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Judeo-Christian Absolute Values

By Carl S ~

A friend of mine, Wizened Sage, asked me to submit my response to a commentary that appeared in a weekly newspaper on Oct. 19. I spent over three hours that night (finished at 2:15 a.m.) composing this letter. I was very reluctant to write it, but even more compelled to respond. It was published on Oct. 26.

In essence: The guest commentator described himself as “Christian, fundamentalist in faith, with conservative values,” and is very upset, most likely as a result of believing those “war on Christianity” fear tactics his fundamentalist leaders have been propagating for decades.

He blames “the Supreme Court's church-state separation decision of the 1940's,” plus the ongoing removal of crosses, nativity scenes, the ten commandments (all on public property), the removal of prayers and bible readings from public schools, etc., as reasons for a breakdown in our “moral values,” and the reason why we have public massacres! He asks, “What has been the effect of the attack on the Judeo-Christian ethic that has been the foundation of America's value system for over two centuries?” Really? (Between you and me, I think publicly displayed crosses, including those on steeples, should be turned into crucifixes. It's time to change the public's perception of them.)

He condemns the “significant population who challenge every aspect of Judeo-Christian moral absolutes,” maintaining there can be no American morality without them. Then, he somewhat sums up with: “In the beginning,” from Genesis, as “the basis for the validity of everything that follows in the bible,” and therefore, “it follows,” we would not have rights, since only his biblical Creator endows us with those unalienable rights. This is my humanist response:

In “Another View” of Oct. 19, guest columnist …, tells us “America must return to Judeo-Christian moral absolutes.” “Absolutes” is a loaded word; absolutes are responsible for much misery and death in human history. Absolute moral convictions drive all religious persecutions and wars, the Crusades, Inquisition, denials of equal rights, and in our times, the 9/11 “martyrs” and ISIS. Absolutes propelled the Holocaust and the terrors and deaths that came of Communist ideology. For decades now, I've noticed the literature of evangelicals is dedicated to “returning” our country to their special interpretation of absolute moral values. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother replying to Another View.

The author begins with listing examples of “absolutely senseless violence,” in our country, attributing them to a “ lost sight of its values.” Have you noticed: for every single killer there are hundreds, even thousands, of good people who show up to help and comfort the survivors? That is only one of our values. Some people take advantage of our tragic mass casualties as examples of what happens as a result of removing crosses on public lands, prayers in public schools, nativity scenes on public land, ten commandment monuments, etc. These “effects” the author claims, are “attacks on the Judeo-Christian ethic that have been the foundation of America's value system for over two centuries.” Not true. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are founded on the rights of the individual citizen. America's value system resides with We the People and in those documents. Those rights are not found in Judeo-Christian absolutes.

Yes, our country had prayers in public schools, and bible readings, too. This was wrong, since the first amendment disallows government favoritism of any religion. There's one good reason for this. Whenever political power is wed with religion, there is repression and inequality. (Notice: those Christian protesters do not endorse Islamic, Judaic, or Buddhist scriptural readings and prayers in our public schools, or their symbols on taxpayer paid properties. This would also be unconstitutional.)

If we learn anything, it should be that displaying religious symbols, saying public prayers, and preaching, do not make us moral. We don't really need scriptures and churches to be kind, caring, compassionate, non-judgmental and ethical. And if religious spokesmen did their moral duties, there would have been no KKK, slavery, lynchings, denials of human rights, the right to vote, no beatings of gays, etc., in our history. Those, unfortunately, took place all the while prayers were said in school. Where are the massed protesting voices of the spokesmen of God when the president and governor deny essential health care to “the least of our brethren?” (Why did 81% of evangelicals vote for an amoral man for president?) There is no denial of religious rights in our country, but there is a rebellion, initiated by the Founders, to keep any one religion or sect thereof from dominating our nation.

I'm beginning to understand the fears of the Christian and Islamic fundamentalists. Societies are changing. Diversity is good, but diversity is a threat to any deeply-held traditional values. Also, if we are to put ourselves into their shoes, we need to understand something. The biblical God has a habit of punishing the good people, including children, for the “sins” of the real and perceived perpetrators. Ergo, those punishments would extend to our nation. Most people are unwilling to see God that way.

Lastly, the author quotes from the opening phrase of Genesis; “In the beginning...”, telling us “This phrase becomes the basis of everything that follows in the bible.” It follows, though, the words “in the beginning” are very telling. We know that whoever wrote them was literate and capable of writing. It follows that the author was not, could not have been, present to witness the beginning. And so, he was inventing, and therefore, everything that followed those words was likewise invented.