A sincere and honest question…Judeo-Christian Values? What are they?

The term “Judeo-Christian Values” is bandied about a lot in public discourse.   Yes it dropped off a little after Rick “I want to use the government to institute a theocracy” Santorum dropped out* last year but it seems to be making a comeback.

So I have to ask, again, what are Judeo-Christian values?  How are they important to politics?  And how do they differ from other religions?

Now maybe it’s just as a non-Christian I’m not getting something that you understand as someone who practices this religion.

Now it’s not that I don’t understand the obvious differences between Christianity or Judaism and other religions.  But I don’t see how the differences I do know about have any effect on government. The truth and virtue of capitalism and democratic-Republics are just as true whether you believe in the Trinity/Yaweh, or Braham and Shiva.  The saving power of grace in most of Christianity has little to do with politics, as far as I can see it.  And just because one tribe of people has a very particular contract with God, it doesn’t negate the importance of the rule of law for everyone else.   The differences I can think of don’t have any effect on politics.  And I see the hand of Providence in the creation of this nation, but the hand of Providence can be seen in event that aren’t specifically Judeo-Christian in nature, so that doesn’t necessarily give precedence to only that belief system.  What am I missing?

And the values that do have an effect on politics—the value of the human soul, which leads to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; the condemnation of violence, hatred, envy, hypocrisy; the praising of personal charity, honesty, compassion, hard work and a connection with something greater than yourself—are not the specific territory of Judeo-Christianity.  You find them Hinduism, in Zoroasterism, in Taoism, in Buddhism, in ancient Pagan beliefs, in Baha’i and Sikh beliefs, and in modern day New Age beliefs.  The values, which then become the backbone of our legal systems are in all religions. So why just Judeo-Christianity?  I understand that each of these belief systems place a different ordering on the priority of these virtues and values, but there are so many variations just within the scheme of Judeo-Christianity itself to make that an issue.
Heck even when Paul Ryan refers to Judeo-Christianity he does something very interesting:

A lot of the basis for this government is in this picture...not a lot of these people are from the Judeo-Christian background.

A lot of the basis for this government is in this picture…not a lot of these people are from the Judeo-Christian background.

It’s a dangerous path, it’s a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty, and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, Western-civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place.

He pairs Judeo-Christianity with Western-civilization, with the idea that is unique to the west of the democratic-Republic (a pagan creation by the pagan populations of Athens and Rome) that demands:

Our rights come from nature and God, not government.

(And while these ideas first thrived under predominantly Christian nations of the West, Ryan seems to be acknowledging the pagan Athenian/Roman importance by pairing the two.)

“The Bible is a book. It’s a good book, but it is not the only book. ” …at least in terms of government.

And it seems a little sweeping since while all the Founding Fathers would admit that the Bible contained what they saw as the best expression of ethics they could find, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin denied the divinity of Christ, and Freemason Washington’s beliefs on religion are probably a little more complex than just saying “Judeo-Christian values.”

Now I get that using this phrase may be to separate themselves it’s not the Religion of Peace (which very clearly endorses theocratic fascism) or atheism (both of which deny the divinity of human life)…oh sure atheists say they value human life under their philosophy of secular humanism, but atheism denies any metaphysical reason for human life to have value…so basically it’s them telling me I should just take it on “faith” that human life has value…which rings a little hollow.   But as I pointed out before the phrase also separates you from a lot of religions that do share these ethical values.

So which values am I missing that has an effect on our political structures, rules, and laws that separate Judeo-Christianity from the values of most the other religions on Earth?  I’m not denying the importance of the relationship  a person has with God, or that spiritual beliefs were important in the founding of this nation and is continuance today.  I just want to know if there is a value you think exists in the Judeo-Christian tradition that is necessary for the continuance of this nation that is specific only to the the Judeo-Christian tradition.

And I ask all of this, not because I just want to insult people, but because I have a second argument about this term and how it may be hurting us politically, but I first need to know if there is something about this term that I don’t understand coming from an outsider’s perspective.

*And don’t you dare to try and defend that man as a conservative.  If you look at his record he never met a tax, a regulation, or bribe he didn’t like.

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Aristotle, Capitalism, Conservative, Faith, God, Natural Rights, Patriotism, Paul Ryan, philosophy, politics, Religion, Spirituality

7 responses to “A sincere and honest question…Judeo-Christian Values? What are they?

  1. Pingback: Drop the meaningless phrase “Judeo-Christian Values” and other ways for Conservatives to win | The Conservative New Ager

  2. Very good questions to analyze.
    I have often said, “God is not afraid of questions, and can stand up to scrutiny, doubt, and even spiritual tantrums.”
    I see it as (1) free will–God recognizes that the only valid way to believe is by choice, not by force, or birthright. This translates to freedom in our lives in other areas. (2) Value of the individual–Each one of us is of supreme importance to God. The little children (“suffer the little children to come unto me” & “millstone around the neck”), The women, the subjugated (“in Christ there is no male or female, servant or free”). Both believers and unbelievers are important to God, and Christ died for the unbelievers, not just the faithful.

    You may see common values in decency, taking care of poor, etc, but it is hard for me to imagine that all other religions are equal in these two areas. In fact, the US is different from other Judeo-Christian nations in regards to these. I remember reading that in Israel Christians are asked to emigrate.

    • “You may see common values in decency, taking care of poor, etc, but it is hard for me to imagine that all other religions are equal in these two areas” Umm…how well a person lives up to ethics to has more to do with the person and their will and little to do with the religion. There are saintly people among Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Pagans…and there are horrible people among all religions.

      “In fact, the US is different from other Judeo-Christian nations in regards to these.” Yes, this is my point. And this has more to do with our beliefs in natural rights, in capitalism, and in liberty. These are the habits that most reward and encourage ethical behavior. My point was that beyond the basics of spirituality that are common among all religions, it is not specifically “Judeo-Christianity” values that make us special.

      ” I remember reading that in Israel Christians are asked to emigrate.” I would contest this heavily. Israel welcomes members of all religions.

  3. Dan Wheeler

    The Golden Rule – treating others and you would have them treat you – is a logical basis for societies and is probably as old as civilization itself in one form or another.

    However, the concept of human life having intrinsic value, that kings and beggars are all made in the image of God and therefore should have equal rights and protections under the law, comes from our Judeo-Christian heritage. It began with the Jews and the concept that humans were created in the image of the divine, who cammanded them to treat each other well. It finds its pinnacle in that very same God caring so much for humans as to become one of them and suffer for their benefit, making it clear along the way, by spending much of his time with societal outcasts, that he was there for everyone. While all belief systems have some kind of moral code, this value of the individual is unique. Whether one believes this to be true or not (I happen to), these are the seeds that grew into our pluralistic, egalitarian society.

    There are good and bad people from every faith, and it’s certainly not a contest to see which produces the most “good” people. However, a careful study of the principles that we value, like freedom and justice for all regardless of their station in life, shows Judeo-Christianity to be their source, and we abandon it at our peril.

    • “However, the concept of human life having intrinsic value, that kings and beggars are all made in the image of God and therefore should have equal rights and protections under the law, comes from our Judeo-Christian heritage.” It comes from Judeo-Christian beliefs, but it is also found in Hindu beliefs, in Buddhist beliefs, in Taoist beliefs, in Sikh and Baha’i, and numerous Pagan beliefs. With the exception of non-Sufi Islam I know of no existing religion that does not in some way suggest the soul has within it a spark of the divine (created in the image of as you would put it). In fact until St. Aquinas merged the concepts of Christianity (through Paul and Augustine) with the pagan ideal of the ancient world (specifically Aristotle) there was no practical basis for ” equal rights and protections under the law. It is only through this merger of Aristotle and Christianity that we get the concept of the worth of the individual and from that Renaissance and Enlightenment and modern understanding of human nature, and had Aristotle been grafted onto any of these other religions I feel it could have resulted in similar ends. So while I don’t deny this is a correct ideal in Judeo-Christianity, it is not a unique feature per se. It is the Aristotelian and Thomasist viewpoint that is their source, not specifically Christianity.

      • Dan Wheeler

        “It is the Aristotelian and Thomasist viewpoint that is their source, not specifically Christianity.” Since Aquinas was a preeminent Christian thinker and theologian, it’s not really appropriate to separate him from the Judeo-Christian tradition. The fact is, it was a Christian thinker married them.

        I think your last post makes the point of our divergence clear: “had Aristotle been grafted onto any of these other religions I feel it could have resulted in similar ends.” You may well be right here, but we’ll never know, because it wasn’t, and it didn’t. So, while you are entitled to that conviction, and I will grant you that the concept of soul as the “spark of the divine” can be found in other faiths, you’ll understand my misgivings that you are perhaps underestimating the importance and uniqueness of the tradition that supplied the basis for what actually did blossom into the ideals that we hold dear.

        I’m just a regular citizen (Canadian) that takes an interest in our shared civic future. I am in no way a scholar in these matters, and I’ve read very little of the primary texts of Aquinas, Aristotle or of the eastern religions. In addition, having myself come to the conviction that the Christian story is true, I’m clearly biased. 😉

        Peace.

        • “You may well be right here, but we’ll never know, because it wasn’t, and it didn’t.” Except we do know, because it was, and it did. A fun historical footnote is that most of the advances in science, medicine, math, etc, of the early Islamic Caliphate came during Abassid period which very briefly was controlled by members of the Mutalizite branch of Sunni Islam. The Mutalizites grafted Aristotle on their religion and that area of the world florished as individualism was very briefly respected. It had little lasting effect as the Mutalizites were all killed by he Ash’arite branch of Sunni Islam (the one still in ascendance) which like the core of Islam denies the individual (and science, and logic, and well, anything good)…but if you graft Aristotle onto a religion whose core doesn’t acknowledge the divinity of the soul, I think it’s fair to say that yes if you grafted it onto any other religion that does acknowledge such things then yes it would yield similar results.

          “Since Aquinas was a preeminent Christian thinker and theologian, it’s not really appropriate to separate him from the Judeo-Christian tradition.” If he had a lasting effect within Christianity that might be a safe statement, but while Thomasist principles helped shape the Renaissance and Enlightenment, they have limited effects on the religion itself, and are probably not embraced by even half of modern Christianity. Further given that Thomas wrote in the late 1200’s and his ideas did not begin to see an effect for another 200 years, that puts the majority of Christianity (at least the first 1200 years) as one that did not respect the individual. If a bedrock principle is the individual shouldn’t we have seen it’s effect sooner rather than later.

          As I stated in the original article, these principles trace to the pagan beliefs, specifically Aristotle. For Christianity to claim them as their own is disingenuous at best. And further as I have also stated what allows them to work so well with Aristotle, the belief in a divine soul, is not a purely Christian belief.

          So again you have failed to answer the question that the post was about. What, if anything, in terms of ethics makes Judeo-Christianity special? ” In addition, having myself come to the conviction that the Christian story is true, I’m clearly biased. ” Your bias shouldn’t be a problem, you should be able to tell me what makes your religion special, and why the phrase Judeo-Christian values is a term that differentiates it from other religions. Otherwise you’re claiming it to be true (your word not mine) but without understanding it.

          “Aristotle may be regarded as the cultural barometer of Western history. Whenever his influence dominated the scene, it paved the way for one of history’s brilliant eras; whenever it fell, so did mankind. The Aristotelian revival of the thirteenth century brought men to the Renaissance.”–Rand

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s