Every year in America, the Holiday Season is fraught with Separation of Church and State battles across our great land as secular and civil rights groups challenge public displays of religion such as nativity scenes on government property. This year, a different battle is being waged on the airwaves and in the press regarding a display at the Washington State Capitial. The Freedom From Religion Foundation got permission to display a placard next to a nativity scene and holiday tree. This blog post is not about that, per se, but rather about a statement made by everybody’s favorite right wing pronosticator, Bill O’Reilly. One of his recent rants included a statement that our “country was founded on Judeo-Christian traditions”.
My first thought was: “Really Bill? Really? Judeo-Christian traditions like slavery?” Both the Old and New Testaments sanction slavery and we all know that it was certainly a tradition supported by the Founding Fathers.
After that, I wondered just how many Judeo traditions the founding fathers practiced. I don’t remember reading that Thomas Jefferson observed the Sabbath or that George Washington stopped campaigning in the war during Yom Kippur. Christian traditions, sure, but not Judeo-Christian traditions.
So where did this concept of Judeo-Christian tradition come from? According to Wikipedia, the term Judeo-Christian didn’t even exist in the language until the late 19th century. In the 1920’s and 30’s, civil rights groups were using the term to battle antisemitism by people who believed that the US was a Protistant country. It wasn’t until much later in the latter part of the 20th century that the term became widely used in the way that Billo is using it now.
As an aside, I find it interesting that as time went on, the hardline conservatives went from being antisemitic to eventually bringing the Jews into the fold, so to speak. I guess in their eyes, they share a belief in the Old Testament despite centuries of hatred and persecution. “Sure, they don’t believe in Jeeesus, but they like that Yahweh dude, so maybe they’ll come around. At least they’re not tools of Satan, like atheists and homosexuals.” Is that how it works?
But back to the main point, Billo’s assertion that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian traditions is absolutely false. An argument can be made that it followed Christian traditions, though most schollars agree that the founding fathers favored secular government.
So it would seem that in Billo’s world, it’s not politically correct to claim that the US is a Christian country founded on Christian traditions such as Christmas alone. (We have to include our brother Jews now and accept their traditions, right Bill?) But there is NO place for anyone else to sit at the holiday table. Secularists and atheists are certainly not welcome. He made a point of dissing Muslims. (No surprise there.) He didn’t mention Buddhists or Hindus, but I think it’s safe to say that unless they’re willing to say “Merry Christmas” and participate in grace, then they wouldn’t be welcome either.
Happy Holidays everyone and count me in on the feast, just don’t ask me to say grace…