Thursday, April 15, 2010
The term "Judeo-Christian" has been tossed around quite a bit during my lifetime. I always viewed it with suspicion, its use generally marshaled in support of some politico-religious agenda, usually accompanied by bombast and flag-waving. A cursory examination of the history of the phrase reveals that its meaning has evolved quite a bit since first coined in 1939. A recent column by Dr. Paul Gottfried, here, reveals that there is even less than meets the eye with the term.
Jewish himself, Dr. Gottfried makes a number of important points. First, he bemoans use of the term in "unqualified generalizations about adherents of Islam." He finds that he has more in common and feels safer with his Muslim friends than he does, with say, American Pentecostals. Beyond that, he notes, the following:
1. The issues Jews had and still have with Christians are theological and cultural....the central Christian beliefs, that God became man in Christ and atoned on the cross for human sins, are utter blasphemy from a Jewish or Muslim perspective.
2. Muslims have never represented for Jews the religious problem posed by Christianity because the theological and ritual differences between Jews and Muslims are far less significant. Maimonides (pictured above) pointed out in the 13th century, Jews may pray to Allah because the Muslim and Jewish conceptions of the Deity are the same.
3. Until the eruption of hostilities between Jews and Muslims over Israel, Jews in the West continued to speak far more favorably about Muslims than they did about Christians.
4. Jewish organizations here and in Europe view Christians as people whose exaggerated guilt over the Holocaust can be channeled into support for the Israeli government. Prominent Jewish groups...show nothing but indifference or hostility to the continued existence of Christian institutions in what used to be Christian countries.
Gottfried concludes that Jewish distaste for Christianity is so deep-seated that it cannot be written off as a legacy of Christian anti-Semitism. Indeed, he finds more real meaning to a common Judeo-Muslim rejection of core Christian teachings than he does any alternative reality Jude0-Christianity used to demonize all Muslims.