like that is more nicely generic). my contention is that it confuses ignorant people as to the nature of the emergence of the west. of course, removing the term “judeo-christian” doesn’t make them enlightened, beause they don’t read. but it doesn’t help and obscures even more.

    This is good news, because stealing Jews from the Left is a greater coup and a greater cultural evolution than anything else we can do.

    i have no idea what any of this has to do with stealing jews from the left. if the left keeps going it is current direction jews will move (as they have in england; the tories got most of their votes i believe).

    If you can hide the candle in order to save yourself from Sulla would you not have hidden it in 1942 in order to save others?

    i guess i’ve been too cryptic! i don’t fear sulla. and most people should not. the proscriptions were against elite enemies. perhaps you missed the thrust of my allusions?

    also, the current direction of the left is aiming toward cultural revolution through coercion. if they balk and step back we won’t have conflict.

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  40. “where stand the jews, so do i. no ambiguity in that”

    Who is the representative of the “Jews” with whom you stand? A devout practitioner of Judaism, a secular Israeli civic nationalist, or the internationalist (both Marxist and neoliberal) intellectuals who are the overwhelming Jewish voice in Anglophone media?

    The rubric of “Jews” now includes sizeable factions with fundamentally irreconcilable worldviews. I realize that internal diversity of any group can be pushed to the point of obscurantism — a tactic of the academic left — but the divide between ethno-nationalism and a ‘multicultural internationalism’ is stark. As an avid reader of your work, I just expect better than shallow reification from you.

    Your analysis also overlooks the growing hostility among some on the Jewish left to acknowledging the “Anglo-American heritage” of the United States, which is the clear and accurate descriptor of our political institutions. The recent outburst by Senator Brian Schatz over this phrase being case and point.

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  41. i don’t have a problem with the term “judeo-christian.” it points to something real

    Thank you.

    perhaps you missed the thrust of my allusions?

    I guess I did. I’ve always been a sucker for a benevolent dictatorship.

    All sectors are coming into alignment: government, business, academia, MSM.

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  42. @Victoria

    I assume that consumption of Maalox by devout and sincere believers in Tikkun olam is up when regarding the actions and policies of the State of Israel.

    some on the Jewish left to acknowledging the “Anglo-American heritage” of the United States

    Judeo-Christian-Anglo-American heritage, if you don’t mind.

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  43. Who is the representative of the “Jews” with whom you stand?

    i’ve moved every 5 years of my life. i’m an atheist who is married to someone of a different race. i work in an area of tech which benefits from global trade who lives in a gentrifying urban area. so it’s pretty clear to me when the types, whether on the left or the right, come for ‘the jews’ they’ll come for me.

    obviously, there are very different types of jews. what is unifying about enemies of the jews qa jews though is that they don’t make these sorts of distinctions (schatz, for example, is married to a chinese american, so i doubt he is very conscious or cares too much about his jewish identity tbh).

    of course, unfortunately, currently, most western jews, and western south asians, disagree with me politically. i am mildly skeptical though that the left-wing rainbow coalition is going to maintain itself much longer.

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  44. How does one conclude that the rise in Muslim anti-Semitism in France is due to “liberals”, when the article linked as evidence makes no mention of them?

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  45. @JoeQ

    Because if it wasn’t for liberals, most of the Muslims currently in France would be anti-Semitic somewhere other than France.

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  46. in france they are not liberals. you mean the left!

    (also, what the political orientation of those who favored allow pro-french n. africans to settle in france after algerian independence? presumably, a lot of their descendants have ‘different’ political views?)

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