16 August, 2011

What is a Judeo-Christian?

There were two rallies held in Canberra today for those with nothing more urgent to do on a Tuesday morning.  The lesser of the two was to protest against gay marriage – something that is not on any legislative agenda right now.  I’ve already said just about all I have to say on the topic of gay marriage HERE but a comment that leapt out at me was the assertion by DLP senator John Madigan that Australia was founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic.

There is really so much wrong with this very short statement that the senator must be given credit for efficiency.  To believe such an assertion, you would have to believe at least one of three things:
  1. That Australian Aborigines were the first Judeo-Christians
  2. That it’s Christian to murder and dispossess the native inhabitants of a country and use that country as a dumping ground for society’s outcasts, or
  3. The continent of Australia is Jesus as a land mass, accepting those rejected by the ruling class.  
It bothers me that elected representatives confuse the white settlement of Australia with the white settlement of America.  But my broader question is regarding the entire notion of Judeo-Christian values.

I have never met a Judeo-Christian.  I’ve met Christians.  I’ve met Jews.  I have never met anyone who is both.  You tend to be either one or the other.  Or neither.  But not both.

It seems to be accepted that using the term “Judeo-Christian,” recognises the Jewish heritage of Christianity.  After all, Jews and Christians share half a Holy book so there is some crossover.  But this makes the “Judeo,” prefix redundant.  The Jewish origins are implicit in the word Christian so why bother adding it?

The term “Judeo-Christian,” usually only comes up when some of the more militant elements of the Christian right want to start playing the victim.  Whenever I hear the term, it suggests a couple of things.  I get the impression that they want to avoid simply saying “Christian,” since that might make them seem intolerant of others, so while they want everyone to be Christian, they don’t mind the Jews quite so much as some of the others.   There’s also a patronising undertone.  There’s an implication that Jews are considered Christians who haven’t quite made it yet.  Certain people on the lunatic fringe of the right wing (read: Ann Coulter) have come out and said as much.  It’s an insult to both faiths.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share a common root.  Islam considers Jesus to be one of the most important Prophets of God – just not quite as important as Mohammad by their reading.  Yet nobody talks about Christo-Muslims.  Nobody talks of Christo-Islamic values.  Typically, Christians do not observe Jewish festivals such as Passover, Yom Kippur or Hanukkah, even though they are just as relevant to the Christian faith as they are to Judaism.  So long as people practise either one or the other, don’t talk to me about Judeo-Christian traditions because I don’t believe there is any such thing.  I’m cool with just about any faith, but I am bothered by misrepresentations of faith and misuse of language.


  1. The first Christians were Jewish. Jews are not only a religion but a race as well so saying they are Judeo-Christian isn't really that odd.

    Today there are Jewish people who have embraced Christianity. As far as I know they call themselves Christian Jews or Jewish Christians.

    As for Muslims, they are not a race but a religion, practiced by many races, that rose out of both Judaism and Christianity. (I'm not sure what Jewish coverts to Islam call themselves).
    I know that Islamic converts to Christianity don't tell too many people about their conversion.

    Some Christians do observe type of Passover, and Communion, practiced by most Christians is symbolic of the last supper or the last Passover that Jesus attended before his death.

    I'm an ex Christian who went to Bible college once. :)

  2. "Jews are not only a religion but a race"
    I disagree on two levels. For that to apply, "Judeo-Christians" would have to be Semitic by ethnicity and Christian by faith. I don't think you have to be an expert historian to know that that doesn't apply to the settlers of Australia.

    The conflation of race and faith is contradicted by your comment about Islam. You only have to look at Palestine. Palestinians are ethnically just the same as Israelis. Should they be called "Judeo-Muslims"?
    It's patronising and insulting to single out one ethnicity for a prefix. Nobody talks about Anglo-Christians.

    Jewish people who embrace Christianity are Christians, just like anyone who converts to Christianity. Likewise, any Christian who converts to Judaism becomes Jewish and not Christian.

  3. I don't know about Australia, but in America the pundits only started using "Judeo-Christian" after the second World War. Before that they hated Jews just as much as they hated blacks, Indians, immigrants, Irish.

    I'm assuming not a lot of Jews were involved in running the penal colony that became Australia. But I could be wrong. However, Jews were instrumental in turning the American colonies into united states. But they were more Jewish than Judeo.

    In your comment you said that Palestinians are ethnically the same as Israelis. Palestinians are ethnically the same as Jordanians. Jordan and Palestine were the same country for a few thousand years. Israelis are ethnically a lot of things.