Here’s Why ‘Judeo-Christian Values’ Are a Dog-Whistle Myth Peddled By the Far Right

From The Conversation

The phrase “Judeo-Christian” has been around since the 1930s but US President Donald Trump recently resurrected it in a deeply problematic speech on October 13, 2017 in which he said: “We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values … We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

It might seem neighbourly, even pluralistic, to include Judaism in a declaration of purported Western values. But in reality this isn’t how the term has functioned, either historically or more recently. Instead, the phrase is used to exclude rather than include. Despite implying that Jews are part of this resurrection of Judeo-Christian values, Trump in no way intends a campaign to Make Hanukkah Great Again. His “Judeo-Christian values” are about protecting Christmas, and about protecting Christians – at the exclusion of others.

Christian-majority nations such as the UK and US often lay claim to laws and ethics based on “Judeo-Christian values”. But it is important to remember that Jews have been systematically excluded from and terrorised by states that claim this Judeo-Christian foundation.

From the 1290 expulsion of Jews from England to Jewish refugees being turned away by Canadathe US and the UK during World War II, Jews have been excluded more often than welcomed.

For centuries, Jews have been made to feel unwelcome in the Christian world and it seems that it is only now that a new demographic of (often Muslim) immigrants fleeing war and economic hardship have reached the West that Jews are being included – and even then only on someone else’s terms.

A right wing slogan

“Judeo-Christian” is now most often used to draw a line between imagined Christian values and a perceived (but false) threat of Muslim immigration. It’s in this context, that right wing figures such as Nigel Farage use the phrase. Talking about radical Muslim clerics such as Anjem Choudary, he said for example:

My country is a Judeo-Christian country. So we’ve got to actually start standing up for our values.

But in this statement, Farage connects his fears of radical Islam with the idea of “Judeo-Christian values”. It appears that it isn’t so much about including Jews as it is about excluding Muslims. And since Farage has also come under attack for anti-Semitic comments, including being called on to apologise after recent comments about the threat of “the Jewish lobby” to American politics, it seems hard to view the “Judeo-” in his “Judeo-Christian” as actually valuing Jewish people or Judaism as a religion.

Farage’s statement even prompted the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to demand an apology.

Time and again, when Farage and Trump use the term, what they really imply is an “us-versus-them” division between the West and Islam. This is not about the inclusion of Jews in the values of these nations, then, but about the xenophobic exclusion of an “other”.

Invoked in anti-immigration rhetoric with the goal of excluding Muslims, this phrase is actually used to scaffold a false narrative about Christians being persecuted, threatened or besieged, which gives motivation for the protection of “Judeo-Christian values”. In fact, Christians are not persecuted in the countries where Farage and Trump make their homes.

Supersessionism

A quick search on Twitter for the phrase “Judeo-Christian” illustrates that white supremacists have embraced the term – and that Jews reject it.

It’s not surprising that many Jews are not falling for this dog-whistle phrase, especially since the myth of a Judeo-Christian society rests on the false – and dangerous – idea that Judaism and Christianity hold the same ideas and values.

There are many fundamental differences between these two religions – and that’s OK. To respect and value Judaism means to do so on its own terms, and not only if it conforms to Christian ideas about what religion should be. Ignoring these differences (and to pretend that Jews and Christians believe the same things) risks subsuming Judaism into Christianity. It risks viewing Judaism as an archaic precursor to Christianity rather than a continuing unique and vibrant tradition. There is nothing “Judeo” about saying Merry Christmas.

Indeed, the phrase “Judeo-Christian” erases Judaism by implying that Christian values are Jewish values. Erasing Judaism by subsuming it into Christianity is called supersessionism, a tactic of Christian polemicists for centuries, and one that is currently in use by the Christian religious right.

The ConversationIt seems, then, that the idea of Judeo-Christian values excludes both Jews and Muslims. The phrase tacitly excludes Jews by subsuming Judaism into Christianity, and it explicitly excludes Muslims in its use in anti-immigration rhetoric. In reality, “Judeo-Christian values” actually point to a particular type of right-wing Christian values. Continuing to use this phrase only contributes to exclusionary and divisive political rhetoric. When we hear it, we should call it out for what it is.

M J C Warren, Lecturer in Biblical and Religious Studies, University of Sheffield

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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4 Responses to Here’s Why ‘Judeo-Christian Values’ Are a Dog-Whistle Myth Peddled By the Far Right

  1. Glenn R. Geist Reply

    December 2, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Absolutely, freaking brilliant. I’ve been ranting about parts of this for years, but this says it all. Did I say BRILLIANT!

  2. jess Reply

    December 2, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Talibangelicals is what we should be calling these people at all times. There is nothing Christian about the way they want the world sculpted, in their perverse interpretation of the buybull teachings they supposedly follow. They wish they could be the Taliban, yes I said it. I don’t know about Merry Xmas I shall still walk around with my greeting of Merry Christmahanakwanzika and will air my grievances at the Festivus pole while doing it, where I can.

  3. Glenn R. Geist Reply

    December 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Persecutions, executions and expropriation – it all began when the religion was taken over by the Roman Empire who made the Jews the scapegoat for their own defeat and conquest and destruction. This is far older than the Taliban.

    And of course the Inquisition and the continued persecution of Jews in Europe which although set back by the defeat of the Third Reich, is still there, simmering. Judeo Christian values, my ass. Millions of Jews murdered, exiled and stripped of their humanity by Judeo-Christian values?

    I’ve always been offended by the trope. To me it’s as absurd as inventing a Greco-Nordic ethic or citing Aztec-Zoroastrian values. Actually it would be more historically accurate, IMO, to talk about Islamo-Christian values as the Prophet learned about the Jewish God from Christian exiles.

    But then we’re talking about people who, assuming the ten commandments were for them after having rejected them along with the other 603 commandments, want to scribble them on stone again. It’s all aggressive tribalism and will always be.

    I’m OK with people professing Christianity as a personal belief and if they truly exercise the Humanism that’s somehow been syncretized into it, well that’s fine. But by the time it became all about John of Patmos and his hatred for what we now consider civilization, there has been no connection when it comes to morality or ethics or tradition.

  4. Bobbie Peel Reply

    December 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    A remarkable expose of politicians pretending to be Christians for political purposes, and really not knowing what they are talking about. The sad thing is the people who need to read this article, and others like it, won’t.

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