01 June 2021

Redefining Language To Fit the New Narrative

21 Sivan 5781

There are innumerable ways this is happening today in the common culture.  The only things that don't change are HKB"H, the Holy Torah that He gave us, the Holy Language in which it is written and human nature. 

...Though the Jewish roots of Christianity are clear, Jews were pariahs in pre-modern Christian Europe. As Europe gradually left behind the identity of "Christendom" from the 18th century onwards, efforts to make Jews a legitimate part of European society were a political struggle, resisted by religious conservatives and anti-Semites. In 19th-century Europe, Jews were still commonly grouped with Muslims as non-European "Semites" or "Orientals."

It was in mid-20th century America, especially after the Holocaust, that the idea of the west as Judeo-Christian gained wide acceptance. When President Dwight Eisenhower referred to the Judeo-Christian roots of "our form of government," he chose words that embraced different Christian denominations and Jews within a shared civic identity – one which contrasted with anti-Semitic and godless ideologies of fascism and communism.

This relatively benign use of the term – as an inclusive, lowest common denominator reference to the faith-based roots of western values – has since been applied by many mainstream European politicians.

But lately the term Judeo-Christian has been picked up by the radical right to serve a different political agenda. Their intent is seemingly to frame western values in a way that excludes Muslims, while at the same time distancing themselves from politically toxic associations with anti-Semitism.

...Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has at times aligned with this trend by framing Israel as the frontier of Judeo-Christian civilization against Islamist extremism. In 2017 he told European leaders: "We are part of the European culture … Europe ends in Israel."

The political scientist Samuel Huntington claimed in 1993 that a "clash of civilizations" was inevitable between Islam and the west. But his critics argue persuasively that civilizations evolve, and civilizational identities serve political agendas. Defining the west as Judeo-Christian, and in inevitable tension with Islam, is a clear political choice.

The radical right claim that Europe's Judeo-Christian values are incompatible with Islam reinforces the parallel claim of Islamists, who seek to persuade Muslims that the west and Islam are inherently in conflict.

In the Arab world there are new attempts to counter this ideology and highlight commonality between western and Islamic traditions.

In September 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed historic peace agreements with Israel. These agreements are easily explained by strategic motivations, not least Arab concerns about the threat of Iran. But it was notable that the agreements were branded in religious-cultural terms as the "Abraham Accords."

This fits a wider agenda of the UAE, which announced plans in 2019 to build an interfaith Abrahamic Family House including monumental church, mosque and synagogue buildings. The country is choosing to emphasize cultural commonality between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, symbolized by Abraham who is revered by all three faiths.

Framing Jews, Christians and Muslims as part of an Abrahamic family is no less a political choice than framing Judeo-Christian and Islamic civilizations as being in conflict.

Truth be told, we don't have a real place within either of these scenarios.  Because truth be told, we are a nation that dwells alone.  We are neither East nor West.  And we are not just the sons and daughters of Avraham, not even simply the offspring of Yitzchak, but we are the Children of Yisrael/Ya'aqov.  And that makes us unique.

We are not looking for the lowest common denominator between peoples but the greatest attachment to the Creator so that we can lift up the entire world to a higher level of being.