Some Jews and Christians object to the term ?Judeo-Christian.? How can there be Judeo-Christian values, they argue, when Judaism and Christianity differ? In a previous column, I explained that one should not confuse theology with values. Theological differences are not the same as value differences.
Nevertheless there are some value differences between the religions.
But that is precisely the greatness of Judeo-Christian values: They are greater than the sum of their parts. That is why in this series of essays I have been making the case for Judeo-Christian values, not for all Christian values and not for all Jewish values.
The combination of Jewish Scripture (the Old Testament) and Christian thought and activism ? as worked out mostly in America and mostly by Judeo-based Christians ? has forged something larger and more universally applicable than either Judaism or Christianity alone.
Let me give two examples of specifically Jewish and Christian values that are not Judeo-Christian values.
As Judaism developed, it developed a legal system (Halakha) that increasingly aimed to separate Jews from non-Jews. One purpose was to keep Jews from incorporating pagan practices and values into the one monotheistic religion. Over time, however, it was also a result of the constant decimation of the Jewish people by antisemites. Jews, for good reason, feared disappearing. Thus survival ? in part through avoiding social contact with non-Jews ? became the primary concern of Jewish life, not influencing the world. Whatever the reasons, Judaism retreated from the world. Judeo-Christian values bring Jewish values back into the world.
An example of a Christian value that is not Judeo-Christian is Christianity?s traditional emphasis on faith above works and on an exclusive credo. Many Christians, including those who forcefully advocate Judeo-Christian values, believe that one must profess faith in Christ in order to be saved, that no amount of good deeds a person may perform, even if that person also has a deep belief in God (the Father), suffices in God?s eyes. And though Catholicism has emphasized works along with faith, for most of Church history, the importance of works was restricted to Catholics. Non-Catholics, no matter how good, were often denied salvation and frequently persecuted solely for their different faith (e.g., Huguenots and Jews).