Friday, May 8, 2009

On the Judeo-Christian Tradition

I didn't realize yesterday was the National Day of Prayer until it was almost over. That was when I read that "Apparently, it's a big deal in some quarters that Barack Obama did not hold a ceremony for the National Day of Prayer, preferring instead to issue a proclamation and pray in private, 'something that the president does every day'."

At that point, I went to the National Day of Prayer website, which was very disturbing. God knows I have nothing against prayer, or even praying for the United States, "interced[ing]for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family." Though that was a titch squirmy.

Where I had real trouble was its use of "Judeo-Christian tradition," a term that got hyperlinked over and over again.

First of all, the website made it clear that this was a day for "mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America" (emphasis mine), which kind of takes the Judeo- out of "Judeo-Christian."

They have a special section on their "Official Policy Statement on Participation of 'Non-Judeo-Christian' groups in the National Day of Prayer." Ummm...why the quotation marks, first of all? Second, it's the National Day of Prayer, not the National Day of Christian Prayer, not that that seems to have sunk in.

But here's what they say:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based.

Well! I'm glad to hear that people with other views are free to organize, given that that's their Constitutional right. Mighty big of them. Not that those other folks are consulted or included in the planning. That would just be silly, since this is a (judeo-)CHRISTIAN observance.

Each time in this paragraph, Judeo-Christian is hyperlinked. The hyperlink takes you to a specific page on their definition of Judeo-Christian.

We routinely use it with reference to that standard of morality and family values which is common to both the Old and New Testaments, and which has over the centuries formed the foundation for ethics and culture in Western society.

So their definition of Judeo-Christian is about moral and family values? Hmmm...

They also note that: a) "The meaning of the term like 'Judeo-Christian' depends much on the intention of the speaker or writer who uses it;" and b) the Encyclopedia definition is “Judeo-Christian is a term used to describe the body of concepts and values which are thought to be held in common by Judaism and Christianity, and typically considered a fundamental basis for Western legal codes and moral values.”

Again, I have no problem with a National Day of Prayer (though I feel for the atheists gnashing their teeth right now). But if it's a National Day of Prayer, it needs to include everyone who wants to pray in whatever way they wish. "Judeo-Christian tradition" has a lock neither on prayer nor on moral and family values.

(The Lutheran Zephyr has a nice post on why he doesn't like the National Day of Prayer which particularly focuses on the historical situation in which it arose. Hint: godless Communism.)

1 comment:

qoe said...


I always get a kick out of anything that has a steering committee called a "task FORCE". A wee bit militant and self-assured and righteous in all the wrongeous ways.