In 1939, George Orwell coined the term Judeo-Christian in a book review describing a scheme of ethics or morals based upon communal principles of the two religions. The concept has no precedent in colonial America before its popular introduction in the 1940s. It’s not unreasonable to argue that the principle has merit but, at the same time, it cannot be said to be among founding beliefs or values.
In political discourse, especially during campaigns in the current climate, religion is likely to become part of the dialogue. While freedom of religion may have a multitude of meanings and nuance to voters, candidates and even elected officials are prone to promote ideas about religion that, upon examination, are questionable.
Two of the more recently popular notions – the US is a Judeo-Christian nation and biblical conservativism is political – continue to be presented from soap boxes and at rallies and small group gatherings. Judaism and Christianity, however, do not share the content or narratives of the Old and New Testaments.
In the political context, biblical conservative communicates a belief in a strict adherence to words and their interpretation and may emanate from postulates that can be identified in a bible or a biblical story. Adherence to biblical traditions or beliefs as a political discipline, in the main, excludes any antonym, e.g. biblical liberal, of contrast, stranding candidates who are not politically conservative. The subtexts suggested by the term include “not soft on crime;” “favoring judges who follow the words of the law;” “oppose government regulations that infringe on church gatherings;” and, of course, opposition to abortion.
In Virginia, Rep. Bob Good unabashedly campaigned as a biblical conservative to oust a Republican predecessor who had officiated at an aide’s same-sex wedding ceremony. On the campaign trail, Good attacked advocacy of relaxed gender identity. In a Fox News interview, he declared he would abide by Judeo-Christian principles espoused at his former employer, Liberty University. In January, Good was among 147 members of Congress that voted to reject the electoral results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. It may be assumed from his background that Good relies upon the New Testament for his advocacy of conservatism leaving open what reliance he finds in the Old Testament.
Religious identification is a personal preference but an inescapable one in political culture as observers are quick to remind about the six Catholics serving on SCOTUS or that of presidential candidates. When, however, religion is employed a a badge of political viewpoint, the matter takes on a more serious visage.
Religious identification is a personal preference but an inescapable one in political culture as observers are quick to remind about the six Catholics serving on SCOTUS or that of presidential candidates. When, however, religion is employed a a badge of political viewpoint, the matter takes on a more serious visage. The voters in Rep. Good’s district are entitled to measure his congressional record in light of his campaign commitments as are voters evaluating a candidate’s statements referencing religion.
Unfortunately, the claims by some about the nation’s founding tradition of Judeo-Christian values fails the test against the historical record. In Ohio, a Republican candidate for US Senate, Josh Mandel, has consciously declared his Jewish heritage and attachment to Judeo-Christianity while, at the same time, stating that a separation of church and state does not exist, advocating an instilling of belief in God in schools.
Unfortunately, the claims by some about the nation’s founding tradition of Judeo-Christian values fails the test against the historical record. In Ohio, a Republican candidate for US Senate, Josh Mandel, has consciously declared his Jewish heritage and attachment to Judeo-Christianity while, at the same time, stating that a separation of church and state does not exist, advocating an instilling of belief in God in schools. In November, Mandel tweeted support for Michael Flynn’s charge that one nation under God means “we must have one religion.” Mandel has hinted at a bias toward Muslims and excluded them from his religious core value assertions. In doing so, the candidate has ignored the writings of Thomas Jefferson and clear language of the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Mandel’s statements create a disjoint with respect to which religion he believes should be the national one.
Jefferson’s views on religion were substantially informed by those of John Locke, who in 1689 specifically urged tolerance of Muslim beliefs in England. In turn, Jefferson authored Virginia’s original statute for religious freedom, one of three accomplishments etched upon his self-designed headstone. That law replaced the virtual state religion of Virginia, which was supported by a tax levy later emerging as the basis of the Constitution’s provision.
While it is historically accurate to acknowledge that Muslims were not a significant population in colonial America, the religious freedom principle espoused by Jefferson was indiscriminate and he was known to possess a Quran in his library. Moreover, as a slave owner, he may have experienced firsthand a sense of Islam from the estimated 20% of Blacks shanghaied to the United States and whose religious inclinations were suppressed in favor of forced Christianity.
“Gimmee that ole time religion” is, ironically, an African American folk hymn expressing nostalgia for Christianity, which was “good enough for the Hebrew children.” Rep. Good and candidate Mandel, along with any colleagues promoting Judeo-Christianity or state-sponsored religious doctrine, tread on thin ice to support views in a nation with rapidly changing population dynamics. Under examination, their views are not only contrary to American history but are themselves cancel culture promotions in need of an awakening.
Contrasted with one person-one vote, one nation-one religion is unappealing.