why you should never use the term "Judeo-Christian"


We need to have a chat about the term JUDEO-CHRISTIAN.

Before we begin, let’s get a couple of basic definitions out of the way.

CHRISTIANS are people who believe in the religion of CHRISTIANITY. Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of JESUS OF NAZARETH (also known as Jesus Christ). Christians can belong to any race, ethnic group, tribe, or nationality. 

JEWS are an ethnoreligious group, a people, a nation, and a tribe, originating from the ancient Hebrews and Israelites in the region now known as Israel-Palestine. JUDAISM is the ethnic religion of the JEWISH PEOPLE, which is comprised of the ancient beliefs, traditions, and laws of the Jewish nation. 

Theoretically, an ethnic Jew who converts to Christianity (or any other religion) is still considered a Jew under Jewish law. No matter what you believe in, you will never stop being a Jew. 



Between the years 63-324, the Roman Empire occupied the land of the Jewish People, at the time known as the province of Judea (a romanization of “Yehuda,” its Hebrew name). 

JESUS OF NAZARETH was a Jewish preacher and religious leader in Judea during this time. Because of his controversial and revolutionary teachings, he was arrested, tried, and eventually crucified by the Roman authorities. 

The Romans had long persecuted the Jewish People, occupying their sovereign land, massacring them, and enslaving them at various points. 

After the Christianization of the Roman Empire, the persecution of the Jews only intensified, as the Church collectively blamed Jews for the death of Jesus. 



In the early years of Christianity, Jews were subject to regular massacres at the hands of their Christian neighbors. 

During the Middle Ages, the situation for Jews drastically worsened. Jews were massacred throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa during the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. 

Additionally, Jews were expelled from one country to another, never able to live in one place for too long. 

Many antisemitic tropes (see post from several weeks ago) originated, were spread, and/or were actively encouraged by the Church. 



In the 1800s, as antisemitism in Europe became much more racially-based, much of the rhetoric against Jews was based on that of the Church from centuries prior. 

Jews were persecuted in the name of Christianity for 2000 years. 

Which brings us to the term JUDEO-CHRISTIAN.

The term was originally coined in the 1930s by American progressive Christian interfaith groups, as a way to combat growing antisemitic sentiment in the United States and Europe. 

However, following WWII, the term was co-opted by conservative politicians as a rallying cry against "godless Communism."



In the 1960s and 70s, white Evangelical pastors adopted the term and used it to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, gay rights, the legalization of abortion, and more. 

They called these positions “Judeo-Christian values.” However, the vast majority of Jews in the US were and continue to be Democrats, not Republicans or Conservatives (@ilanawols has a great post on this). 

The term “Judeo-Christian values” was used instead of “Christian values” because it created the illusion that these so-called values were interfaith, thus not violating the separation of church and state. 

Following the Iran Revolution in 1979, conservatives in the US further used the term to inflame Islamophobic sentiment. 

This usage continues to this day with no input from the overwhelming majority of Jews. 



To summarize: 

(1) Jews were violently persecuted in the name of Christianity for 2000 years. The term Judeo-Christian is a violent whitewashing and Christian-washing of history. 

(2) the term was coined by white Christians, who have always held systemic power over Jews, and was later co-opted by racist and Islamophobic conservatives whose values differ greatly from those of the vast majority of Jews in the US. 



While we're at it, let's have a brief discussion about CHRISTIAN ZIONISM. 

As always, terminology first: 

ZIONISM is the support for Jewish self-determination in our ancestral and indigenous land. Self-determination is a basic tenet of international law. Zionism is a 2000-year-old indigenous Jewish movement. 

CHRISTIAN ZIONISM is the belief that the return of Jews to the Holy Land is part of a biblical prophecy and a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. According to Christian Zionism, Jews will then have to make the choice between conversion to Christianity or death. 

Christian Zionism is a violent appropriation and tokenization of a Jewish indigenous rights movement. 

The conservative "pro-Israel" lobby in the US is funded primarily by Christian Zionists. The biggest lobbying group is Christians United for Israel.