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Monday, October 16, 2017

The Myth of Judeo-Christian Values

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.
-- Aristotle


“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”

That was President Donald Trump addressing the Value Voters Summit in Washington D.C. last Friday.

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.

That’s what he said.


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Attacks.

On Judeo-Christian values.

What does that mean?

No, stop. Think about it. What does that mean? How do you attack a value?

Seriously. How do you attack a value?

Look here: Values are defined as those principles we hold important in life.

How do you attack that?

Values are personal. We each determine for ourselves what is important. Values are your personal ethics, morals, your standards of behavior. Values are often, but not always, the ideals imposed on us by our environment, ways of thinking learned from various examples: our parents when we are young, leaders, public figures, community, law, teachers, friends, societal groups, and so on. Because everyone’s experience is different, our values are often different in varying degrees.

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.
--
Muhammad Ali

Our values tend to change over time as our relationships and community and experience change and indeed if your worldview is the same at fifty as it was at twenty, well, like the man said, you might have wasted much of your life. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we get wiser. There’s nothing more enlightening than listening to a fifty-year-old conservative moral absolutist describe how he was once a liberal but his values changed when he [found Jesus, joined the NRA, became a Republican, etc] and that’s why moral relativism is evil.

But ask that same moral absolutist to provide a list of universal values, see what you get.

No, better yet, ask a room full of moral absolutists to provide a single list of human values, ordered by importance.

Then time how long it takes for the angry shouting to start.

Is there an agreed upon list of human values? Not Judeo-Christian values (we’ll get to that in a minute), just plain old ordinary every day human values?

Is there?

Quick, what are they? List them in order. What’s the most important value to you? Truth? Compassion? Strength? Altruism? Selflessness? Courage? Wait. Are those even recognized values?

Are they?

Are you sure?

Funny, isn’t it? Certain words we use. Words describe concepts. And we all think we know the definition of those concepts. Moreover, we assume that everybody else’s understanding of that concept is the same as ours.

But ask a hundred people to list the most important human values, and you’ll get a hundred different answers.

Because values are relative. Values are subjective.

I’m not the first person to notice this. Obviously. There are entire fields of study going all the way back to the great philosophers of Ancient Greece.

A lot of very smart people have devoted lifetimes of research into this very subject. One of those people, a social-psychologist named Shalom H. Schwartz, came up something called the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. You can find a current and reasonably readable overview of Schwartz’s theory here, published by the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Schwartz’s Theory of Basic Values has been around for a while and it’s commonly used by psychologists and sociologists and those who study ethics and human interaction as a starting point.  Schwartz said that values are “beliefs linked inextricably to affect.” And what he meant was that values are tied to emotion and goals. For example, “People for whom independence is an important value become aroused if their independence is threatened, despair when they are helpless to protect it, and are happy when they can enjoy it.” This applies to nearly any value you can name – again in varying degrees depending individual circumstance. But it’s not something you can measure quantitatively.

Basically the theory says:

  • Values are beliefs.
  • Values refer to desirable goals that motivate action.
  • Values transcend specific actions and situations.
  • Values serve as standards or criteria.
  • Values are ordered by importance.
  • The relative values of multiple values guides action.

And I think that works as a general description of what a value is. But what are actual human values?

What would you list as human values?

Schwartz defines ten basic human values based on the criteria above:

  • Self-Direction: independent thought and action--choosing, creating, exploring.
  • Stimulation: excitement, novelty, and challenge in life.
  • Hedonism: pleasure or sensuous gratification for oneself.
  • Achievement: personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards.
  • Power: social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources.
  • Security: safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self.
  • Conformity: restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms.
  • Tradition: respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one's culture or religion provides.
  • Benevolence: preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’).
  • Universalism: understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.

Hedonism. Stimulation. Power. Conformity. When you were trying to think up a list of human values, unless you are a sociologist, you probably weren’t thinking in those terms, were you? But nearly any value you can name falls into one of those categories as described by Schwartz’s theory. 

It matters.

Precision of language matters.

Because that language, the words we use, defines how we see the world around us. How we relate to each other. Words can build a society, or tear a civilization apart. Language is information. And information used as a weapon can bring a dictator to power, topple governments, start wars (or end them), or shape the worldview of a nation.

And I want you to remember that.


“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”


That’s what the most powerful man in the world said last Friday.

He was speaking to an audience made up largely of hardline conservative Evangelical Christians.

What does that audience think Trump meant by that statement? To them, to those particular people, what are Judeo-Christian Values?

Remember: Values are beliefs linked to emotion, values are ordered by importance, values motivate action towards particular goals.

Remember: Values tend to be personal, and thus relative.

Remember: Language defines concept. Terms matter.

Thus: for values to be shared, they have to be defined and we all must agree to the definition and its emotional importance. And ultimately, we must agree with the goals inherent to each value.

Also please note that when Trump said, “We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” he didn’t bother to define … anything.

He didn’t define “attack.”

He didn’t define who was doing the attacking.

And most importantly he didn’t define “Judeo-Christian values.”


And Donald Trump is not the only one.


Breitbart led off their article on the subject with,

President Donald Trump vowed to end leftist attacks on Christian values that threatened the United States.

President Trump vowed to end Leftist attacks on Christian values that threatened the United States?

Christian Values. That threatened the United States.

Wait a minute here.

Words matter. Let’s read that again.

… on Christian values that threatened the United States…

Yep, still says, Christian values have threatened the United States.

(On a side note, odd that Breitbart mysteriously dropped the Judeo part. It’s almost like their old Anti-Semite CEO is back. But again, I digress)

If Christian values threatened the United States, why would the President vow to end attacks on them? Shouldn’t all Americans attack these Christian values that threaten America? I mean…

What?

Oh.

Right. Okay. Sure. But again, precision of language matters. Particularly when we’re talking about somebody attacking the United States.  As such, somebody needs to let Steven Bannon know his editors don’t understand basic sentence structure at even the sixth grade level. I’m just saying. For clarity’s sake. Given that it’s the lede and all. Right up front and ....

What?

Fine. Fine. Moving on.

So, if I’m reading confused Breitbart grammar correctly, the basic idea here is that certain undefined “leftists” are somehow in some manner “attacking” “Christian values.” And, given the context, an attack on Christian values is an attack on America.

But see, the problem here is that the article again doesn’t define (other than in vague terms) who is doing the attacking, why they are attacking, how they are attacking, and most importantly of all: exactly what Judeo-Christian values are. Nor does the article explain how Donald Trump might end these attacks.

We are all just supposed to know what those things are.

Values change.

Morality changes.

This is the nature of civilization.

Once upon a time in America, it was moral to own other people. The measure of a decent man was once determined by how he treated his property, his slaves.

Is that a value we respect nowadays?

Is that an American value we want to bring back?

Is that a Judeo-Christian value? After all, slavery and how you treat it is integral to both the Jewish and Christian holy books.

No?

No, I suppose not.

But how do you know? How do you know if the terms are never defined? Given recent violent demonstrations in places like Charlottesville by hardcore Christian conservative Trump supporters marching under the Swastika and the flag of the Confederacy, how can I know that slavery isn’t a Judeo-Christian value?

How do I know?

I mean, I assume that’s not what these conservatives mean, but how do I know?

If the terms are not defined?

Let me show you. Fox News, in a Special Report last Friday entitled: Eagle Scout: RIP Boy Scouts of America. You were great for 100 years, laments the destruction of the once venerable organization.

We all knew this was coming. The Boy Scouts of America stood for over a century on its strong foundation of Judeo-Christian values, growing boys into young men, and young men into leaders.  However, in recent years the BSA has allowed cracks to form in that foundation.

There is it, Judeo-Christian values.

Undefined.

Unexplained.

Unspecific.

Nowhere in that article does the author list those supposed values. Don’t take my word for it, click on the link and go look for yourself.  The article doesn’t describe in any way whatsoever the specific Judeo-Christian values that Lord Baden-Powell supposedly based the Boy Scouts on, nor does the author tell you which values they’ve supposedly discarded.

The author just assumes we all know what he means.

Because, of course, we are all Judeo-Christian in America, are we not?

And all Jews and Christians are the same, with the same worldview and outlook and values. Same as the author. Right?

Right?

With much handwringing and teeth-gnashing, the article goes on to bemoan the “incredibly disappointing news” that girls – girls – will not only be allowed to enter into Cub Scouts, but the BSA organization will soon create a scouting program for older girls – girls – to advance and earn Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle Scout. The author is outraged at the idea of stinky girls – girls – being allowed anywhere near Scouting. He rages against “inclusion” and the end of “manhood” and points out how “[i]t is important for boys and young men to grow together free from the distraction of girls.”

It is important for boys and men to grow together free from the distraction of girls.

It’s important.

For boys and men.

To grow together.

Free from the distraction of girls.

The article doesn’t bother to explain why it’s important for boys and men to grow together. In the woods. Alone. Though he does point out the danger of putting girls – girls – into the same situation:

I have to wonder why any parent would want their young teenage girls camping in the woods with young teenage boys?

(this is where I politely don’t provide links to literally thousands of Christian and Jewish church youth programs across America where boys and girls do exactly that)

The article ends with this:

This is what the Left does best:  target and destroy everything good in America.  They cannot compete with us on ideas, so they have to eliminate everything that makes us who we are.  If they were truly motivated to provide girls, homosexuals, and “transgenders,” with the same experiences Boy Scouts provides, then they would form their own youth organization.  But it isn’t really about that, is it? [sic]

So, is that it?

Are those Judeo-Christian values? Exclusion? Bigotry? Segregation of the sexes? So that boys and men might grow together, free from the “distraction” of stinky girls? Alone. In the woods.

Well, is it?

But why then call it Judeo-Christian? Why not call it Islamic-Judeo-Christian values, given that devout Muslim fundamentalists forbid mixing of the sexes.

Separation of the sexes isn’t a Judeo-Christian value you say?

Well then what is?

A guy named Michael Imhof wrote a letter to the editor of Madison Country Herald Bulletin, in Anderson City, Illinois.

It’s time to eliminate the Democratic Party. This is no longer the Democratic Party of the John F. Kennedy era. The Democratic Party has transitioned into the Marxist and Socialist Party of America.

Because apparently in this American’s mind, freedom is when the government dictates what political parties you can have. Because that’s totally not Marxist at all.

But here I am, digressing. Again.

Mr. Imhof spends a couple of paragraphs describing how everybody who isn’t just like him must certainly be an un-American commie socialist and then he gets to this:

The Democratic Party doesn’t care about the Judeo-Christian values of America, nor the Constitution. They’re the party of globalism, and they’re anti-American, anti-sovereignty. They use people and causes to promote the godless agenda of the global elitists.

There it is again. Judeo-Christian values of America.

Judeo-Christian values.

Undefined.

Unexplained.

The author just assumes we all know what he means.

Because, of course, we are all Judeo-Christians in America, are we not?

Imhof spends another paragraph describing how all liberals obviously must love Lenin, and then fetches up here:

Vote the Democrats and Republican In Name Only (RINO) Republicans out of office. Vote for candidates with tea party and Judeo-Christian values.

Tea Party and Judeo-Christian values.

Which would seem to indicate that in Imhof’s mind, those values are the same.

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The Tea Party. Taxed enough already. I’ll keep my freedom, my money, and my guns, and you can keep the change. That Tea Party?

Is that it? Are those Judeo-Christian values? Isolationism? America first? Sovereignty? Teabagging for Jesus? Money and guns?

No?

Are you sure?

A few weeks ago, former White House hobo Steve Bannon went to Alabama to speak at a rally for Roy Moore – Alabama’s openly racist, homophobic, Christian-nationalist former Chief Justice. Moore was running for the Senate against Donald Trump favorite Luther Strange.

Moore has somewhat interesting interpretation of the First Amendment.

You have to understand it was the duty of the government under the First Amendment…to foster religion and foster Christianity

That’s what Moore told Vox reporter Jeff Stein in August of last year.

The First Amendment makes it the duty of the government to foster religion and specifically Christianity.

Got that?

I know. I know. You thought the First Amendment meant pretty much exactly the opposite. That’s why you’re not a judge in Alabama.

There’s more.

There’s so much more.

Roy Moore: There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities; I don’t know if they may be Muslim communities. But Sharia law is a little different from American law. It is founded on religious concepts.

Jeff Stein: Which American communities are under Sharia law? When did they fall under Sharia law?

Moore: Well, there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana — up there. I don't know.

Stein: That seems like an amazing claim for a Senate candidate to make.

Moore: Well, let me just put it this way — if they are, they are; if they’re not, they’re not. That doesn’t matter. Oklahoma tried passing a law restricting Sharia law, and it failed. Do you know about that?

No. No. Don’t roll your eyes, that’s not even close to the best part of Moore’s interview. Not even close. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. You can read the whole thing here – and remember, this guy was Alabama’s chief justice and he’s probably going to be one of the state’s senators when Alabamians go to the polls this December.

Moore was the leading voice of birtherism, he is rabidly homophobic and anti-Muslim, and he spends a lot of his time hanging out with neo-Confederates – you know, people who actually and openly hate America and parade about under the flag of America’s enemies.  Moore’s fanatical religious ideology has prompted his critics to nickname him the “Ayatollah of Alabama.” And despite the fact that Moore’s repeated claim of communities living under Islamic Law in the United States has been repeatedly and soundly debunked (and Moore himself can produce no evidence whatsoever and essentially admits he doesn’t really know or care), he continues to push this falsehood.

So, I suppose it was unsurprising when Steve Bannon showed up in Alabama to stump for Roy Moore. 

Judge Moore knows the Ten Commandments is the basis for the Judeo-Christian West. Judge Moore is a good man, he’s a courageous man, and more importantly he’s a righteous man.

And there it is again.

The Judeo-Christian West.

Judeo-Christian. Undefined. Unexplained. Except for some vague reference to the Christian’s Ten Commandments (which are apparently the solution to pretty much everything).  

Steve Bannon just assumes everybody in the crowd knew what he meant.

And from the cheering, everybody in the crowd assumed that they did know what he meant and their definition and list of Judeo-Christian values was exactly the same as Roy Moore’s, Steve Bannon’s, and everybody else in the crowd. But, well, look at who was up on that stage. Are those Judeo-Christian values? Knowingly pushing falsehoods and conspiracy theories? Bigotry? Intolerance? Xenophobia? I mean, don’t take my word for it, look up Roy Moore for yourself (and Steve Bannon while you’re at it) and tell me which part of his career embodies Judeo-Christian values. Tell me what those are. Hell, it’s Alabama, maybe everybody in the crowd was on the same sheet of music. Maybe those are the values of Judeo-Christianity.

No?

But are you sure?

How do you know and can you prove it?

No?

Well, what then?

What are Judeo-Christian values?

Donald Trump seems to know:

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values. They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct. We're saying Merry Christmas again.

Is that it? Is that one of them? A Judeo-Christian value is saying Merry Christmas?

Jews for Christmas?

Really? I admit to being a little fuzzy on the finer points of Judaism, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.

But, there it is. Judeo-Christian values again. That’s what the president said.

Undefined.

Unexplained.

And the crowd once again cheered.

I mean, we’re just supposed to know. Right?

That is the inherent assumption whenever this term appears. Otherwise, they’d explain what they meant. Trump was speaking to the Value Voters Summit, a convention of hardcore religious nuts hosted by the Family Research Council. They define all kinds of things from traditional marriage to what constitutes “life” to what makes a real American. But they don’t bother to define Judeo-Christian values before people like Trump take the stage. And they don’t ask people like Trump to define it either.

And that – that right there – tells you something important.


We’re all supposed to know.


How about this?

Dr. Richard Lee, who according to his bio, is the Founding Pastor of the Atlanta, Georgia, First Redeemer Church. He is also the Editor of The American Patriot’s Bible:

THE ONE BIBLE THAT SHOWS HOW ‘A LIGHT FROM ABOVE’ SHAPED OUR NATION. Never has a version of the Bible targeted the spiritual needs of those who love our country more than The American Patriot’s Bible. This extremely unique Bible shows how the history of the United States connects the people and events of the Bible to our lives in a modern world. The story of the United States is wonderfully woven into the teachings of the Bible and includes a beautiful full-color family record section, memorable images from our nation’s history and hundreds of enlightening articles which complement the historic King James Version Bible text. 

Lee also authored God’s Promise to the American Patriot and The Coming Revolution, among other works.

So you figure, if anybody can describe Judeo-Christian values in detail, it’s got to be the guy who edited the Bible and slapped an American flag on it.

Right?

Right.

Lee says there are in fact seven Judeo-Christian values, or principles. To wit:

Principle #1: The Dignity Of Human Life

Lee cites Exodus 20:13 "You shall not murder” and Matthew 22:39 "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Oddly, he doesn’t reference Jewish text anywhere – and looking back I likewise see only a reference to the King James Bible in his book blurb. That seems an odd omission right out of the gate, Judeo-Christian values wise, I mean. But hey, I’m sure he’ll get to it. Eventually.

So, dignity of human life. No murder. Love your neighbor. Sounds reasonable. I mean it does, doesn’t it? Respect human life. Not really exclusive to just Jews and Christians though, is it? And I bet you can guess where he goes with it, can’t you?

Can’t you?

See, that bit about “murder,” that’s the kicker. That’s the weasel word. Thou shalt not murder, not kill, murder. Words matter. Language matters.

Abortion, of course, that’s what we’re talking about here. Murder, you know, that’s what guys like Lee call abortion. Murder. We’re good with other kinds of killing, war, the death penalty, letting people starve to death, so long as there’s no abortion.

And respect for the dignity of human life? The dignity of human life forsooth, well, that only goes so far.

As you will see.

Principle #2 - The Traditional Family

Again, a Christian reference: Genesis 2:21-24 "And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.  Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.  And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

Lee says “The biblical view of marriage and family is the basis of our society and serves as the backbone of a healthy social order.”

So, the biblical view of marriage as defined by Genesis 2:21. Got it.

  • God creates Adam artificially from non-living ingredients, i.e. mud. Essentially life in a lab.
  • Then God makes Eve by taking a biological sample from Adam and genetically engineering it to produce a cross-sex clone (see the reference: bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, taken out of a male, transformed into female. God could have created a completely new person from scratch, but he didn’t. Pretty clear what we’re talking about here).
  • Adam then marries what is for all practical purposes his fraternal twin.
  • Adam and Eve then proceed to break the law, become felons, and are exiled from civilization for their crimes.
  • While on the run, they produce two sons – presumably without the assistance of artificial laboratory aids.
  • At which point one of the sons murders the other – which may or may not have something to do with the fact that their parents were, genetically speaking, brother and sister.
  • A few generations later, the world is populated with Adam and Eve’s descendants, which God wipes out because they are all insane murderers, rapists, drunkards, and deviants. And you’d think God would have seen this coming given the limited gene pool.

I gotta be honest with you, maybe this isn’t the best example.

Lee goes on to say, “Since the joining together of Adam and Eve, marriage has been defined as a holy union between one man and one woman.” Except, the very reference Lee uses, i.e. the Christian Bible, provides numerous examples of marriages that are not just one man and one woman.

Numerous.

Principle #3 - A National Work Ethic

Another reference to the Christian bible: 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat."

We didn’t even make it two values past “Dignity for Human Life” before we got to the part about why poor people should starve.

Also, how is a national ethic a personal Judeo-Christian value?

I’m going to speed this up and give you the last four without commentary.

Principle #4 - The Right To A God-Centered Education

Principle # 5- The Abrahamic Covenant

Principle #6 - Common Decency

Principle #7- Our Personal Accountability To God

You can read the whole thing for yourself here at Sermon Central. Again, note that Jewish text isn’t referenced – though I suppose Lee would weasel out by suggesting his Old Testament references apply. Still, seems that if you’re going to use the term Judeo-Christian, Jews should maybe get equal time. Just saying.

Well?

What do you think. Are those Judeo-Christian values?

Are those the Judeo-Christian values?

I suspect many people in Trump’s audience last Friday would agree that they are – even if they couldn’t name them off the cuff.

But … they can’t be.

Words matter. Language matters. Context matters.

“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”

Which of those values are under attack?

For those to be the values Trump was talking about, they’d have to be under attack. By definition. That’s what the man said. That’s what they all said.

So, show me a single Jew or Christian in America who was prevented from respecting the dignity of human life.

Go on. Do it. I’ll wait.

Show me any Jew or any Christian who was denied a traditional marriage license.

Show me any Jew, any Christian, who was prevented from working hard or was prevented from attending the religious school of their choice.

Show me a single Jew, a single Christian, who was prevented in any way from adhering to some supposed contract with their deity – a covenant, I note, that was specifically between the Jews and their God and nobody else, an agreement that Christians are apparently attempting to horn in on.

Show me a single Jew, a single Christian, who was attacked for Common Decency, right after you explain why one group of Christians gets to define what “common decency” means for all of us.

As to that last one, your personal accountability to your god, I would love to see Donald Trump explain how exactly anybody would go about waging an attack on that.

None of these values apply to the other examples either – though I admit to a chuckle at the thought of Lee attempting to explain to my Boy Scout troop how Adam married his Sister (I learned to drink and swear in the Boy Scouts, skills that served me well in the Navy. We would have gotten a good laugh at Adam’s expense. Alone. In the woods. Far from the distraction of girls). 

I’m afraid I don’t buy it, even if Dr Lee did write his own bible.


No. After weeks of research, I don’t have any idea what those values are.


And I bet you don’t either.

So, I asked.

A quarter of a million people follow me every day across various social media platforms. Jews. Christians in various and assorted flavors. Muslims. Non-believers. Sort of believers. Atheists. Some that don’t fit well into any category. So, I asked. What are Judeo-Christian Values? What are they? Give me a list. It doesn’t even have to be exhaustive, just give me the top three.

Now, you’d think that a quarter of a million people could come up with something.

Three Judeo-Christian values. That’s all I’m asking.

Far and away the most common answer was: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I got hundreds, thousands, of responses that said that. That’s THE Judeo-Christian value.

That one, right there.

The Golden Rule.

Apologies, but I can’t accept that.

Treating people decently is hardly a uniquely Judeo-Christian value and …

You again? What is it this time?

Oh, I see, you’re upset by the qualifier “unique.”

You feel that’s unfair. You think I should have specified that up front.

I did.

And I mentioned it up above, you should have seen it coming.

Language matters. Precision of language matters. Context matters. Judeo-Christian values. It’s right there in the label. And that specific label matters.

See, if we were just talking about values, human values, universal values, those values defined and enumerated by Schwartz up above, well, then you would have no need for the qualifier. Would you?

But there it is: Judeo-Christian values.

That’s what those examples up above were talking about.

President Donald Trump vowed to end leftist attacks on Christian values that threatened the United States

The Boy Scouts of America stood for over a century on its strong foundation of Judeo-Christian values […] This is what the Left does best:  target and destroy everything good in America […] they have to eliminate everything that makes us who we are.

The Democratic Party doesn’t care about the Judeo-Christian values of America, nor the Constitution. They’re the party of globalism, and they’re anti-American, anti-sovereignty. They use people and causes to promote the godless agenda of the global elitists.

…The Ten Commandments [are] the basis for the Judeo-Christian West.

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values. They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct. We're saying Merry Christmas again.

Seven Principles of the Judeo-Christian Ethic

They were quite specific about it. Go back and look, follow the links, read those words in context. Look for your own examples. The people who use that term, Judeo-Christian, use it to highlight that those values are special, unique, and specifically foundational to the United States itself. This is clear from the context.

Just as those same people and media outlets define “American values” as uniquely American and by definition not something you’d find in any other country.

That’s what “exceptional” means.

And we are exceptional, America, are we not?


If these were universal values, human values, we wouldn’t have to caveat it.


This term, Judeo-Christian values is used purposely by conservatives to identify values specific to their religious and their political ideology.

But more importantly the term Judeo-Christian directly and deliberately excludes all other political and religious beliefs – and this is the point where I remind you that the people who use this term are also the people who daily denounce multiculturalism and diversity, racial mixing, cultural dilution, and often going so far as to insist that everybody speak the same language. So, by definition, by context, by omission, when these people say Judeo-Christian values, they mean values that are exclusive to their ideology and that specifically exclude all others – which is why you don’t see these values labelled Judeo-Christian-Islamic values, or even just referred as American values, or human values.

The exclusion is on purpose.

So, when I asked the question, I set specific limits on the answers. Because when you say that your values are unique – and moreover, that uniqueness specifically makes you better, exceptional, correct, righteous – but when asked to describe that uniqueness, you proceed instead to describe the same values that can be found universally and that are not in any way exclusive to your political party or religion or nation, well, then you’re full of shit.

So if you insist on using the term “Judeo-Christian” to identify your values as superior to others, then I will require you to show your work.

And so I set limits on the question.

  • The value must be uniquely Judeo-Christian, it cannot be common to any other value system, secular or non-secular
  • The value, whatever it is, must be common to both Jewish and Christian belief systems, i.e. it must be Judeo-Christian.
  • Be specific. Show your work. Don't make vague hand-waving pronouncements.

And out of a thousand answers, from Christians, from Jews, Muslims, atheists, agonistics, from Rabbis, from Preachers and Shit Shakers and Holy Rollers, I got … nothing.

No definitive answer, not even a vague answer.

I got bible quotes and guesses and a lot of sarcasm and a bunch of hand waving. I got links to Wikipedia articles – an article, I’m at pains to point out, which does not in any way provide any kind of definitive list of Judeo-Christian values.

I would like to note that I got a polite and reasoned discussion among thousands of people on my various Facebook pages, which is either a testament to the personal values of those particular people or a testament to my screening criteria. Maybe both.

But for a list of values that we’re all just supposed to know, that we all assume everybody else knows, that our leaders insist are the very basis of our country, well, there’s absolutely no consensus at all.

None.


image


Many responders threw their hands up in the air and said given the limits I placed on the question, an answer was impossible. Some of them got angry about it. One person left the Stonekettle Station Facebook Group in outrage, thinking that I was mocking her religious beliefs because she could not answer the question as asked.

But…

Words matter.

Definitions matter.

Concepts matter.

Precision matters.

Because that language, the words we use, defines how we see the world around us. How we relate to each other. Words can build a society, or tear a civilization apart. Language is information. And information used as a weapon can bring a dictator to power, topple governments, start wars (or end them), or shape the worldview of a nation.

When the president of the United States tells Americans that their values – their Judeo-Christian values – are under attack, it matters.

The limits matter. Because these are the conditions set by those who would use their values as a weapon. As a club. As a flail. As a cudgel to beat the rest of us about the head and shoulders.

These are the conditions set by those who would claim that their values are exceptional and thus should be the values of the nation and us all. By force, if necessary -- even if they themselves are unable to detail exactly what those values actually are. 

These are the limits set by those who would use some imagined martyrdom to justify theocracy and fascism and to put their boot on our throats.

And so I asked.

But the answer, given the limitations placed on the definition by those who use the term, is impossible.

And that – that right there – was the point.

One thing I didn't understand in life was that I had $100,000,000 in the bank and I couldn't buy happiness. I had everything: mansions, yachts, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, but I was depressed. I didn't know where I fitted in. But then I found family and friends and I learned the value of life.
-- Vanilla Ice

181 comments:

  1. Thank you. I will now recognize "Judeo-Christian values" arguments for what they are: exclusionary tactics based on a weasel-word term that no one can actually define but that "everyone" still understands.

    As you said, just wait for the yelling to start...

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    1. I once took a course on basic values of different philosophies and relig>ns. It turns out that serious philosophers and historians have long known that The Golden Rule is NOT UNIQUE to Christianity. I can be found, often in very similar wording, in many other religious and philosophical systems. It represents a fundamental HUMAN LJNGING for fairness, a concept that the pseufo-Christian political right regularly disdains.

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  2. religion has always fostered an us against them mindset. we would have another civil war among religions if one religion could control government.
    as someone said. religion poisons everything.

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    1. Not just religion. Humans are pretty tribal and we tend to see things as us/them. It's how we evolved. Religion is just another way to do it.

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    2. Christopher Hitchens . . . great book.

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    3. Christopher Hitchens, great book.

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    4. Tirani Realta LinkOctober 17, 2017 at 5:22 PM

      "I'm not anti-religion, I'm anti-hypocrisy." -Voltaire (the singer, not the writer)

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    5. vhehn - while I understand the history informing your sentiment - using the term "religion" in the broad way you just did is very much like the term Jim is decrying. Not all religion is us/them. Many Eastern beliefs are more about balance, and fitting into the world. And, at base, nearly ever religion has the tenets of love your God, love your neighbor, love yourself. Religion itself is no more to blame than the words Jim is talking about - how religion is used, just like how words are used - it matters. (For the record, I don't belong to or claim any religious beliefs but I study history and religion.)

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    6. I "tribe" with them that are us.

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    7. Having gotten as far as figuring out "uniquely Judeo-Christian Values" don't exist, I was hoping for Jim to translate what Trump said into the precise language he likes. I take "judeo Christian values are under attack" as "our personally sacred, public-facing traditions are under attack" (which is true, what with gay marriage and all these funny looking and strange intellectuals and this silly idea that you don't need to be white or male or hetero, and the courts telling the president he can't exclude folks with a tradition of stopping and praying five times a day!)

      The rest, well, yes, I'm an intellectual too, but that's not the part of the intended audience's brain that is being excited.

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  3. Absolutely one of your best. I did not even try to answer the values question. All I really know about values and spirituality is that trying to be in right relationship, to others, to any parts of the world I touch, to myself and to all I know as holy; that pursuit encompasses my values. Thank you. Wish those who could benefit could hear your words.

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    1. Define "spirituality" please.

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    2. One's connection to Self, Others, and the Divine (however you define it)

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  4. Well Jim, you certainly didn't disappoint. I was looking forward to this essay with baited breath! I'll need to read this 3 or 4 more times to fully digest it all, but I want you to know that I laughed out loud "...well then you're full of shit!" Bravo sir!

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    1. My personal favorite was the Teabagging 4 Jesus picture.

      But seriously, this is an awesome read. Thank you, Jim, for keeping us sane in the midst of the shit storm.

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    2. “Words matter. Precision matters” … and I hope you meant “bated” breath!

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    3. Like the cat who ate cheese and waited for the mouse with baited breath?

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  5. The only Judeo-Christian value I can cull from history is Isolationism - "Us'n agin Them over there!"

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    1. Ted, you spelled it wrong. Should be "Us'n agin Them ovr'ar!" :-D

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    2. Not exclusive, even if you could call it a "value". Other religions do that, too... sadly. At least one that I can think of offhand.

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  6. Okay, the Teabagging for Jesus picture. Poor woman had no idea what that meant did she?

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    1. Or maybe there's a whole world of right wing Judeo-Chritian bum fun that the rest of us don't know about

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    2. Considering how much the sex trades looooove it when the right holds conventions, I'm betting there's a galaxy many don't know about.

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  7. Religion is the organized destruction of faith.

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    1. I want a T-shirt with this in it! Brilliant!

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    2. Patamomma - Ironically, most fundamentalist Christians would agree with that definition. I frequently hear them say that what makes someone Christian is solely their personal faith in Jesus Christ. They then add that someone who simply adheres to religious beliefs and rituals, even in a Christian church, is not Christian. They especially malign Catholics, considering them the Antichrist. (How do I know this? Partly from friends, and mostly because I used to be a fundamentalist several decades ago. Fortunately I outgrew it.)

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    3. Mmmm...sort of. I see religion as the organized imprisonment of faith. "To be truly X, you must believe Y and Z. If you do not, you are false X." And Y and Z come straight from the biggest loud mouth standing at the pulpit, backed by the richest and most influential members of the congregation. You will believe this way, or you will be ejected or ostracized or both. Believe as we say, or your words are the work of the devil.

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  8. I was so looking forward to this essay and you did not disappoint. Honestly, I'll have to read it 3 or 4 more times to truly appreciate every word. Just delicious. Oh, and juicy, when I reached "...well then you're full of shit." , I nearly spasemed with laughter. Well done sir!

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  9. As always, Jim, you are spot on in your analyses. Thank you. It was worth the wait. Might be time for another donation as I can't seem to score one of your pens.

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  10. A Dog Whistle. That's what Judeo-Christian Values stands for. Define it? Can't. But then again, you know that. And I gave it my best shot, to no avail, but then again, I'm a heathen liberal. What do I know about a term that's little more than a stand-in for a battle flag, as far as I can tell?

    Pass some of that BSA popcorn, I'm starved, and I can't wait for the fireworks to begin. Great post, Jim.

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  11. I did not comment on FB because, as you say, the question is not really answerable, However, I agree with vhehn above about the “Us vs Them” worldview which is fostered throughout Christianity—as, indeed, it seems to be throughout any organized religion. Perhaps this is the true Judeo-Christian value: hatred of anyone who professes to NOT be a devout Jew or Christian.

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  12. Thank goodness! After thinking about your question (challenge?) I started to wonder if I was an idiot because no matter what I came up with, I could dismiss it almost immediately based on your criteria.

    At least now I know I'm not an idiot, because there is no answer. It shines a strange light on all I believed in a long time ago, and now realize I left nothing behind when I turned away from religion. I feel better now. In fact, I feel I've been armed with enough knowledge to stir something up, like a conversation or two.

    Thank you. I truly appreciate the work you did so I can go forth and use it. Wish me luck.

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    1. Karen ...me too :)! Jim, it has been an affirming "read".

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  13. Words matter, indeed.
    Bravo, Jim.

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  14. It boggles my mind that the basis of those "Judeo-Christian values" seems to be strongly skewed toward the Old Testament. I was pretty sure the "Christian" part evolved somewhere in the New Testament, where the language is pretty different from the Old. To quote somebody who seems to be pretty good at understanding this stuff,
    Words matter.
    Definitions matter.
    Concepts matter.
    Precision matters.

    But I don't think much matters at all to the folks who are throwing this phrase around lightly except their own desire to show off how much better they are than the rest of us.

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  15. You're notice that I never submitted an answer to your query, despite the years I spent at an Independent Fundamentalist Bible college studying for the ministry. I took a short run at it, in my mind, and could not come up with a solid answer to your question, how it was couched. I knew where this was going, so I decided to just sit this one out. As usual, you did not disappoint, you slippery bastard.

    And the irony, to me, is that the fundamentalists and evangelicals declare that Jews without Jesus will burn in Hell for eternity among all other non-born again Christians.

    Let's see them put that in your pipe and smoke on it for awhile. That's a Judeo-Christian value I can live without.

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  16. Thank you - a superb essay. Like others here I didn't even try to answer the question on FB as when I scanned the comments, everything I could think of had already been said. The only other thing which sprang to mind was a slight tangent as it reminded me of a previous right-of-centre government here in the UK which proposed a "return to Victorian values", similarly poorly defined but apparently referring to happy domesticity and everyone going to church on Sundays. It was dropped after a lot of people pointed out that the Victorians also had workhouses, cholera and spousal abuse.

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    1. So, I assume that the cholera was the dealbreaker?

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  17. Such a wonderful read. I was raised in Baptist and Episcopalian churches, and grew used to people around me saying they did "the Christian thing" or "this is the Christian thing to do". It wasn't until I was adult and had long since quit attending services that I questioned that.

    No one particular faith has a lock on being charitable or kind. If I donate to a hurricane relief fund or foster care another kitten or just exhibit basic human decency, that's something anyone can do. It's not unique to being a Jesus lover. I imagine if people were asked to make a list similar to yours, citing kind acts that (supposedly) only Christians do, the list would appear to be written with invisible ink.

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  18. Fantastic essay, Jim! Thanks!

    Couple of typos, I think. Last sentence in the 2nd bulleted paragraph under Adam and Eve "(... Pretty clear what we’re talk about here).", and near the very end of the BSA section is: "Alone. In the words."

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  19. You make me think in ways I've never thought before. That is something I always get a thrill out of. Since you had someone bail from your Stonekettle FB Group, maybe I could slip into their spot. My request has been in pending mode for a while. Thanks for your brain.

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  20. There's a lot to like and value in this post. The Vanilla Ice quote was the icing on on the cake. Pun intended ... sorry ...

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  21. Thank you for this. I enjoyed reading through the FB discussion you initialized and the open discourse that followed. I kind of knew what you were heading for, but like always, you went the extra mile and provided a thoughtful, humorous, no pulled punches article that forces the reader to face the truth of their inner morality.

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  22. I have grappled here, with what words to use to describe what I have just read. I've deleted them all. Asking myself again: WHAT did I just read?

    Years of intense mental strobing through this election cycle. Painful process. The pace of new in-coming factors got so fast, and the stakes have felt so high, that even sleeping switched into short naps with phone notifications deciding the pattern.

    Lately it's more like Lucy and Ethel hoping their efforts would at least matter, but more and more chocolate was being lost.

    Thanks Jim for shouldering this hefty
    essay. I have been stuck too long, But it feels like you've shown me how to at least slow the conveyor belt down. This essay reveals an essential element we've all been missing--except you. Kudos.






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  23. I wish I could think of something more eloquent to add besides a simple Thank you. Words matter. So, THANK YOU JIM.

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  24. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and efforts. You are so right on with your argument, except. There is one problem. The main problem for many Christian messages and it has to do with the concept of Satan. Satan is waging war on them. What better way to rally folks, than to find a common enemy? To them, anyone disagreeing with their values is used as proof that Satan is after them. Yes, you are absolutely right in your observation that none of those values are actually under attack. But it won't matter a whit because, Satan.

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  25. Indeed, words matter. "Judeo-Christian Values" is simply the button to push. To define it would take away that power. As long as each person in the audience thinks they know, BELIEVES they know what he is talking about, then he has them. If he defined it, they might disagree, and he would lose them. So, let them fill in the blanks, and the hook baits itself.

    "The War on Christmas" is another one. Fox has been pushing that for years with great success. As though saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" was a national catastrophe. It stirs the base. Get's 'em riled up.

    Excellent read, Jim.

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    1. "The War On Christmas" resonates with those who exhort the faith-based claim that "Jesus is the reason for the season!"

      I've been accused of waging the same war when pointing out the reason for seasons is the 23.44° axial tilt of the earth relative to its orbital plane. An argument usually met with an eloquent "Nuh-unh!"

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  26. I think using vague non-specific terms also makes the listener think that the administration is espousing the listener's values. It's a way of telling a lot of people, who might have diverse opinions on the specifics, what they want to hear. It transforms lots of Thems into an Us.

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  27. I'm in agreement with Mike Kok - I don't see the term needs to be exclusive. Rather, it's the set of values the reader assumes to be related to the Judeo-Christian subset of values.

    I also think it's utter nonsense, and that politicians use it without defining it specifically so that the listener fills up the list with whatever -they- want to. The speaker can then benefit from the listener "understanding them" and sharing their values, without those values having to have been defined.

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  28. This may be your best ever. Dead on as usual! Bravo!!

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  29. Thanks Jim, I think this might be your masterpiece.

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  30. Michael H. AtkinsonOctober 17, 2017 at 1:28 AM

    Writing is your gift. Thank you for being so generous! Shining light on "darkness" is the best game in town any day.

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  31. If you want to make their heads explode, point out that "He who does not work shall not eat" actually was in the Constitution - of the Soviet Union.

    "The socialist principle, "He who does not work shall not eat", is already realized"~V.I. Lenin: The First Phase of Communist Society

    See also article 12 of the 1936 Soviet union constitution:

    ARTICLE 12. In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honor for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat."

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  32. Hi Jim, if words matter, should "words" be "woods" or was this a play on words??

    >>We would have gotten a good laugh at Adam’s expense. Alone. In the words. Far from the distraction of girls). <<

    Just curious. Great article, very thought provoking.

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  33. I've been railing against the 'values' miasma suffusing American political discourse since the Reagan years. Thank you, Jim, for crafting a much more cogent illumination than I have managed.

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  34. I have long held that each person's idea of "god" is different, provided that they are not atheist, or possibly agnostic. And indeed each's idea of that god likely changes over time. No two individuals on this planet have the same take on the "creator"/ god, so at best only one could have the inside track "god", and the likelihood that any one person has it right is infinitesimal, if indeed their is a god. You took this up, well at least a couple hundred notches.

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    1. Oh, I think atheists and agnostics have personal ideas of "god," too. Necessarily so, since we doubt the thing has an objective existence.

      -- EMH

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    2. Eric, your comment brings to mind the question that the late great Isiah Berlin used to ask other Jews: which synagogue are you not attending?

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  35. Nicely put. Thanks. Now I'm waiting for outraged responses from those who took umbrage.

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  36. The only thing I would add to this excellent essay is a bit of historical perspective. The irony of the term "Judeo-Christian" is that for most of the past 2000 years of Christianity, Christians have been at great pains to separate themselves from Judaism, even to the point of church-sponsored murder (Inquisition, anyone?).

    It has only been within the past 60-70 years that the term "Judeo-Christian" has come into general usage. And gee, what world event might have caused the adoption? Hmmmmm....could it be World War II and the Holocaust? Then the formation of Israel?

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    1. Yes, yes, it very likely could be and was. Be interesting to see precisely how many uses of Judaeo-Christian existed before the Second World War, Shoah and Israel's creation and especially whether they were used by US politicians previous to those events.

      Its also worth noting that many of the key figures in pre-20th Century Christianity such as Martin Luther - the one who split away from Catholicism and founded Lutherism and its later related denominations - were virulently, hate-fully anti-Semitic.

      My view is that its fairly clear the 'Judaeo' prefix gets tacked on as a token marker to say, "I'm not anti-Semitic" (regardless of actual truth of that!) and to indicate support for Israel and its policies with ideas of its vague, details much contended over, future "prophetic role" in bringing about Armageddon and the Second Coming / Rapture. After which, the surviving Israelis and other Jewish people that haven't followed the various Christian groups specific line of belief and converted according to their ideas of Christianity will supposedly be thrown into eternal hellfire and torment along with everyone else.
      Chyaaarmming set of beliefs really isn't it?

      /Does that really need a sarc tag?

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  37. Great exercise! I, too, couldn't answer the question, so I wondered what would happen if anyone tried. Well done Jim!

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  38. I can easily define "Judeo-Christian values" (the political term), but you're quite right that no coherent list of values which are uniquely Judeo-Christian exists.

    Politically, it means nothing more nor less than "professing belief in the Christian faith, or we'll grudgingly accept Jews, but definitely not Muslims." That's it. It's a religious test, and not even a subtle one.

    Some may take issue with my characterization of Jewish inclusion as grudging, but go back to the "Merry Christmas" example. All the good little Christians want everybody to say "Merry Christmas" - but if you're decked out in a blue and white sweater decorated with menorahs and you've got a Star of David pendant hanging from your neck, they won't make a (loud) fuss if you say "Happy Hanukkah" instead. "Hey, that's just Jewish Christmas, right?"

    The political appeal to JCV is simply a shout-out to Christians, especially the evangelical types who vote Republican, with a side of "we support Israel uncritically and without reservation, because it has to exist before Jesus can come back" for good measure. Look at any usage of the term, and that's the one common factor you'll find. Some people draw the line more strictly, to hearken back to the "good old days" of the 1950s when "the womenfolk and the darkies" knew their place (serving the almighty white man), and the Trumpette call to "Make America Great Again" is of that more specific variety.

    (Lest there be any misunderstanding of that last paragraph, I vehemently CONDEMN that view. My guiding political principle is of respect for one's fellow humans. Today's GOP seems determined to flunk that test every chance they get, by actively disrespecting entire groups in their rhetoric and with the law.)

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  39. I know how much you hate typos in your work so I feel compelled to point out an apparent error in the next to last partial sentence in this paragraph: "None of these values apply to the other examples either – though I admit to a chuckle at the thought of Lee attempting to explain how Adam married his Sister to my Boy Scout troop (I learned to drink and swear in the Boy Scouts, skills that served me well in the Navy. We would have gotten a good laugh at Adam’s expense. Alone. In the words. Far from the distraction of girls)." Should be "In the woods.", no?

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  40. This! This is exactly what is missing in all of the brou ha ha that Trump hath created in league with the ass-holery that is the GOP! They do not get it, and never will, because their mouth-breathing base believes that they themselves are upholding all that is righteous in the world.

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  41. Excellent and important essay. It's interesting to me how language - and indeed how religious language - can come to be understood as the complete opposite of what it once said. Modern "Christianity" is almost completely antithetical to what the Christ of the Gospels preached. People who,sit in Church every Sunday and listen to the Gospel being read seem to have no idea wha t it is saying. So now "Judeo-Christian" oozes out of the mouth of a creature like Trump and his acolytes think that they know what he means. I guess they have chosen to follow a man who can barely speak English because his tendency to rage and blame speaks the same limbic language that they understand. Thanks for your great writing.

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  42. I've always believed we are like Job, sitting on our own crap heap and scratching our boils. Oh, and if anyone claims to know the mind of God, speak for God, run like hell since you're about to be hosed.

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  43. Funny how, in his list of bible quotes supporting Christian values, Dr. Lee leaves out Acts 4:32-35 (which describes the way the new Christians actually lived as a society):
    32 Now the full number of those who believed were of kone heart and lsoul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but mthey had everything in common. 33 And with great npower the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and ogreat grace was upon them all. 34 pThere was not a needy person among them, for qas many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and rlaid it at the apostles’ feet, and sit was distributed to each as any had need.

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  44. Thank you for this!

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  45. And there was me thinking that when Trump said "Judeo-Christian Values" he and everyone else in the room understood the term with perfect clarity as a no more or less than a clear euphemism for "White Supremacy".

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    1. I'm sure Mr. Bannon, in an unguarded moment when he thinks he won't be quoted in the press, would be quick to inform you that "Jews" aren't "White."

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    2. Nightowl: I'm sure you are right, but Bannon is almost certainly the one who put the term "Judeo Christian" into Trump's mouth in the first place. He's was banging on and on about "Judeo Christian Values" (as a dog whistle for "White Supremacy") long before he even met Trump. Keep in mind that there are plenty of Evangelical Christians who support Zionism even though they would prefer not to associate with Jews, simply because they want to hurry up Armaggedon.

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  46. Minor typo - it's Baden-Powell, not Baden Powell.

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  47. This may well be the best piece you have ever written sir. Much to think about now, thank you.

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  48. I did come up with one Judeo-Christian value, when I thought about your question a couple days ago. The value is 'worship only one specific God and all the other ones are secondary.' Specifically, God/Yaweh says "I am the lord your god and you shall have no other gods before me." So Shiva might exist (other gods are mentioned) but Jewish-Muslim-Christians are supposed to put Yahweh FIRST. So that's the only one I can think of which is exclusive to "Judeo-Christians."

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    1. Nope. Akhenaten was the first to do the supreme single deity, Aton.

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    2. Sure, but I didn't say "Judeo-Christians" were the first at monotheism*, just that "Yaweh insists he come first" is the only one I could come up with. Clearly no other religion is going to insist that Yaweh come first, after all.
      *I don't think it's monotheism if someone thinks there do exist other gods that are junior to one's primary one, but that's an argument for another time.

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    3. Krishna, who appeared several thousand years prior to Christ, also made it clear that there was one Spirit Supreme and implied that the other "gods" were human invention. Arguably, too, Akhenaten's grandpa, Yuya, who may well have been the biblical prophet Joseph (the timing was right and the Egyptian record seems to support the Biblical one) was a monotheist.

      This may be a manifestation of the principle that the truth is one point, but fools have multiplied it.

      Beside the point, really—I digress. To look for Judeo-Christian values, I'd look at scripture. Specifically, the 'Shema Israel' and the part it plays in both faiths. When asked what was the greatest Commandment (job one, Christians) Christ quotes Moses. To paraphrase, "Your God is One, love Him with your whole being" AND he goes on to say, the second greatest commandment is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

      Now, not only does Christ agree with the Rabbi Hillel (a contemporary) that these two laws (both contained in the Torah) sum up the entire Law and the Prophets, but makes observance of these laws to be the means by which the faithful obtain eternal spiritual life. He goes on to give an illustration of what he means when he says we must DO what those commandments say. It's usually called the Parable of the Good Samaritan and in it, Christ describes how one man finds another wounded by the side of the road and carries him to an inn where he tends to his wounds then pays the innkeeper as a proxy to continue his care.

      Here's the important part of that illustration: the two people involved each considered the other to be unclean, apostate or heretical, despicable, sinful, an enemy—if you can think of a negative epithet, it was applicable to the mutual loathing in which Jews and Samaritans held each other.

      That is the central Judeo-Christian value according to Christ. Does that match what we see on the national stage, in the national debate about values? Yes? No?

      Something else Christ said may apply here: "You will know them by their fruits."

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  49. Speaking as a Jew, I have to say that the term “Judeo-Christian values” has, in my experience, always been used by Christians to falsely assert universality. They mean “Christian values, typically right-wing Christian values, and look, see, we are universal and everyone agrees with us including you even if you are stupid enough to think you don’t, but since we are saying that they’re also Jewish values, now you can’t be mad at us, and if your understanding of Jewish values differs from our understanding of Christian values, then you are still wrong.” It feels like they are ‘splaining our religion to us and using us as cat’s-paws for a purpose we disagree with.

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    1. Yes, this. It is Christians' views of Jewish values without any input from Jews. Kind of like how a group of old white men are deciding health care for women without a woman's input.

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    2. It's certainly ironic to imply that saying "Merry Christmas" is a Judeo-Christian value.

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    3. Tirani Realta LinkOctober 17, 2017 at 5:33 PM

      I spent a good amount of time spanking a woman on Jim's Facebook page that seemed to think (mistakenly) that Jews were Christians, and therefore Christian values were Jewish values, and vice-versa. After increasingly skeptical attempts to get her to clarify her position, she either 1) blocked me; 2) deleted the thread, took her ball, and went home; and/or 3) was air-locked. I suspect 1, would not be surprised at 2, and could be pleased with 3, as her position was pretty damn offensive to most Jews I know (including my husband, who couldn't jump in.)

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  50. Your work should be required reading. Sadly, those who would most benefit from reading this would refuse to.

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  51. And there it is, someone again calling out the insane BS the right continually try’s to foist on us. Thank you Jim, I sincerely hope it leads somewhere.

    On a side note, saying definitions matter is exactly why every citizen should become more acquainted (taught!) about axiomatic systems (you know Mathematics!). Of course, we would also learn there are terms that cannot be defined, like in geometry, a line or point. It would be interesting to see “Judeo-Christian” put in an axiomatic system as an undefined term.

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  52. I think we all knew the answer all along. Straight white conservative evangelical male Christians: Good. Jews, Women and Blacks who know their place: tolerated as needed. Everyone else: filthy mudbloods.

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  53. So far WOW, but have to finish reading (and rereading) later. In the meantime, one typo, I think.

    None of these values apply to the other examples either – though I admit to a chuckle at the thought of Lee attempting to explain how Adam married his Sister to my Boy Scout troop (I learned to drink and swear in the Boy Scouts, skills that served me well in the Navy. We would have gotten a good laugh at Adam’s expense. Alone. In the words. Far from the distraction of girls).

    "In the words." or "In the woods."?

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  54. I looked forward to reading this and was not disappointed. When you asked the question on Stonekettle Station's facebook page, I declined to answer because I've identifed as a pagan (today, it's the small p, not the big P)from the point of realizing in 3rd or 4th grade in parochial school that I didn't quite believe what they were trying to inculcate in me. As an adult, having studied sociology (including the sociology of religion) and history, I realized that for some questions there are no clear cut answers because everything is in motion. Values and morals evolve as we get exposed to new ideas and situations and people and influences. So when it comes to certitude, the only things I'm certain of while I live is the sun rises in the east, the tides come in and go out and rivers run downhill. Those are my certitudes. Everything else, as Anne McCaffrey once said, is subject to change without notice.

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  55. Great thought provoking essay. Thank you for your effort. My one take away is that those clamoring the loudest with their code words are really NOT Christians.

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  56. Wow. Best one yet! Yours is a voice that needs to be heard, but the people who need to hear it will not. Thank you for speaking up in spite of that!

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  57. Since there isn't enough space here to show you my take on this. I'll just say that it was a well thought out essay and give you a quick short version of what I wanted to say. (What do you expect? I write novels).

    Values are only an assignment of words to common experiences that pull us together in groups.

    No matter how those values are stated, whether in simplistic sentences or the most extreme level of a detailed book, or stories as examples, they still fall under being guided by our individual experiences.

    And in that is the reason why for nearly 10,000 years, we have lived by what has been called the Golden Rule.

    "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You."

    And you're right. It is not a value. Nor is truly a 'rule.' It's a commonly derived behavior all civilizations arrive at from the thing that draws us together or breaks us apart. Experience.

    We're told that we should not obsess with the past. And yet our past is what guides us in our actions toward each other. We have to leave enough open to add to experiences, yet irony abounds that as we age, those past events become our guiding events for most of what we do.

    In this case, and it can happen in ALL faiths, the danger lies in having those in charge whose only experiences are the knowledge of the assigned words--the values. The rule book.

    Yes, we're being harangued by people demanding we follow their own version of a rule book. And when that happens, nobody is happy.

    Now when it comes to experiences, we are told to not obsess over the past. And we shouldn't. But we have this annoying thing about our brains, they don't remain plastic very long, and the earliest experiences often guide our individual lives, no matter what else we live through.

    Now have the only thing you experience is that of the rulebook. The values assigned by what the rules of acceptable behavior is in a given faith.

    No wonder we have conflict between religions and individual denominations. And it all stems from the Golden Rule, because the rule is an observance of behavior in humanity.

    Judeo-Christian Values... yes, Virginia there are Judeo-Christian values.

    But only when people can sit back and think them out. Otherwise, when you have people constantly afraid, and tell them those values are under attack, it doesn't matter what each individual value is.

    In that moment, Values becomes nothing more than words assigned to that of a target by those now feeling their experiences are less important than others.

    They are less important than others.

    That we see it as a falsity doesn't matter. The people in the faith who are told they're under attack, they see it as real as the computer you read this from.

    Because their experiences, well...that's what took me over the top on word count before.

    Suffice to say, our experiences give us the basis of who we are, and our brains, on average, never really stops wanting to experience more. That's our real addiction.

    And therein lies the grist of the story that is humanity.

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    1. I have to differ, The only Golden Rule "we" have lived under since we started living in cities is "He who has the gold, makes the rules." The GR you cite, I suggest, is more honored in the breach, or it would not be necessary to so frequently reiterate it.

      -- EMH

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    2. There's no Judeo-Christian monopoly on the "golden rule," either. Every religion and society has some form of it. it fails the "unique Judeo-Christian value" test.

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    3. The Golden Rule seems to me to be an implementation of the principle of reciprocity, which lies at the heart of co-operative collaboration between individuals and groups.

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  58. Thank you, Jim, for calling out the exclusionary tactics of Trump and his ilk. Helping us see their tactics is the first step in fighting their bs.

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  59. It's very simple. When you look at these people as a group, what is the one thing that defines them? Hatred of the other. That, right there, is the one thing that pulls all of those types of people together. So, while correct in stating that saying "Judeo-Christian Values" is a way of excluding people, it's also used as a shield against ridicule so that they don't have to defend their views with any sort of factual discussion.

    When they say that their "beliefs" are under attack, they're literally whining that they're not allowed to openly hate gays and minorities. Allowing gay marriage, minorities in their communities, and anything that goes against their hatred is, in their warped minds, an "attack" on their "beliefs."

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  60. As one who understands herself to be Christian, it is my experience that it is seen through the lens of your own experience. And the words are have many meanings/nuances/interpretations. To add another layer, interpreting from the originals Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts (what we have of them) only further complicates matters because, you know, interpretation from language to another, the limits of the English language.

    As for the term Judeo-Christian, it is meant to indicate the connection between Judaism and Jesus, who was a dark skinned Mediterranean Jew. It was adopted in recent history co-opted as a guilt response to Christian complicity in the Holocaust, IMO. And don’t even get me started on the fundamentalist uncritical support for Israel currently.

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  61. It's about patriarchy, those "values" that they push so much. That's the bottom line, but they can't say it outright because then their people would start understanding that the whole goal is for a few men to rule over everyone else, with men in general having women and children as slaves. Possibly well taken care of, but still slaves.

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  62. My mind boggled at the very attempt to follow your parameters for Judeo-Christian, but I realized that was the point, so I kept my comments to myself and anxiously awaited your response. To me, Judeo-Christian means white, American, male, evangelical rules that happily judge and discriminate against anyone who doesn't fit that mold. Like the Queen of Hearts, they yell "off with their heads" to anyone who offends their sensibilities, like the poor, the LBGT, the non-believers, the brown skinned, and on and on. This even includes women, who are just possessions and baby factories.

    The idea of Christians under attack has been a consistent theme for as long as I can remember (and that's more years that I care to admit). You repeat a lie enough times that people start to believe it as truth.

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    1. The people with the money and the power get to decide the “values” of the rest of us. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

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  63. I been asking for decades every time someone says "family values", what are they exactly and who doesn't share them? It is a great way to get a group of folks to argue and walk away.

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    1. I saw a bumper sticker once that read "Hate is not a family value".

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  64. Thank you for taking the ball and running for a first down. That was painfully pedantic, but necessary. Defining the terms is always the first step to the conversation. So, the natural question is, what IS it that people feel attacked for? What are people trying to communicate?

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  65. I know Judeo Christian values when I see them.
    Like pornography.

    It's all about the tribe isn't it?

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  66. And this is the reason for the "separation of Church and State,"
    even though I personally (try) to use the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments as a moral compass.

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  67. I chuckled to my self when I saw the question on Facebook.I have to admit that I almost sprained my brain thinking about it. Weasel words is what I thought, plausible deniability for those folks when those bad things happen. Good job at sending my thoughts off into a thousand more directions. It allows hypocrisy in words and deeds because of its vagueness in the definition of the term. To me it's an oxymoronic term , Christ saying be nice and share , mixed with the smite you and yours of the old testament. Pick out whatever you want whenever you want , as long as it's from the "Good Book", New and old testament.�� I'm still working on why they are so afraid of other people's beliefs if they really believe that their" God " is the "One True God"�� .

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  68. This is the same Family Research Council that supported Josh Duggar after it was known he diddled his sisters, right? Some values.

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  69. "I have to wonder why any parent would want their young teenage girls camping in the woods with young teenage boys?"

    Every parent of teenage girl who is in cadets sends their girls off to camp with teenage boys. How do I know?
    My sons both went camping *with girls* during their time in Sea Cadets.

    As parents none of us had worries about it because we knew that the officers had the situation in hand.

    If the stuffed shirts who write/say this crap have issues with girls/boys mingling it is *their* issue.

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  70. "Lee cites Exodus 20:13" -- this IS Jewish text. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible. Keep your eye on where those quotes are originating, please!

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    1. Fairly sure I specifically pointed that out.

      But, okay. NOW, ask yourself why the reference is from the Bible and not from the Torah. If they're the same and the author is describing Judeo-Christian values, why then did he not use a reference from Shemot instead of Genesis (yes, I know the words mean the same thing) but Lee is obviously quoting the Christian holy book and not the Jewish one. Why is there not one single reference from Jewish text? Why specifically from the Bible?

      See my point here?

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    2. It's less actually the issue of what terminology they use (Shemot = Exodus, B'reishit = Genesis, by the way), but more that they are emphatically Christian in their methods of interpretation and meaning-making. Judaism has a whole system for this that is *very* different from the Christian system and is enthusiastically tolerant of the idea that you can have multiple contradictory meanings from the same text, that text should of *course* be reinterpreted based on cultural change, that interpretation is the action of humans who have the *right* to do so (we are supposed to find our own multiple meanings, not reveal God's single meaning), disagreement should be handled respectfully, etc. Probably the single best illustration of this idea is the famous story of the Oven of Akhnai (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 59a-b), about how the right to interpret the text belongs to humans and *not* to God, and the follow-on story about how even when you disagree, treating people like dirt is not okay and it makes things bad for everyone.

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    3. " (we are supposed to find our own multiple meanings, not reveal God's single meaning)"

      I had an ultra-fundamentalist Christian once insist to me that "The Word (of God) is not subject to interpretation." I found this especially humorous considering this person spoke only English thus everything he read or was preached to was already a translation, or interpretation. And 40 years later, much like "Judeo-Christian values," I still don't know what that is supposed to mean.

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    4. Did he also insist that the Bible was written in English and that Jesus spoke English?

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  71. Judeo-Christian values is a code word for white men to be able to marginalize everyone else except them. Simple as that.

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    1. They don't even let all white men into the tribe. Atheist, gay, trans, liberal... no white man fitting any of those categories need apply. I was tempted to include "poor," as the ones benefiting are the rich, but they need the poor folks as patsies. Without the deceived poor on their side, the rich are vastly outnumbered - and the appeal to JCV is how the greedy rich wrap serfdom in patriotism to dupe the poor into voting against their own interests. Gin up some outrage against abortion, and the rubes won't notice the picking of their pockets through massive tax cuts that shift the burden of paying for things from those with the money to those doing all the work.

      Nice gig, if you can get it... and if you don't mind getting your soul dirty.

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  72. Its group psychology. They are fighting for their way of life. Which as other people have pointed out is of hatred, power, and greed. It is antithetical to the examples of Jesus. The right has been projecting on the left, and other groups the exact things that they stand for. If you compare a fundamental right wing christian and an ISIS fundamentalist, there are more similarities then differences. Their ideology and goals are the same. They want to create a state that excludes all other groups and non-believers and conforms to laws as defined by their beliefs. The right wants to build a state that conforms to their beliefs. Now if they can profit from the chaos that happens as they divide their opposition and label them with the exact behavior that they do? Then the more power and profits they can make because their base will not listen to any facts out of fear. 5. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7. This group has forgot the sound mind, to question their leadership. They want things simple, MAGA. Go back in time, where we live on our values hard work men were men. I want all the advantages of science, just not the cost. They are being manipulated not for their benefit, but for those in power to make more money.

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  73. So, words matter, and that exactly why the terms being used are vague and ill-defined. The people using the terms aren't being vague because the expect everyone to agree with them. They're being vague because they know, as you point out, that if they were specific, some of their audience would disagree. They're vague because the more specific they are, the fewer people will respond to their message. They're vague because as long as their words are vague, unhappy and angry people can project their individual grievances onto those words and carve those words onto their personal standards, because once their followers have done that, an attack on the leaders becomes an attack on the followers, a rejection of all those projected grievances, and a promise to do their followers harm.

    So yes, words matter. Words that evoke values without specifying them matter most of all.

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    1. THIS. Very much this. Exactly what I was thinking while reading this essay. I kept waiting for Jim to say that out loud, but I think he *was* saying this also, pretty much as a subtext... I'm sure he'll correct me if I miss my guess, but at the end I kinda felt that it was said after all.

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  74. I've always rolled my eyes anytime I heard the term "Judeo-Christian". Thank you for rigorously demonstrating its absurdity.

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  75. I'll agree with Mr Kok so far as to argue that there *could* be a set of "values" which, taken together, represent a "Judeo-Christian" set, but in which no one element is not shared by some other set of values. But, since we really aren't trying to answer that question, I won't bother racking my brains to find it.

    As a political hammer, the term seems obviously contrived to be a means of excluding the despised "other" -- in this case, Muslims, since Islam shares just about every value with the other Abrahamic religions. The emphasis is clearly on the "Judeo-Christian" and not the "values."

    But the hammer must have some relevance to the nail for it to work. I'm guessing that there are a lot of folks in America who like to think of themselves as "Christian" (no Jews really need apply), and like to think their christianity makes them somehow separate from the godless masses and unwashed, un-American peoples. So stroking them with a vague rallying cry hits the spot, and lets them pretend they're better than everyone else, despite inconvenient evidence to the contrary.

    And I think there is a larger group, more uneasy perhaps, who consider themselves more-or-less good people, people of more-or-less good will, who try with varying degrees of success to practice some of the more altruistic, empathetic guidelines of the christian rule, who cannot willingly stand against "Judeo-Christian values" even when they are being touted by Satan himself. So the term becomes not just a hammer, not just a dog whistle, but a form of blackmail. Support me, and not those godless liberals, because otherwise you're against god himself.

    Now, since in earlier articles, you have advocated outreach and compromise with the excluded masses of America, most of whom might very well fall into this latter group, I wonder how you would advise reaching them? Is telling them their "Judeo-Christian Values" are nonsense likely, tactically, to engage their sympathy? Or is it more likely to harden them in their support of those who tout them, while living up to them not at all?

    -- EMH

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  76. A brilliant, comprehensive and much-needed essay. The President is using this compound weasel-word to inflame a segment of our populace and set them against the rest. I cannot think of anything less congruent with the values espoused by the leaders of Judaism and by Jesus, none of which were or are exclusive to them.

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    1. The scary part for me is that Trump, like the audience he is preaching to actually believes in what he said and what they believe in.

      Also I liked "Alone. In the words." before it was corrected. The tangents that it takes you on are fun.

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    2. If you ever bet on Trump actually believing in anything at all -except his own specialness and superiority- you are going to lose and lose big.

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  77. There's nothing in the New Testament about homosexuality; that's Leviticus. If they're following Leviticus, then no more blended fibers (I'd like to see them do without their polyester/cotton blends), no more shrimp and grits (shellfish are decidedly not kosher). There's nothing anywhere in the bible about abortion, and "ensoulment," that is, the entering of a human soul into a developing fetus, is traditionally held to be about 40 days after conception (apart from those who believe in reincarnation, where the soul predates conception), OR with the drawing of the first breath, that is, AFTER birth.

    I'm too through with these jerks. The FRC supported Josh Duggar even after they found out he'd diddled his sisters. They ceded any moral high ground they ever held long, long ago. They're a hate group. They hate women (if they loved us, they'd hold more enlightened views on contraception, abortion, and rape), any ethnic group other than their own, other faiths, the poor, the elderly, the sick (unless it's their own family members), and progressives of all stripes. They can't even defend their alleged faith, as Jim's FB page demonstrated.

    They're god-botherers, too.

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  78. You are a light house in a sea of darkness…I could not give you a definition on FaceBook as given the parameters as you said if not uniquely Judeo-Christian most would be full of shit…I chuckled a little there, of course the part about Adam/Eve being siblings & where their loving God wipes out of mankind because they’ve all become a bunch of inbred drunken rapist had me spitting pop out my nose.

    As a child no one could give me a good answer to where the hell Adam & Eve’s children found spouses…let alone the myriad other questions I had about the supposed “Good Book”. Early on my parents elected to make going to church optional for me, not sure if that was solely their decision or a request by the church (something about flames and holy water sizzling)…lol

    Bottom line Trump is so full of shit his eyes have turned brown (also gives a better explanation for his orange skin tone his pancreas and liver are working overtime on the bile he spews) and his followers are either full of shit or just too simple to comprehend. I try not to be insulting but when asked what facts they based their reasons on they all spout the same canned messages no matter what facts are presented to them.

    Great essay I only wished those that truly needed to read could comprehend it as well.

    Milne M

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  79. Jim, I LOVE your writing. Until reading this I suspected Adam and Eve invented incest but never put it in words - can I get back the mouthful of coffee that went through my nose?

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  80. As so often, you hit the mark. And the mark here is that words matter and people who don't have the skill of using the right word at the right time most of the time should not be leading our country. Another point emerges is that the commonality of basic human values transcends culture, philosophy, and religion. If we focused more on our similarities than our differences we could get along a lot better. But that of course, would be too easy.

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  81. "Words matter, precision matters"...only to people who care about the truth. Politics is no longer about facts, debate, truth and policy. If you're only interested in inciting the mob, you just need to sound good.

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  82. Thanks for your time and your words.

    One possible typo? The sentence following the Boy Scout's link is written as:
    "There is it, Judeo-Christian values."
    did you mean
    "There it is, Judeo-Christian values."

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  83. I think that people should use their intellect as their moral guide. It is obvious that most religions do not get it right. I have noticed that justice is just another word for revenge. Using punishment for rehab is also revenge, and is saying that we are not smart enough to do otherwise. Of course who is smart enough not to use it. As much as I am against it, I felt the need to use it on my child. I tried hard not to. Intellectually I see that the death penalty and punishment are wrong, but like others feel the need for revenge. Just because I want revenge, does not mean I should have it. Most religions do not see anything wrong with the death penalty or punishment, were as my intellect tells me that it is wrong. If we were smart enough we could rehab people. In that we are not, does that make punishment and the death penalty okay to use? You tell me? Then I will know what kind of a human I am dealing with.

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  84. really love this-it is the most logical and reasoned approach to this entire topic. I can see why it would get people's heads spinning-most people cannot define their own beliefs with any accuracy much less something as amorphous as "Judeo-Christian Values". There simply isn't such a creature-not separate from general values that can change from person to person.

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  85. "Values are personal. We each determine for ourselves what is important. Values are your personal ethics, morals, your standards of behavior." I agree with you, but Judeo-Christian values junkies do not. This is (as I'm sure you're quite aware) where they diverge from freer thinkers.

    Most of the folks who use the JCV phrase regularly don't think they choose their own values. They think God has chosen them for them and will punish them if they don't follow those values. Where did they get those values? Most of them years of listening to sermons from pulpits inhabited by right-wing ministers who think their study of the Bible has given them special insight into the intentions of God. They've been taught to value faith over critical thinking, and that questioning their long-held beliefs is evidence of the influence of the devil.

    And that's the kind of thinking that led directly to the election of Donald Trump. It's also why you'll never get through to that certain type of person. Some, yes. Most, no.

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  86. This was a very well thought out and deep essay. I've always considered the "Judeo-Christian values" things to be an impiled idealogical threat against anybody who didn't fit in the standard "Evangelical Christian Right Wing God, Guns, Glory" crowd. Not that it was actually a set of real values, just a lot of moral grandstanding and desire for power over anybody who was different. These ideals are not the sole property of this group. They just like to dress their power hunger up with crosses and flags.

    Thank you again for sharing this with us. It really made me thing today.

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  87. A thoughtful and well considered set of arguments, Jim. We do kick around words carelessly. Me too. I sometimes use them as props in an argument without clear definition. The value voters meeting was painful and I could not take much of it. Our pseudo leader has no grasp of words. makes omelets of everything he says. Obfuscates as a con man... He elevates chaotic thinking to a gold standard. Religious leaders have of course had clarity of purpose in the past. But religiondoes not have a lock on moral standards. Quite the contrary from some of the torch bearers in the news. The swamp is a mental swamp I think.

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  88. In answer to the question, the answer is NO, there is no exclusive or unique value that is Judeo-Christian. It'd be like asking 'Name a unique value that is only seen in Communism'. You'll never find one because all of the values are borrowed from other religions or political organizations.

    The reason certain religions or political groups are different is because of their value set. Most all have interlapping values, and none of them are unique, but the groups are incredibly different in effectiveness, conduct, and direction.

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  89. A lot of people have indirectly insinuated this but no one has exactly said it outright, so:

    There is one belief which meets your criteria (i.e. uniquely Judeo-Christian, common to both Jewish and Christian belief systems, under attack), and that is the belief they are THE "Chosen People" and part of a "Covenant." See Deuteronomy 7:6, Deuteronomy 14:2, Exodus 19:5-6, 1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 1:4-5, Ephesians 1:11, Matthew 26:28, etc.; there are a couple dozenish that apply, can Google "chosen people Bible verses" (sorry, not familiar enough w/ Torah to quote equivalents). "Chosen"="Superior" obvs, especially when the Prosperity Gospel applies, and it is this notion of "chosenness" and superiority which is under attack as "Christians" and "Christian traditions" (as you and others have noted, the inclusion of "Judeo-" is spurious) are getting slightly less of the deference at large they once used to. You know, the whole "equality seems like persecution to the privileged" thing. "Happy Holidays" puts all Winter Solstice holidays on equal footing instead of prioritizing Xmas; "Xmas" gives "Christ" less air time in the common vernacular (which, getting mad at that is hilarious to me, because "XP" was the ancient Greek symbol for "Christ" - easier to carve in a rock - so "Xmas" is arguably very "traditionally" Christian, but I digress), removing "God" from the pledge creates a space/vacuum other/no things might fill. Words matter you know, and other words mattering as much as "Judeo-Christian" words could lead to people thinking other ideas/people might be as good or better. How does "Chosen" and/or "superior" work if other things are as good or better? Similarly, things like allowing gays to exist as humans not only challenges their reading of their holy text, but suggests they may have been wrong for millennia. And we all know Chosen People can't be wrong, right? That's a slippery slope right there, that is...

    In the last 5 years or so I've come across a couple things which completely changed my view of modern politics, and which I think are of worth in this discussion. The first, was an argument that monotheism is inherently incompatible with democracy because monotheism is essentially monarchical, which predisposes its adherents to prefer a similar system in government. Interesting argument, if not completely persuasive, but it stayed with me. About a year ago I found the second thing: a breakdown of the modern "New Conservative"/Traditionalist movement. I had never heard of it as such, and the Tories are direct descendants, but it's not mentioned much with regards to American politics. Seeing their values laid out though, explained a lot about modern Republican policy pushes. And I would not be surprised in the slightest if these "Traditionalist" ideas dovetailed nicely with what almost any Conservative thinks is meant by "Judeo-Christian Values".

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  90. A lot of people have indirectly insinuated this but no one has exactly said it outright, so:

    There is one belief which meets your criteria (i.e. uniquely Judeo-Christian, common to both Jewish and Christian belief systems, under attack), and that is the belief they are THE "Chosen People" and part of a "Covenant." See Deuteronomy 7:6, Deuteronomy 14:2, Exodus 19:5-6, 1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 1:4-5, Ephesians 1:11, Matthew 26:28, etc.; there are a couple dozenish that apply, can Google "chosen people Bible verses" (sorry, not familiar enough w/ Torah to quote equivalents). "Chosen"="Superior" obvs, especially when the Prosperity Gospel applies, and it is this notion of "chosenness" and superiority which is under attack as "Christians" and "Christian traditions" (as you and others have noted, the inclusion of "Judeo-" is spurious) are getting slightly less of the deference at large they once used to. You know, the whole "equality seems like persecution to the privileged" thing. "Happy Holidays" puts all Winter Solstice holidays on equal footing instead of prioritizing Xmas; "Xmas" gives "Christ" less air time in the common vernacular (which, getting mad at that is hilarious to me, because "XP" was the ancient Greek symbol for "Christ" - easier to carve in a rock - so "Xmas" is arguably very "traditionally" Christian, but I digress), removing "God" from the pledge creates a space/vacuum other/no things might fill. Words matter you know, and other words mattering as much as "Judeo-Christian" words could lead to people thinking other ideas/people might be as good or better. How does "Chosen" and/or "superior" work if other things are as good or better? Similarly, things like allowing gays to exist as humans not only challenges their reading of their holy text, but suggests they may have been wrong for millennia. And we all know Chosen People can't be wrong, right? That's a slippery slope right there, that is...

    In the last 5 years or so I've come across a couple things which completely changed my view of modern politics, and which I think are of worth in this discussion. The first, was an argument that monotheism is inherently incompatible with democracy because monotheism is essentially monarchical, which predisposes its adherents to prefer a similar system in government. Interesting argument, if not completely persuasive, but it stayed with me. About a year ago I found the second thing: a breakdown of the modern "New Conservative"/Traditionalist movement. I had never heard of it as such, and the Tories are direct descendants, but it's not mentioned much with regards to American politics. Seeing their values laid out though, explained a lot about modern Republican policy pushes. And I would not be surprised in the slightest if these "Traditionalist" ideas dovetailed nicely with what almost any Conservative thinks is meant by "Judeo-Christian Values".

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    1. Nope. Although the words might seem the same, the meanings that Christians and Jews give to the idea of chosenness are completely different, and there are a wide variety of Jewish interpretations of the idea.

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  91. excellent. just a perfect essay.

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  92. I'm a member of your Stonekettle Station FB group, and the member who left in a huff is missing out, missing the point, and unable to expand her world view. What a shame. I truly enjoy your essays and this one is stellar. As an aside, I did get a laugh - I thought the same thing about the sentence structure of the "President Donald Trump vowed to end leftist attacks on Christian values that threatened the United States."

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  93. Just want to make sure you got my new email address (I did a new "subscribe") and delete my old, nonfunctional addy (keepsondancing@yahoo.com)

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  94. Great essay. I laughed so much! I will point out, though, that vague phrases like "Judeo-Christian values" and slogans like "Make America Great Again" are exactly what politicians and marketing departments want. Words that stir the desired emotions but don't actually mean anything specific. That way nobody can call you out on the details of your beliefs. In the aerospace and defense industries we call them "Motherhood statements", as in "I believe in motherhood and apple pie."

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  95. Printing this out and reading again. And keeping it. As always, enjoy your writing, Jim. Thank you.

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  96. Wonderful essay! Thank you. One quibble: Genesis was part of the Hebrew Bible (The Tanakh) long before it was part of the Old Testament. It IS a Jewish document that was co-opted by Christians. This is, of course, not and endorsement of that fools interpretation of Christianity. But, as you say, we should be precise.

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  97. As I said on Facebook, the only shared christian value is Jesus himself and christians disagree on what Jesus means almost to a man. There is no value that exclusively Judeo-Christian. Most christians would probably give "all those common values plus Jesus" as their answer, but then most of them don't understand why the prosperity gospel is a mockery of christianity either.

    The paragraph I excised from http://ranthonysteele.blogspot.com/2017/10/atheism-is-not-belief-system.html and will probably paste in another post about religion runs like this;

    Christian is not a thing. There is no group that policies what is or isn't christian. There are no religious pogroms as there are in Islamic countries, attempts by christian authority to make the people who call themselves christian actually conform to the rules of christianity; and this is undoubtedly a good thing. But this lack of ingroup policing does ask the question what is christianity? There are sects that don't believe in the trinity. There are sects that question the virgin birth. Most of sects accept that Jesus Christ was divine, the savior, but the Prosperity Gospel turns the gospel of Christ on its head and makes a mockery of several key tenets of the religion laid down in religious law. The fact that these blasphemers (that is the correct word for them) are accepted in the midst of the rest of christianity along with the Mormons and the Christian Scientists and others makes the entire idea of there being a thing called christianity , a organization or system capable of being encompassed by a name, and that name being worthy of the distinction of a proper name, capitalization, a laughable idea.

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  98. Very minor possible typo / nit to fix here : "Moore was the leading voice of birthism, he is rabidly homophobic and anti-Muslim, and he spends a lot of his time hanging out with neo-Confederates.."

    Shouldn't that bolded word be Birtherism?

    Hope that helps. (& yeah, I know Jim Wright appreciates constructive editing comments hence this.)

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  99. Superb, thoughtful and spot on essay & analysis. Cheers Jim Wright. I love your work and blog here.

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  100. Great essay. We've been experiencing something similar with 'Australian values' ever since John Howard needed to demonise someone to win an election and chose asylum seekers as his political football. Immigration, refugees, marriage equality, safe school programmes...You name it, if our politicians think it can score them votes from the scared and the ignorant (a sizeable chunk of our population, unfortunately), they'll frame it as an attack on 'Australian values'. They've even tried to incorporate a belief in Australian values into a citizenship test.
    If asked to define 'Australian values', however, they um and ah and look shifty.

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  101. Principle #6 - Common Decency - from the Gospel of Richard Lee.... I believe that common decency definitely IS under attack, or at least it is being ignored with malice. But not just by the extremist radical liberals. The all holy God fearing just and wonderful alt-right (not to be confused with racist white nationalists) upholders of the holy Constitution, and defenders of its one and only real amendment have grown pretty adept at ignoring the Prophet Lee's sixth principle too.

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  102. I've been thinking about the question since you first posed it. In the context of how "Judeo-Christian Values" is being tossed about by politicians (and in the context of your essay), it means nothing more than to be a dog whistle of inclusion (exclusion?). "We" are part of the club. "Those" non-religious, those people of color, those women, those willing participants in secular society, those hedonists, those who tolerate abortion and gay marriage and brown people... "they" aren't part of the group. It is merely a way of signaling which of the Sneetches have stars on their bellies. It is marriage defined as one woman and one man, women being subservient to their men, white males as head of household, and a "traditional" family structure where the woman keeps the house and the man earns a pretty penny at an unskilled job. It is Catholicism pre-Vatican II when you didn't eat meat on Friday and birth control was verboten. Morality was binary. Clean. You did't have to think about it because the church gave your your conclusions. Simple. There aren't any uniquely Judeo-Christian values. None. Claiming that there are is merely a way to justify to oneself the superiority (God sanctioning) of the ensconced group and, by extension, oneself. Having God's stamp of approval means I don't have to think about my actions or my morality. It allows people to forgive themselves of the absolute worst behavior towards others. It allows them to wash their hands of their own iniquity and blame the perceived shortcomings of their own lives on "them". I know more than a few good "Christians" who seem to justify being utter assholes six days a week with going to church on Sunday. Gene Fowler once said something along the lines of 'people aren't against you, they are merely for themselves'. That's the universal philosophy I believe. Pretty sure it applies to all humans - altruistic as some of us can be at times. If you want to shorten it and put it on a bumper sticker, it becomes "My Karma ran over my Dogma". Most people do the best they can for themselves and others as circumstances allow. Forced to chose, most people -- nearly all people -- will chose themselves over anybody else. Judeo-Christian values is people trying to convince themselves that they are choosing a higher path even when they are really choosing themselves. It gives them justification to ignore or abuse others. I don't mean to imply that all Christians are bad people. They aren't - not by a long shot. But, it is possible to be good people and not subscribe to Judeo-Christian values.

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  103. Well done. Trump's comments in this area are very much in line with his history of vague slogans and statements that deliberately play to people's hidden fears, prejudices and emotions. In other words, he has made vagueness a political art form. For example, as Jon Stewart trenchantly pointed out, in his use of MAGA Trump never offered up any explanation as to what his definition of greatness was. That was likely a deliberate choice.

    Great Leaders also give speeches about values, but they include specifics. By leaving these definitions undefined Trump allows his followers to essentially fill-in-the-blank; that is, formulate their own definitions.
    Instead of lifting them up, as a speech by Lincoln and other great Presidents would do, Trump allowed his followers to literally pour their fears and prejudices into that empty cup. In this way Trump could become everything they wanted him to be. The perfect candidate and President and an embodiment and reaffirmation of their fears and prejudices.

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  104. Loved this one!

    This is not meant as a critique, only a question. When you were listing the groups who tried to answer, did you intend to include agonistics? I was expecting to find the word agnostics there, but your choice fits too. (Hubby calls me an antagonist, more often than not, but that's not important here. I define myself as an agnostic, and yeah, there's a certain amount of agony now and then over it.)

    I couldn't answer the question as asked before, I still can't. I'd have to say I feel as though any attacks on the values that were listed seem to be coming from the Right, but I'm just a silly lefty. Do unto others? So we're cutting social programs--yeah, that's the way. Perception, indeed.

    Gretchen in KS

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  105. I read a few comments, no time to read them all now, so most likely someone already said this. I think you are getting your nickers in a knot over something not all that important. I think J-C values is coded speech and means a role back of abortion rights, gay marriage, no PC speech, less identity politics. All that stuff. At least that's how I understand it.

    You asked somewhere what are 'our' American values. I thought immediately of those outlined by Charles Murray in "Coming Apart" (Good book.) And those are:

    1. Hard work. We live to work, and don't work to live.
    2. Honesty
    3. Marriage, (stable families, though I see no reason to limit marriage to only one man and one women.)
    4. Religiosity (That's Murray's term.) I would broaden it to include all sorts of civic engagement. Being involved in your community, and it doesn't have to involve a church.

    Finally I feel your pain and anger, me too. But remember the vast majority of Trump voters are good people, all part of our United States.

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    1. You didn't actually read the post either, did you?

      Delete
    2. They are Americans and part of the country no doubt.

      But good people?

      I don't know, that's up for dispute. And it does depend on their stances, how they see the world, and why in the damned hell they voted for Trump. And I will point out later that they type of people who voted for Trump....aren't the most rational of people at the very least.

      It remains to be seen how many, if any, of these not so rational people can be considered "good" and by "good" that refers to what you mean by calling them "good people".

      I don't know because you didn't really define "good people" any more than Trump defined making America "great" again.

      Delete
    3. Of course I read your post. It would be rude for me to comment otherwise. (But you don't know me.) Perhaps I should have said nothing. (One of granma Herolds rules, "It's often better to say nothing at all, if you can't say something nice.) But too late for that. I read it again, and the comments. Sorry, it still just sounds whinny to me. Trump says six stupid things everyday. The left whines about it, which is part of the response he wants, I think. I mostly try and ignore his coded political speech. I'm pretty sure you have a good idea what he means by J-C values, as we all do. (My blood boils with his treatment of the families of fallen soldiers, but that's another matter.) I like much of what you've written, if you would like me to hold any critical comments in the future I can do that. (Just say nice things.)

      Anonymous: Good people would be good neighbors. What's a good neighbor? I could start a long list of qualities, but I'm just going to assume you know what a good neighbor is.

      I'm most discouraged by the comments disparaging of Trump voters, Christians, the right, Hillary's "basket of deplorable's". I urge you all to get out and get to know these people, they are my neighbors, and I find them to be good neighbors.

      Delete
  106. My only comment is that Exodus IS Jewish scripture--it's the old Testament. Aside from that mistake, good points made!

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    1. Yes. But references are Christian and specifically from the King James Bible.

      The point being that if the values are Judeo-Christian, then Jewish text should get equal time.

      That wasn't a mistake, it was on purpose.

      Delete
  107. My husband has always referred to organized religion as the opium of the masses. He's not wrong. Organized religion evolved because political leaders could use it as a means to control the population. It expects and teaches unquestioning adherence. Basically, it's just mind control.

    This is why I can no longer subscribe to so-called "Christian" beliefs. Hell, most "Christians" are bloody hypocrites anyway, so I don't consider it a great loss.

    At any rate, great post. Thanks in part to you, I've begun to read things much more critically/skeptically since the election - because everybody has bias and I'm now trying to suss out what a particular author's bias is before I take what he or she says as the truth. I've also become much more aware of coded language like "Judeo-Christian". If they have to use code words, it's because they're slanting it in some fashion.

    Thanks, as always, for making me think.

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  108. I didn't answer your question when you posted it on Facebook because I couldn't come up with anything. Thank you for once again so eloquently spelling out the concepts in my brain that I have such a difficult time setting to words.
    -Joy, who lives in, but is not from, Alabama

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  109. "Given recent violent demonstrations in places like Charlottesville by hardcore Christian conservative Trump supporters marching under the Swastika and the flag of the Confederacy, how can I know that slavery isn’t a Judeo-Christian value?"

    To be fair, a lot of neo-Nazis are explicitly atheist or follow neo-pagan beliefs like Odinism. The whole Jewish savior thing is a real turn-off for a lot of them.

    But you definitely have a point on what exactly constitutes JC Values.

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  110. The entire essay, at its core, emphasizes how WORDS are important, DEFINITIONS are important. In the context of covering the words of Trump and his Trumpians however, although whether intentionally or unintentionally, it also highlights the important core of these people, and I'm not talking about values here.

    What it highlights is that, to Trump and the Trumpians, words and definitions DON'T matter. At the very least they don't matter as much compared to FEELINGS and OPINIONS. In fact if they get in the way of such, then they are better off not mattering at all!

    The examples provided show this in a crystal clear fashion. Trump and whichever of his Trumpians that preach to the Trumpian base, do not emphasize on specifics or on definitions. They do not take the time to explain their words or define them so that there's a clear single meaning to them. No they are fine, indeed, comfortable, with having vague words and no definitions. Just take a look at the majority of things Trump has said. He's never been one for details and explanations for anything. The prime example among them being his slogan, "Make America Great Again." From the very start, there have been many, including myself, who have asked this question, what does he mean by making America "great"? Hell, what does it even mean to make America great AGAIN?

    But till now there has been no details on what his slogan actually meant. Trump and his team are perfectly happy with such vague references.

    And they are happy because such references with little to no definition or detail WORK. And they work because their very audience allows it to work. They are happy with it, they love it.

    They love the vague words of a guy they have a good feeling towards, which is maybe why they like his words in the first place anyway, as compared perhaps, to the words on their own.

    And they all "get it" even without any details, even without any definitions. But, as the article puts it, ask a hundred of them what making America "great" what making America great AGAIN, means, and we'd probably get a hundred different answers.

    That means that to them, words and definitions don't matter. their own personal subjectivity matters a whole lot more.

    More even than reality.

    This alone is why these people must be stopped. This is not a movement that should be tolerated in power anywhere, much less in America.

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  111. Jim,
    I said on your blog there was something, something about this article that I felt was incomplete…so, this is my thoughts...

    starting with your...

    “Words matter.”

    Words also have origins.

    Definitions that frame the use and employment of words are specific, and use for specific purpose…and when they are undefined, left to fend for themselves in a world that abuses words at leisure…they can become…anything the speaker wants them to be.

    I do research every day. It’s my job, and oddly enough, when I’m not at my job, I’m doing research for my hobby…and the first thing I do in every research project is…define my objective.

    What is the objective of this research, and is what I’m doing working towards that objective?

    So, what exactly was your objective in this article, because, other than you don’t like the term, “Judeo-Christian values” I cannot discern what your objective is. You did a great job of defining what values are, who the author was, what he listed out as far as what makes values valuable, but when you bring up Judeo-christian values...you left it out there to fend for itself.

    You said, no…you wrote…

    “But…
    Words matter.
    Definitions matter.
    Concepts matter.
    Precision matters.”

    And yet no where do I see even an attempt at explaining the nature or the origins of Judeo-Christian values except to quote one doofus whom you even said yourself wasn't a good example.

    you treat these words as if they just popped out of nowhere, like some doofus with orange hair pulled on a string, and voila, out of his ass pops “Judeo-Chrisitan values!”?

    Where's the literary background research for Judeo-Christian values? You did it for what we should look for in values with Shalom Schwartz's list...what happened? There are things I need to know...

    Who put those words together, “Judeo-Christian values”?
    Why did they put them together?
    What was their initial purpose for that term when it was constructed?
    When was it formed?
    Where was it used?
    How was the term used when it was formed compared to how it’s used now?

    You did this for Schwartz's Values, why not for Judeo-Christian values?

    So, this is why I feel this article is incomplete…you left me wondering…where did these words come from because when the term Judeo-Christian values was constructed, it had meaning, it had definition, it had purpose, it was used for something or another...it meant something to someone.




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    1. That's just it, the article isn't attempting to explain what are Judeo Christian values. It's attempting to explain that the term is being flung around in Trump's America like so much shit with no definitions or anything. And that definitions ARE important as he also showed through examples with other systems of values.

      It's not his onus to explain WHAT Judeo Christian values ARE or indeed provide any particular interpretation of what Judeo Christian values are (as he mentioned also, values are subjective). Indeed it's the onus of Trump and the Trumpians who throw this term around like so much shit, to come up with the definition because otherwise what the hell are they even talking about.

      But they don't, and that's what the article is trying to show, that words and definitions are IMPORTANT, yet Trump and his Trumpians have none of it.

      It was never about providing an explanation about what Judeo Christian values ARE. Indeed even if he DID provide such an explanation, given the fact that values are, at heart, subjective, how would his explanation of the meaning behind "Judeo Christian Values" be confirmed to be the same as Trump's? And if confirming that isn't possible what's the point of even attempting to do so?

      Delete
  112. When it comes to the religious right perhaps we should use the term Christo-Islamicst values. After all they seem to have an awful lot in common. What in practice is the difference between the religious extremists of the Abrahamic faiths?

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  113. Jim, I laughed out loud (or at least chuckled really hard) at the humor in your essay. When you talked about the Boy Scouts and their cracking foundation, it sparked a memory of a line from Herbert’s God Emperor of Dune:

    ”Oh, yes. He says that the all-male army has a strong tendency toward homosexual activities.”

    I wonder if you ever have posted the Affirmations of Humanism written by the now deceased Paul Kurtz.

    LINK

    If you haven’t, then there it is.

    I’m kind of a squirrel, mainly because you post infrequently (and I’m not on Facebook), but I always read and appreciate your essays.

    Cheers!

    Leroy

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  114. Jim Wright:
    You gave some fantastic numbers as to the size of your own following in discussing the facebook backlog. I think you are gonna have to do a bit of delegation, get some team members you can count on and some tools to help.

    Slashdot has everybody up- or down- rating stuff. Here's a discussion on a site I like that you may find interesting: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20171017/10303538420/incentivizing-better-speech-rather-than-censoring-bad-speech.shtml

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  115. Judeo-Christian values are simply those things that good people (otherwise known as our people/real americans) believe, as opposed to the obviously evil/depraved ideas espoused by anyone who doesn't identify completely with the good people. No one knows what these values actually are, and no one really cares--the phrase is simply a convenient way to quickly identify the righteous.

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  116. Abrahamist monotheism is exclusionary male supremacism to begin with. Leave it to the desert dwellers to kick out all the goddesses and place Eve in a subordinate role as the sole culprit for mankind's ruin. Even al-Lah in Islam was once a Persian moon goddess, not "god the father."

    If they don't kick out the goddesses, they give them sex change operations. One example I can think of off the top of my head: Easter wasn't originally about Christ's resurrection. It was the Greco-Roman holiday of Oestre, the spring festival where the fertility goddess Persephone arose from the depths of the underworld, where she had been imprisoned and unwittingly betrothed to Hades, back to Mount Olympus to be with her mother Demeter, the harvest goddess. The darkness of winter fell again when she had to return once more to the chasm to be with her husband. Oestre was a time of rebirth and light -- hence the symbols of the egg and the bunny rabbit. It's also from where we get the word "East" -- as in, the sun rising in the east.

    Christians came along and retconned the whole thing to be about their zombie male prophet. Women's role as equals in the national religion was all but erased, leaving only Christ's mother Mary. Who was supposedly a virgin, having conceived of the demigod through an "encounter" with the spirit. Sex itself was evil, the "original sin" from which all fallen humans come about.

    Probably most of the problems of the world today can be traced to this time in history when the Abrahamic monotheists (by way of the declining Rome) got to retcon "pagan" religion to render women invisible, at the same time they were refashioned as monsters to be feared and tamed to men's whims. So when Trump is talking about "American" or "Judeo-Christian" values to his Stepford hate cult all it says to me is that he's going to stop any efforts by "nasty women" (and the enlightened men who support them) from challenging the 2,000-year-long boys' club that has resulted with nonstop war, raping of the natural world for rapacious greed and extraction of mineral resources for profit, and sicko perverts like himself and Weinstein having the divine right of kings to tell women what to do and by what parts they can expect to be grabbed at any time.

    The greater tragedy is that they use and abuse the name of a religion that, as male-centric and devoid of goddesses and high-priestesses as it is, is named after a Palestinian Jewish refugee who did, by their holy book's accounts, love his mom very much and stop a capital sl_ t shaming in progress. The "Judeo-" part is for show and all about supporting Israel unequivocally; they don't actually like Jews when it comes down to it -- but even Judaism hasn't been entirely scrubbed of women's influence except for the fact that it refers to "the father" too. It traces its lineage through the mother's side when determining "who is a Jew." Even Islam once named one of their most tolerant and modern caliphates of the Middle Ages after one of Muhammad's favored daughters, Fatima (often conflated with Mary in some of the "Christian" lands of conquest, i.e. "Our Lady of Fatima" in Portugal).

    For the most part, however, when I as a woman and a feminist hear "Judeo-Christian" at these events, all I can associate it with is an exclusion and literal demonization of women and traits commonly associated with "femininity" (kindness and pacifism associated with weakness, aka "toxic masculinity") which as we all know is G.O.P. "family values" 101.

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  117. I think it's pretty simple, actually. "Judeo-Christian values" is a label used to identify people who would attend CPAC, for instance, to the exclusion of everyone else, the "Other". Specifically, it means NOT Muslim, Atheist, "liberal", etc... not them. They cannot enumerate the actual values the hold, not because they don't exist, aren't shared, or aren't unique, but because if they did, it would be abhorrent to the rest of society and expose great hipocracy. The number one "value" is simply "hatred of the 'Other'". The hipocracy is that hatred runs counter to the Golden Rule and the teachings of Jesus. Hatred is the one thing that binds them together.

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  118. You need a leader who cares deeply about Judeo-Christian values. You need Mike Pence. What would Jesus do? He'd vote for Mike Pence!

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  119. " But Sharia law is a little different from American law. It is founded on religious concepts."

    Says the man that thinks the American Constitution is based on Christian teaching and US laws should more reflect the bible.

    The irony (and stupidity) is strong with these people.

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  120. Your emphasis on the precision of language primed me to pick out an old grammar police thing my Dad harped on: Extremely Unique. For Dad it was a co worker who often used "Most unique" in conversation. But his point was, unique is a superlative, or perhaps better named, binary state. It can't be modified or amplified. A thing is unique or it isn't. If you post next week about an unusual carrot you saw at the market and describe it as a bifurcated root I will have to call Dad because that will mean there is some Being John Malkovich thing happening.

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  121. Why can't these Judo Christians just learn regular American karate? Like Chuck Norris.

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  122. apropos "They are pushing this bullshit again" on facebook:
    https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FStonekettle%2Fposts%2F1507950282573703
    Notice that the emphasis is on WE, on american exceptionalism. WE must stand united, THEY, the lesser, must be defended against.

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  123. I teach rhetoric at a university. I tell my students ALL. THE. TIME. that words matter. Language matters. This post is going into my arsenal of things to share with class about how/why language matters. (I also teach writing. I would have done a spit take on that dangling modifier you noted, had I had something in my mouth.)

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  124. I hadn't been familiar with your work before, but a friend posted a link to this piece to a message board I read, and I took a look. I appreciate your humor, intellectual honesty, and and precision of language. While I was reading, I thought of the essays of G. K. Chesterton and wondered if you were familiar with them. He wrote a collection called "Heretics" in 1905 and then "Orthodoxy" in 1908, and in them, he wrestles with the ideas of values, including how to separate the Christian from the universal. Over a hundred years later, as an agnostic and feminist, I can't agree with many of his conclusions, but I appreciate his rigor, his humor, his honesty, and his willingness to engage with his opponents. (He was actually good friends with George Bernard Shaw although they didn't often agree on matters of politics.) Anyway, he wrote quite eloquently on issues of values, and never glossed over tricky subjects, but addressed them head on. This is a bit off topic, so apologies, but I think you might find them interesting and illuminating to read, if you are so inclined. Wishing you all the best.

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