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November 23, 2005

Judeo-Christian Holidays

A couple weeks ago, the school district in Florida charged with educating four of the Creek Running North nieces was faced with complaints from Tampa-area Muslims that the district calendar gave them short shrift. The district closed schools on Good Friday and Yom Kippur, and so the Muslims, quite reasonably, asked for Eid to be added to the calendar.

The school district opted for what I thought was an elegant solution. Rather than grant specific holidays off, they'd define a free-floating elective religious day which families could opt to use at any time. Thus Christians could take off Good Friday, Jews Yom Kippur, and Muslims Eid. Most likely, after the first families of other faiths asked, the policy would be extended so that Hindus could celebrate Diwali; Zoroastrians... um, Zorro's birthday; and Satanists, of course, could continue to commemorate the founding of Halliburton. It seemed like a marvelous idea.

And of course the fundamentalist Christians would have none of it. Hillsborough County's County Commission, which is jam-packed with fundies, accused the board of discriminating against Christians by, presumably, not forcing people of other faiths to observe Christian holidays by force of law. The usual vultures weighed in. After attracting a few thousand phone calls from the wingnut right, the school board backed down.

And for the last couple weeks, I've been wondering about a trope the fundies used to indicate the alleged interfaith nature of their pro-Christmas jihad. More than one of the fundamentalist Christians referred to the heritage they claimed to defend as "Judeo-Christian holidays."

Let's leave alone the oddly ahistorical notion that Islam is not a Judeo-Christian religion. What the hell is a Judeo-Christian holiday? Passeaster? Tisha B'uffy?

It seemed an unlikely concept, until I remembered that I had in fact heard Judeo-Christian holiday music, and it sounds a little something like this.

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 23, 2005 06:21 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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well, as always, the music is the best part (for me, anyway). the sweet irony about all of religious holiday wars is that the holidays are all basically of pagan origin, dressed up in the proper judeo-christian garb.

Posted by: Miguel Alondra at November 23, 2005 08:14 PM
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Carrie pointed out to me that Brian Blair, the county commissioner who seemed most outraged at the new godless schedule, was a professional "wrestler" in the WWF.

Here he's shown as a member of the "Killer Bees" tag-team duo:

Posted by: craig at November 23, 2005 10:36 PM
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Yom Kistmas? Mardi Hashanah? Maundyover?

Posted by: Orange at November 24, 2005 08:04 PM
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Brian Blair is also the one who I complained about on my blog, who misrepresented gay rights activist Michael Swift.

He and Rhonda Storms have been very busy lately making fools of themselves.

Posted by: Carrie at November 25, 2005 05:39 AM
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Of course, considering people have been living in this country for several thousand years, two hundred years doesn't seem like that much.

I think the Judeo-Christian terminology serves three purposes:

1. It mollifies arch-conservative Jews.

2. It denies that, say, Christmas is a religious holiday, instead portraying it as a neutral part of shared American history, like, say, speaking English. It's an attempt to reframe religion so that it can't be excluded from the government under the first amendmant.

3. It serves as short-hand to describe fundamentalist American Christianity, and, now that I think about it, serves as a rhetorical tool to ignore sects that don't subscribe to fundy values, like the Orthodox Jews or Quakers. If you call American fundamentalism "Traditional Judeo-Christian values" you frame things in such a way that that fundamentalism represents traditions that have been present since before Christ's time, and frame those other sects I mentioned as being peculiar modern anomolies.

Posted by: Christopher at November 26, 2005 04:58 AM
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