Judeo-Christian positions on abortion

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Over at FindLaw, Cornell law professor Sherry Colb has a column inspired by a recent call by Israel’s two chief rabbis for their colleagues to preach against abortion. Her aim is to make clear how different Jewish law on abortion is from Catholic (and evangelical Protestant) doctrine, even as both differ from secular U.S. and Israeli law. Briefly, the rabbis hold that abortion is a bad thing (except if the mother’s life is threatened, when it is mandatory), but that it is permissible under a variety of circumstances, and that it is not murder. Rather, they consider the fetus to be potential life, worth more than mere property but not a living person until most of it has emerged from the womb.

Colb demonstrates that when it comes Judeo-Christian tradition
teachings on abortion, current American law is much more closely
aligned with the traditional “Judeo” side than the conservative Christian
one. In this regard, it would have been interesting if, in response to Rick Warren’s question, “[A]t what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?”, Barack Obama had answered, “Well, religiously my view is closest to the Orthodox Jewish position, which is that a baby gets human rights at birth.” Maybe some pro-choice politicians should try that one out.

  • You’re tripping yourself up in an oxymoronic phrase.
    Dictionaries define “Judeo” as a combinative form. Thus, the compound word “Judeo-Christian” implies that Judaism (Torah) is no more than a dependent element of Christianity.
    In typical supersessionist and displacement Christian tradition (see Oxford historian James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue), Christians thoughtlessly presume the prefix “Judeo-” to lay false claim to Judaism (Torah) by means of an impossible union of “Judeo-” (pro-Torah) with “Christian” (supersessionist and displacement antinomian=anti-Torah=misojudaism).
    Where values are shared, the accurate (and honest) way would be to state “Judaic and Christian…” (values, traditions, etc.) instead of “Judeo-Christian.”

  • Mark Silk

    I’m afraid you’re wrong, as a matter of the actual history of the term (whatever people like Parkes and the late Arthur Cohen have claimed). If you want to learn what that actual history was, take a look at my article, “Notes on the Judeo-Christian Tradition in America,” American Quarterly (1984): http://www.jstor.org/stable/2712839. In fact, the term began to be used in the present sense during World War II by liberal Christians concerned about Fascist anti-Semites, who then (as now) tended to use “Christian” as anti-Semitic code (e.g.Christian Identity). “Judeo-Christian” subsequently became a political shibboleth–not in a supersessionist sense but as an umbrella term for describing America’s common religious history. Cohen claimed that it was oxymoronic, but in a culture increasingly aware of non-Christian, non-Jewish religious traditions, the commonalities have tended to become more evident. Anyway, dictionary grammar is irrelevant to this history.