Telling it it like it is, and how it ought to be
The Founders built a nation for a Christian people. It has in recent years become fashionable among Conservatives to refer the United States as a Judeo-Christian nation. The founders never used the term “Judeo-Christian.” Yes, they understood that their Christian faith had its roots in the ancient Hebrew people and they fully acknowledged the Hebrew Scriptures as an integral part of God’s divine revelation in Jesus Christ. Had they ever heard anyone using the term “Judeo-Christian” they would have been very puzzled.
Where did this term come from? The Australian online publication The Conversation dot com has done the basic research for us. Entering the term “Judeo-Christian” in the search tool at the Australian Parliamentary Library website yields no results earlier than 1974.
… The term doesn’t even appear until 1974. Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s it is used in only a handful of contexts without any apparent consistency in its meaning. In fact, the vast majority of the 855 results the search generates are dated from late 2001 onwards. Until September 11, it appears Australians didn’t give a fig about Judeo-Christian values.
The notion of a Judeo-Christian tradition is, in fact, borrowed from American public discourse. But even in the US, it is still a relatively recent idea. According to US researchers, the term only began to regularly appear during and after World War Two, when progressives sought an inclusive term that naturalised the incorporation of Jews into mainstream US society.
The political intent driving its use changed from one of inclusion to one of exclusion in the post-September 11 era, however, when it most often signified the perceived challenges of Islam and Muslims.
Even now, the term Judeo-Christian is used far more commonly in the US. As Monash academic Sue Collins has found, the term appeared 6418 times in North American newspapers between 2006 and 2013. By contrast, it was used only 765 times in all European newspapers, including the British print media, and 304 times in major Australian newspapers.
On close analysis of Australian use of the term, Collins finds that the “Judeo” element is merely tacked on for political expedience:
The term has become a kind of shield for undeclared conservative interests which really want to privilege, and actually mean, the Christian tradition, but are conscious this would be politically counter-productive.
Christopher Pyne can dress it up in any way he likes, but the only historical significance Judeo-Christian values have in Australian public discourse is in post-9/11 conservative rhetoric.
Taylor Francis Online carries an article for sale (only $47.00 for a 21 page .pdf!) titled:
Fortunately for us there is offered an abstract of the article which is sufficiently informative:
Although little more than a century old, the idea of a unified “Judeo-Christian” tradition has a noteworthy and tremendously varied history in American culture. In this article we use a content analysis of media coverage and commentary (sampled from the LexisNexis® database) to examine how and in what contexts the term has been deployed in public discourse in the last 2 decades. In the middle part of the past century, the Judeo-Christian concept was often controversial and advanced primarily for liberal social causes; in the contemporary era, meaning and usage shifted dramatically. By the 1980s, the United States was widely believed to have a core Judeo- Christian culture; the term appeared primarily as a reference point in the so-called culture wars and was most often appropriated for conservative purposes. This usage surged across the 1990s. The post-9/11 era brought another set of transformations, with overall references declining markedly and the term now associated mainly with discussions of Muslim and Islamic inclusion in America and renewed concerns about church–state separation. These results are discussed in the context of a society struggling with boundary issues in the face of increasing diversity and an evolving commitment to ethno-religious pluralism, as well as with the rise of religiously oriented politics in the new millennium.
It should be remembered that during the period leading up to WWII anti-Jewish sentiment was quite widespread in the US, no little incited by the pro Hitler German American Bund.
The unanimous ruling in ALA Schechter v United States had the effect of overturning the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), one of the linchpin programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. It also contributed to FDR’s attempt two years later to increase the number of judges on the high court, so that he could pack it with jurists who would be inclined to uphold his policies.
This was a major humiliation for FDR’s New Deal that not only put a monkey wrench in some of the New Deal initiatives, but did nothing whatever to endear him to American Jewry. The historical record makes it clear that the Administration did not care about the Jews until the war kicked off and suddenly the Roosevelt Administration needed as much support from every element of society as possible. How better to entice Jewish buy-in to the war than binding their traditions to the majority Christian population and try to forge them into one unified culture, one unified people. It was purely a propaganda move. The war itself, the subsequent economic prosperity and gradual secularization of society in general did more to sinter Jews, Catholics and Protestants into one American people than did Roosevelt’s clumsy propaganda initiatives.
Which gets us to telling it like it is.