One of the most important lessons I learned during my run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 is that the bonds uniting America’s Jews and Christians are far stronger than any strains that might divide us. I also learned that preventing this fact from becoming known by both Jews and Christians seems an almost obsessive pre-occupation of the mainstream media and their self-interested allies.
Since discord always outsells accord, the media’s natural tendency is to direct its resources toward exploiting any divisions between Christians and Jews — and make no mistake, anyone committed to looking hard enough to find those divisions will surely find them. But what makes this fact sad, as well as tragic, is that it prevents too many Jews and Christians from seeing how much we have in common and also how vital it is that we work together to protect the very America that has given both our communities so much.
What does unite us? Could it be that both Judaism and Christianity are God-centered religions, each based upon a set of universal rights and wrongs that transcend both time and place? Could it be that our common Judeo-Christian belief — that freedom, liberty and respect are not man-made tools to be dispensed by some governments in some lands at some times, but rather inalienable, eternal rights derived from God and applicable to all people, in all lands and at all times — is rightly viewed as a grave threat to those who, in the name of state or religion, advocate the denial of those rights? Could this perhaps be the reason we Christians and Jews, whether we care to admit it or not, are increasingly hated by the same enemies?
If you think, as I do, that the answers to these questions might in fact be yes, then you might be more willing to accept the view that maintaining the Judeo-Christian foundations upon which our uniquely blessed American nation was built is a task far more important than any other we now face, or perhaps have ever faced.
Christian conservatives — and, I am happy to add, a growing number of religious Jews — believe it is the American people’s Judeo-Christian religious values, rather than the secular limits of American government, that have made our nation “the last best hope of earth.” Most Christian conservatives do not seek to “overturn” America’s traditional separation of church and state. We believe it was the unique genius of our founders to understand that the best way to ensure that all Americans be encouraged to retain and deepen their religious convictions and commitments was to prevent the American government from favoring one religion over another.
We do intend, however, to reverse the growing trend that is driven by radical secularism and activist courts to expand the power of government to seek out new corners of American society from which religious expression must be removed. We reject the notion that government should be hostile toward public expression of religious ideas.
Despite what some hyperventilating commentators have suggested, Christian conservatives don’t view the most recent Republican victory as an opportunity to expand our power over American life. At best, we see it as an opportunity to slow down the assaults and attacks against us. We don’t want to impose a Christian theocracy upon America. We want to prevent what we view as the attempt of America’s secular left to impose a “secular theocracy” upon us.
After all, it isn’t Christian conservatives or religious Jews who are fighting to fundamentally change or eliminate the foundations and traditions of American life and culture. We aren’t seeking to redefine marriage, we are fighting to preserve it as the union of one man and one woman and to prevent activist judges from forcing on us a radical redefinition of the institution.
Our purpose in opposing abortion is not to deprive or deny so-called rights, but rather to extend those rights to our most vulnerable citizens: our unborn children. We simply believe that all our children, born and unborn, deserve a place at the table with the American family. We believe those children are included in those stirring words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life….”
We don’t seek to remake America; we want to preserve the values that have defined America since our founding. The well-reported umbrage taken recently by the overwhelming majority of the American people, Jews as well as Christians, to attempts to de-legitimize the expression “Merry Christmas” is not a prelude to a new inquisition. It is a natural and welcome reaction to secular excess.
In assessing the value of our American Judeo-Christian values, supporters of Israel would be well advised to ask whether or not a less religious America would remain as committed to the security and survival of the State of Israel as it is today. Would American Jews be freer and more prosperous if America sought to be more like Europe? Is it a coincidence that as Europe’s churches empty, its antisemitism and hatred of Israel grow?
Precisely because those things that threaten American Jews are the very things that threaten American Christians, we now find ourselves fighting together to save our Judeo-Christian heritage. To me, the great danger extant in American life today is less about the separation of church and state and more about the separation of religious values from American society. Ronald Reagan, a president I was proud to serve as chief domestic policy adviser, made clear what is at stake in a speech nearly a quarter century ago.
“Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience,” he told students at the University of South Carolina in 1983. “Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
Reagan’s sentiment is shared by the great majority of the American people — and it should strike fear in the hearts of none.