Sago Boulevard

Friday, August 05, 2005

"Christian" is Short For "Judeo-Christian"

The term "Judeo-Christian" seems a bit redundant. Insofar as Christianity sees itself as the legitimate heir to Jewish religion, to be Christian is to properly understand and carry out the covenant between God and the Jewish People. The term "Judeo-Christian" merely makes this position explicit. When people talk about "Judeo-Christian values", they mean Christian values and simply wish to add that such Christian values stem from properly understanding Judaism.

As I fully reject that Christian claim, I find the expression annoying. For one thing, Judaism and Christianity have a lot less in common than many seem to believe. Despite sharing a fundemental text, we read it through a very different set of lenses than Christians do. For traditional Jews, at least, the biblical text is understood in the larger context of the rabbinic tradition. (I realize this is a bit of an oversimplification but I don't want to dwell on it for now). Fundamentalism, as refering to the literal rendering of the biblical text, doesn't make sense to even the most right-wing of Orthodox Judaism - which advocates reading the Bible in rabbinic perspective.

That said, it boggles my mind when Jews adopt the very Christian jargon that undermines them. In this article by Dennis Prager, "Judeo-Christian" appears 11 times. (He also refers to the Jewish Bible as "Old Testament" - a term that carries connotations of being outdated). He proceeds to quote verses as if they weren't accompanied by a 2000-year-old rabbinic tradition. I'm picking on Prager somewhat arbitrarily; he's not alone. It's become somewhat of a trend for right-wing Jewish thinkers to try to sound Christian. Traditional Jewish treatments of "social conservative" topics marshal in the revelent rabbinic and halakhic material and thus, present a more nuanced and sophisticated view.

When Christians present a Christian view of the Bible, well, that makes sense. I realize that guys like Prager are trying to make themselves credible to a greater religious audience but I still don't like it.