The Judeo-Christian West?

January 15, 2009

The Judeo-Christian West?

Richard has a post up where he alludes to Ilana Mercer’s VDARE article arguing that the West should support Israel since Israel is an outpost of the West. Both Richard and Illana refer to the term “Judeo-Christian.”  Of possible related interest has been a discussion I have been having recently about whether the term “Judeo-Christian” has any intellectual substance. I argue against it here and here (earlier here).  Ross Douthat argues in favor of it, James Poulos is neutral, while Noah Millman comes down on my side, though with equivocation.

My major thesis is that between 500 and 1800 the West was Christian, full stop. Though Judaism’s influence was formative (Christianity was after all by origin a Jewish religion), Jews were not major players in Western Civilization during this interregnum and developed Rabbinical Judaism in parallel as a subculture within both Christendom and the Dar al-Islam.  The Jewish reengagement with the West after emancipation occurred through integration with the mainstream on the mainstream’s terms.  I claim that non-Orthodox Judaism is arguably Protestantism in Jewish garb.  So if you want use a religious term for the civilization of the West, I think it is accurate to call it Christian, not Judeo-Christian.

Does this have anything to do with current geopolitics?  More than half of the population of Israel last I checked does not have Western antecedents.  That is, Arabs and non-Ashkenazi Jews.  Many of the latter may have accepted the norms of the elite Ashkenazi culture, which is Western, but a substantial minority of the Ashkenazi are Haredim who reject the West.  Nothing is ever so simple in the Middle East….

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