Hagia Sophia, Istanbul: from cathedral (537) to mosque (1453) to museum (1935)
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are told we live in a Judeo-Christian civilization, that the West has a
Judeo-Christian heritage, a concept useful to a largely Christian
empire where Jews play a powerful role, but one that is rejected by
serious scholars, both Christian and Jewish. Talmudic scholar Jacob
Neusner told Newsweek: "Theologically and historically, there is no such
thing as the Judeo-Christian tradition. It's a secular myth favored by
people who are not really believers themselves."
The concept was popularized in the 1940s as a reaction to Nazism and was used by the imperial elite in promoting anticommunism, and in Israel's conquest of Palestine, fashioned as a "clash of civilization" targeting Islam. Many of the founders of Israel (Ben Gurion and Begin) had been communists, and many American Jews in entertainment and intellectual life were communists and had to refashion themselves as anticommunists in the new age of US empire.
It became the foundation of the ideology of the "special relationship" between the US and the newly proclaimed Jewish state in 1948, and was integral to American politics by the 1960s. It was an inevitable result of Israel's creation and its early need to make an unbreakable bond with the leading empire.
The idea that European and American Jews wanted to 'return' to the original Promised Land of the Old Testament appeals to Americans both Jewish and non-Jewish. Israel became both the physical and spiritual embodiment recapitulating the sweep of western civilization. Hence, Christian Zionists, enthusiastic supporters of a colonial project in a non-colonial era, and Bush II's "Crusade" to be waged against Muslim terrorists after 9/11, as coined in his White House press conference on September 16, 2001. This metaphor touched Christians subliminally. Most never thought how insulting and disturbing it was to Muslims, how it was implicit in the widespread acceptance of a Judeo-Christian civilizational construct (even though many Jews were killed in the Crusades too).
On the surface, the special relationship has been fashioned as a subliminal bond between two 'chosen peoples', Israel a kind of little brother to America in the Middle East, watching over the local Arab regimes, and making sure the oil flowed.
The correct terminology would be Islamo-Christian vs Judaic civilizations, as there is a direct continuity between Christianity and Islam, which have more in common with each other than either has with Judaism. Richard Bulliet argues this in The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (2006). Islam is the natural culmination of both Judaism and Christiantiy, and never persecuted Jews as did Christianity. Until recently 90% of Jews lived comfortably not with Christians in medieval Europe, but in northwest Africa and the Levant under Muslim rule.
The rise of the patriotic right in the US is a reaction to the ongoing decline of Christian values in postmodern multicultural society, where religion is secondary and can be used or ignored at will. This has been the result of 'Judeo-Christian' civilization, which is really just a euphemism for the ideology behind US imperialism. The Christian-Jewish allies governing the empire were not interested in promoting Christian moral values, substituting commerce and sex, and Christianity declined rapidly in the 20th century. The debate about transgender women (men dressing as women) demanding to use women's washrooms became a symbol of the trivilization of morality, now a matter of what each individual feels, rather than what is accepted as social standards to be observed.
The capitalist West promotes consumerism at all costs, colonizing minds and bodies, bringing with it trivialization of sex and dismissal of religious values of modesty, moral living and worship, values that lie at the heart of both Christianity and Islam. The post-WWII 'critical theorists', the 'Frankfurt School', identified hedonism as the problem, but had no answer. Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man showed that "advanced industrial society" created false needs, integrating individuals into the existing system of production and consumption via mass media, advertising, industrial management, and contemporary modes of thought.
This results in a "one-dimensional" universe of thought and behaviour, in which aptitude and ability for critical thought and oppositional behaviour wither away. Against this prevailing climate, Marcuse promotes the "great refusal" as the only adequate opposition to all-encompassing methods of control. In other words: enjoy watching Rome as it burns. This translated into the continued corruption of Christian-based society. No thought was given to Islam as the answer.
Trump and Putin
The International Russian Conservative Forum in St Petersburg in 2015 brought together Europeans who are advocating this return to Christian values. It highlighted the issues that Trump harnessed to denounce what they called the degradation of white, Christian traditions in the West. The rise of the right in Europe is against same-sex marriage, abortion on demand, immigration, international finance, radical Islam and globalization, among other targets. Their champion is Russia and President Vladimir Putin, seen as a pillar of robust, conservative, even manly values.
Russia was isolated and pilloried under Obama, but is ready to make common cause with leftists, centrists, greens and any other potential allies critical of American domination and general social ills. Robert Fiore praised Russia as the vanguard of Europe's future, a common theme among both Russian and foreign speakers at the Forum. "We are the avant-garde of a new Europe that will very soon emerge," he said. "It will be a Christian Europe, a patriotic Europe, and Russia will not just be a part but a leading force." This helps explain Trump's embrace of traditional values and his admiration of Putin. He is part of this movement of social and political renewal.
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