On February 28th, Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio posted a Tweet suggestively condemning the nation for its divisive rhetoric and spurious claims of “Judeo Christian heritage."
February 28th just so happened to be the day that students, teachers, and staff would be returning to Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, for the first time since seventeen of their fellow students and teachers had been murdered.
Though assuredly not its intent; the Florida Senator’s Tweet was an exceptionally ironic demonstration of why education and a safe environment to inspire a thirst for knowledge is so vitally important.
The term “Judeo Christian,” has origins in mid-19th century Europe, when it was sparingly used to describe Jews who had converted to Christianity. Contemporarily, we would refer to these types of Jewish converts as merely Christians; or for those who still retain aspects of their Jewishness, as Messianic Jews.
Ultimately, it would be George Orwell, the author most famously known for his dystopian novel “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” who was the first to reference “Judeo Christianity” as being a set of ethical values; when in a 1939 book review he commented, “The Judeo-Christian scheme of morals.”
The modern interpretation of Judeo Christian values is widely divergent from what it was originally considered 78 years ago. Orwell used the phrase to define a set of values attributed to a civil quasi-religion of nationalism.
Many religious scholars and sociologists have long argued that Americans mostly adhere to a national nonsectarian quasi-religious faith to define their moral identity; essentially the form of Judeo Christianity referenced by Orwell.
Based on the fact that there is no nationally set religious faith, American culture eventually adopted a quasi-religious belief; whereby the worship of nationalism is similar to that of a formalized religion.
Objects like the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution become canonized as quasi-religious texts. Aspects such as the constitutional amendments aren't viewed as changeable contributions of man; who is capable of socially evolving and adapting to the environment of the era. Instead, these are concepts that are proverbially set in stone and un-reproachable as if they are the word of God.
National symbolism, such as the American flag, the National Anthem, or the Pledge of Allegiance, become material extensions of all-encompassing omnipotent power. Failures to obey these nationalized ritual observations are considered sacrilegious and egregious acts. Additionally, Historical American figures, such as George Washington, develop a sense of mythical status in society similar to Biblical figures such as Moses.
Lastly, politicians and government leaders are viewed to be “high priest” or “prophets” - Individuals whose behavior and actions are beyond reproach as they are ones in the society which best understand what represents ideal ethical, social, and moral righteousness.
Now, an objective and reasonable person will find it difficult to argue that this type of devoutness towards nationalized principles in America doesn’t exist.
Consider for just a moment that amount of zealousness some people attached to National Anthem after a few NFL players used it as a platform to protest racial inequity.
One does not need to agree or disagree with the player's allegations of racial injustice, to recognize the tremendous significance that many have attributed to the symbolic act of standing during the National Anthem. For many, to kneel during the national anthem seemed to be equitable to waiting on the tarmac and calling military service members, “Baby Killers,” while spitting at them.
Ultimately, the responses to the player's anthem protest provide an archetypal example of what can be problematic whenever the lines between national pride and the civil worship of nationalism become blurred.
True religious worship, involves the reverence for immaterial or spiritual forces that cannot be tangibly influenced by conventional means. Therefore, organized symbolic and ritualistic practices are a necessity for religious observation; as they are the only methods, one has to demonstrate their belief, devotion, and respect for an immaterial omnipotent power.
For organized religious practices, ritualism is essential because it provides people with a method to tangibly feel connected to God. In fact, this is the exactly expressed in the Bible in God’s interaction with Cain, when he is upset because he thinks that God liked his brother Abel’s sacrifice more than his.
In Genesis 4.6 God, in effect, tells Cain, “Look dude all that sacrifice stuff is for you. For you to feel like you give back and show appreciation to me, through use of the physical means you have available. However, I don’t need that stuff; I’m God... Master of the Universe, Architect of all creation, remember? However, fundamentally, your freewill gives you the ability to do both good and evil. Therefore, I don’t need sacrifices, instead merely do what’s right and don’t do what’s wrong.
However, when it comes to material matters, even conceptually structured matters such as a sovereign nation, a person has the ability demonstrate their love, devotion, and respect, through active participation.
For example, one has the means to demonstrate their appreciation for military veterans by involving themselves with actions that legitimately provide a benefit; such as volunteering for a veteran’s benefit organizations or being engaged in democratically influencing national policies and legislation that assist the nation’s service members and their families.
Ultimately, the problem arises whenever a society places so much significance on ritual observations they become quasi-religious; allowing for individuals to assume that participating in national rituals alone provide some legitimate benefit to the nation.
This isn’t to say that national symbols and customs aren’t necessary. Entirely the opposite, national symbols and traditions are significant, as they provide a populous with a means to define their collective identity. Preferably, what is most important is that a nation never loses sight of the significance each citizen possesses to be able to provide significant benefits to its sovereign existence, which extend far beyond simple ritual practices.
Now, to be fair to Senator Rubio, in modern America, the phrase “Judeo Christian” is most often used to describe something drastically different than its original ethical meaning.
In fact, I don’t think it would be a leap to say that the majority of people are of the opinion that the term “Judeo-Christian” is a phrase that has always been meant to define a set of principled conservative religious values. Frankly, this is entirely understandable based on phrases social evolution.
In the 1940’s, religious leaders seized the phrase “Judeo Christian” as a way to emphasize the common ground between Jews and Christians. The motivation to demonstrate the connections between Jews and Christians was rooted in the rise of Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism. By highlighting the shared values and ethos of Judaism and Christianity, it fostered willingness for American Christians to stand in support of the plight and ethnic cleansing the Jewish people were facing in Europe.
Ultimately, the systematized use of the phrase “Judeo Christian,” is how the term came to widely known as an expression of the shared ethical values of the Abrahamic religions. I caveat this by saying in my experience, in the most recent of times; the phrase has been even more slightly altered and at times invoked as a means to justify personal opinions such as that - God hates gays; opinionated women; and occasionally people with brown skin.
Going back to 1939, why did George Orwell draw an inference to a quasi-religious American faith with Judaism and Christianity, and not call it something like “Americanity” or “USAism?
Ultimately, the relationship between Orwell’s “Judeo Christianity” is a confounding one, and not inherently particular to Judaism or Christianity. The specific naming is a result of the fact that in 1939, according to Gallop polls, 91% of Americans described themselves as being adherents of Christianity (of varying denominations); 4% as Jewish; 3% as secular/agnostic non-denominational; and only 2% as atheists.
When Orwell made his reference, Judaism and Christianity represented 95% of the American population; with all other organized religious faiths being negligible. Therefore, “Judeo Christian,” was meant to highlight the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans claimed to be Christian, and to a lesser degree Jewish; yet the average American’s beliefs and behaviors mirrored a national civil religion that was contradictory to the canonized faiths of Judaism and Christianity.
Primarily, the insinuation was that most people claimed to be Christians or Jews; however, American’s actual cultural views would be more consistent with the biblical depictions of idol worshipers.
Given some historical perspective on the phrase “Judeo Christian,” one must ask if Senator Rubio’s Tweet regarding American divisiveness and the hypocrisy of claimed religious faith doesn’t have a far more profound meaning that he ever indeed intended.
Now, Sen. Rubio is no stranger to sharing his “Verse of the Day” calendar to the world on social media. In fact, in the six days following his February 28th Tweet, he invoked God through his Twitter account no less than seven times; six of which involved sharing verses from the Bible. To his credit, dissimilar from many politicians or public figures, Sen. Rubio does not seem to cherry pick snapshot verses from the Bible as a means of justifying his political positions or current events.
I think it is essential to stop for a moment to say that in my opinion, there is nothing characteristically wrong with expressing one's religious faith and how it influences their ideas and beliefs. I myself have never shied away from the fact that I am a devout Jew, and have often shared influence Judaism has on my personal and professional life.
The expression of one’s religious devotion only becomes problematic when a person expresses one thing; yet is seemingly oblivious that their actions are contradictory to what they claim is a massive influence in their life.
For example, going back to Sen. Rubio; given the significance, he expresses Christianity to have on him, shouldn’t Sen. Rubio’s actions thereby reasonable the scriptural values of Christianity?
If you examine just one topic, such as Sen. Rubio’s positions and voting records on unauthorized immigration - such as his February 18th vote in support of an amendment to H.R. 2579, “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act.” a bill that would allow federal funds earmarked for community, economic development, and public works, to be withheld from jurisdictions who refuse to assist federal immigration enforcement efforts- the answer would seemingly be no…
His political stances would indeed be contradictory to Biblical verses such as Matthew 25:25-36; Leviticus 19:33-34; Ezekiel 16:49; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Leviticus 24:22; or Ephesians 2:19-20. To be clear, these are merely a few similar themed verses from the canonized texts that set the foundation of Judeo Christian faith and values that would conflict with the Senator’s stances on immigration. There are plenty more.
Regarding domestic or immigration policy, the crux of Sen. Rubio’s opinions on unauthorized immigration can be potentially valid; or at a minimum, debatable topics. However, it was Set. Rubio who brought God into politics with his social media blurbs and most importantly in his Feb. 28th Tweet, he specifically highlighted people's hypocrisy in claims of faith vs. their actions.
Ultimately, viewing ethical virtue and morality through the lens of Judeo Christian values, the results are undeniable. By this standard, sanctuary cities are more closely following the Biblical decree of what represents Judeo Christian values. Therefore, Sen. Rubio’s opposition to these policies is equally undeniably antagonistic to the foundation of Judeo Christianity.
Now, one of the bases of George Orwell’s principles of “Judeo Christianity” by nationalistic quasi-religious faith is that American political declarations are deemed superior to religious decrees.
In 2016, Sen. Rubio voted against several house bills aimed at firearm legislation, such as one that would have authorized the attorney general to deny the transfer of a firearm based on reasonable suspicion the transferee is engaged in terrorism. – The implementation of a records recording system with the National Instant Criminal Background Check system and firearm purchases. – And prohibiting individuals “adjudicated as mentally defective” from possessing a firearm.
Ironically, many of the aspects Sen. Rubio failed to support in 2016 are now policies he is currently advocating in the wake of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, and his “Marco’s Plan to Prevent Gun Violence.”
The basis for Sen. Rubio’s failure to support various house bills aimed at preventing the unlawful use and possession of firearms was on the potential infringement on American’s Second Amendment rights.
Now, objectively, taking out any personal or partisan beliefs on these issues, given this information, which set of outlined doctrines and values seem to be viewed as being most unchangeable or comfortably ignored; the Judeo Christian doctrines of the Bible, or the legislated decrees of the U.S. Constitution of the United States?
It is important to note that the America’s national secularism by design allows for one’s political and religious views to be mutually exclusive of each other. However, if society's leaders tout their theological, ethical discernment, yet their behaviors and actions are contradictory; this can end up ultimately being devastating to the integrity and foundational fabric of an entire religious faith and its adherents.
At the end of the day, the existence of a secular American civil religion is an unavoidable byproduct of a nation set on the belief of separation of church and state. However, that doesn’t grant anyone the authority to hijack existing religious faiths to distort the lines between their personal views and established doctrines of a religion.
In fact, this deformation of established religious tenants for personal means ends up distorting the public’s perception of religious faith. The results of this can are seen with the contrast of American’s beliefs in 1939 to today. A 2017 study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 71% of Americans consider themselves either Christian or Jews; with 24% of citizens claiming to be agnostic/atheist or unaffiliated.
To put that in perspective, this is an actual difference of 57,140,000 more Americans who are “unreligious” in 2017 to that of 1939.
Distorting religious doctrines to fit personnel opinions and beliefs, merely is converting an existing faith out of convenience and creating an entirely new, often contradictory, set of scriptural principles.
These types of acts don’t represent a “war on a particular religion,” instead, this is eventual devastation and eradication; through a slowly evolving Trojan horse attack.
In closing, assuming George Orwell was correct in his observations; that “Judeo-Christianity” for Americans represents the existence of American civil religion, how well does this nationalistic faith compare with the actual Judeo Christian religious texts?
In the end, the best measure of greatness in a society or civilization is how well it establishes foundations for success and sustainability for its future generations. The hardships, ills, or violence of the present should never merely be accepted as being unavoidable byproducts of life.
In essence, societies are great when they choose to make the futures of their children great; and do not allow themselves to be so consumed by selfish instant gratifications.
Indeed, if one pays attention to the scriptural texts of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, this is the comprehensive and overarching theme.
Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into a promised land he will never actually set foot in himself. Jesus suffers and ultimately gives his life, not for personal needs, power, fame, or riches. Instead, Jesus' actions are described solely as being in sacrifice for humanity’s future existence.
Yet, in contrast, many Americans often seem to be very comfortable with offering up their children’s futures as a sacrifice in hopes for more immediate benefits.
We refuse to consider paying penny more in tax, even if it meant improving the entire American education system. “I don’t have kids/ or I can pay for my kids to go to private school; F*&% everyone else’s kids.”
Conversely, we seem too careless if we destroy our ecology or planet, provided we get to pay pennies less at the gas pumps. “F%$# our kid’s future! The world’s not going to end in my lifetime!”
Or going back to what ultimately motivated Sen. Rubio’s Tweet in the first place. When it comes to preventing mass school violence, if it might mean we’d have to consider being inconvenienced; feel restricted from something we want; or think a different view from our own to reach a solution; it always comes back to the same eventual end with us throwing our hands up in frustration and saying, “F$#@ them kids.”
Like the ancient Canaanites, Americans march up the steps of a towering bronze statue; just before throwing their children into the fire. A sacrifice to a neo-American Moloch; all in hopes of being granted the continuance of a stubborn dysphemic existence.
One does not need the Bible to recognize that throughout history civilizations, who symbolically worship Moloch through nearsighted views of their existence, ultimately end up being reduced to nothing more than unpleasant remnants of humanity’s past.
In the end, maybe it’s not nearly as complicated as we seemingly all are compelled to make it. In looking for direction of our future, we just need to look into the distant past.
Maybe we need to never to place anything above the preservation of life as a whole and remember, “If you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right, sin couches at the door; its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master.”
Oh... and one more final point on the side of educational importance. At least in the context he was trying to express; Senator Rubio actually misspelled "Judeo" in his tweet.