Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and Rev. Johnnie Moore: Why People Should Understand What ‘Judeo-Christian’ Means Before Using That Term

University of Illinois Professor Kevin Schultz, writing in the New Republic about the “Judeo-Christian legacy,” reminds us of the story of the Jewish atheist couple who sent their child to a Christian school for a better education.

The child comes home the first day full of enthusiasm for what they learned about the virgin birth, resurrection, and the Trinity.

“Nonsense,” respond the shocked parents. “The G-d we don’t believe in is One, not three.” Similarly, Schultz claims that “theologically… ‘Judeo-Christianity’ doesn’t make much sense,” arguing that this phrase was conjured up only to serve the purposes of the Right.  And the concept which he doesn’t believe in, he argues, properly belongs to the Left.

“The term ‘Judeo-Christian’ arguably only makes sense … as a descriptor for the members of the original Christian church,” writes Shultz who believes that some of whom cobbled together an amalgam of Jewish practice and Christian belief that did not survive the opening centuries of Christianity. Clearly. Arguably.  At least to him.

But we are not persuaded.

We detect the faint whiff of the similar argument that there is no anti-Semitism in the Arab world, because Arabs, too, are Semites. Come on. Words and phrases take on meanings to those who speak them and listen to them, sometimes over the objections of the linguistic purists. “Anti-Semitism” means hatred of Jews. And “Judeo-Christian” means something very definite to those who use it, even if that meaning evades Mr. Schultz.

To be specific, Schultz argues that in the mid-twentieth century the term “Judeo-Christian” signified something very different.  Back then, it meant “a tolerant, pluralistic faith [that] enshrined the American value of putting others above the individual…In the absence of any clear theological accord on its meaning, the term lived a more fruitful life as a civic arrangement.” Schultz is therefore much distressed that some today are using “Judeo-Christian” to differentiate themselves (in his opinion) from the very people who wore its mantle and espoused its (invented) values. All this revisionism has – to Schultz – aimed to bring the “the alt-right into the mainstream conservative movement.”

We believe that Schultz overlooked a different alternative.

The term has very definite meaning, a much older meaning and it was, in fact, the mid-century and more-pluralistic usage that “appropriated” it for its own purposes, not the present one, which is richer, more consistent, and more historically accurate.

Actually, we would be more charitable and argue that people previously used an approximation of something that they sensed, that recently has become clearer as much of American society has moved away from – and gradually opposed – what it stands for.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and Rev. Johnnie Moore