“We’ve stopped the government’s attacks on our Judeo-Christian values,” President Trump said at a campaign rally and makeshift Roy Moore endorsement speech in Pensacola on December 8.
“We don’t worship government, we worship God,” the President continued.
Trump has used the exact same phrasing in previous speeches. “We don’t worship government, we worship God,” he declared in a speech in October, later adding “we are stopping all our attacks on Judeo-Christian values.”
Similarly, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has deemed Roy Moore to be “someone who reflects the Judeo-Christian values that were so important to the establishment of our country.” While Trump, Carson, and the religious right’s use of “we” and “our” implies a shared ideological kinship between Jews and Christians, such an assertion, in the midst of a Roy Moore endorsement speech, is resolutely absurd. Jews are certainly not part of this “we”; Jews are overwhelmingly not supportive of the President, Roy Moore or their evangelical kin. Jews, in fact, are on the outside of the rhetorical war — and electoral politics — implied by the term.
Jews, despite the rhetorical posturing embodied by the use of terms such as “Judeo-Christian values,” are not part of Trump’s and the GOP’s contemporary coalition. The term, as used by the GOP, is not reflective of Jewish inclusion in Republican politics, but of an ideological strategy to unite two warring camps — the anti-immigrant nationalists and the evangelicals.
Ted Cruz, in an address at the Values Voter Summit, described the United States as a “center-right country, built on a foundation of Judeo-Christian values.” Such values, in Cruz’s mind, include the belief that religion should be the centerpiece of one’s public life and that such religion should include specific ideas, such as “standing for life,” “standing for marriage” and “standing for Israel.” While American Jews may at time support Cruz’s stance on Israel, the same certainly cannot be said for abortion and gay marriage.
In fact, despite Cruz and the Republican party’s insistence that abortion and gay marriage, among other values, are a reflection of Judeo-Christian values, this is simply not the case in modern America. 89 percent of Jews say “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”Among all religious groups, American Jews are actually the most likely to support gay marriage — with 83 percent saying they do. Being anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage are clearly in no way reflective of modern “Judeo values.”
If the GOP’s supposed “Judeo-Christian values” have nothing to do with contemporary Judaism, then why are Ben Carson, Cruz, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and countless others using the term?
Sure, both Judaism and Christianity emanate from Old Testament; there certainly are shared values. hese values, however, are not what the term “Judeo-Christian values” refers to. Rather than reference traditional and contemporary shared values between the two traditions, the term is utilized to imply the existence of a contemporary cultural war and evoke the the visceral responses that come from such war.
Speaking in 2014, Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, explained that “If we (the U.S.) do not bind together as partners with others in other countries then this conflict is only going to metastasize,” — he perceived such a conflict to be between “Judeo-Christian values” and “Islamic fascism.” Bannon’s statement is demonstrably reflective of what the term has actually come to mean.
Donald Trump’s base is not only made up of evangelicals, but of anti-immigration nationalists as well. While evangelicals saw Trump as their white knight promising to return Christian values to the mainstream, anti-immigrant nationalists saw him as a similar harbinger of American whiteness.
“Judeo-Christian values” is the term the Trump camp — and the GOP writ large — has repeatedly utilized to unite these two camps and turn out both of their votes. For evangelicals, the promise of “Judeo-Christian values” implies returning Christian morality to the public sphere. “For anti-immigrant nationalists,“the promise of “Judeo-Christian values” implies a return to American whiteness. For both of these groups, the return to such idealized norms is a return to American greatness.
The term is emblematic of the ideological divergence with the Trump White House. While evangelical Mike Pence is focused on reinstilling Christian morality, Stephen Miller is focused on the ongoing war between the “Judeo-Christian West” and “radical Islam.”
Contemporary American Jewish values — values which are largely liberal — are simply not reflected in the right’s usage of the term. The term is not one of Jewish inclusion and Jewish values, but of cynical Republican politics.
Using Judaism to posture to two groups – nationalists and evangelicals – whose values diverge so emphatically from those of the contemporary Jewish community is outrageous. The term has nothing to do with Judaism and it certainly has nothing to do with the overwhelming majority of American Jews.