In a recent column, David Brooks blames recent mass shootings in America on “a broader movement—anti-pluralism—that now comes in many shapes.” Among the anti-pluralists, writes Brooks, are “Trumpian nationalists, authoritarian populists, and Islamic jihadists”—and also, evidently, Jews. “Eighty years ago,” he laments, “Protestants, Catholics, and Jews did not get along, so a new category was created, Judeo-Christian, which brought formerly feuding people into a new ‘us.’” But now that pluralistic amalgam has come unglued, leaving Judaism in the category of a “dead culture.”
A pure culture is a dead culture while an amalgam culture is a creative culture. . . . The terrorists dream of a pure, static world. But the only thing that’s static is death, which is why they are so pathologically drawn to death. Pluralism is about movement, interdependence, and life.
Ira Stoll takes Brooks to task:
Sorry, but no. Jews who prefer to remain Jewish rather than becoming “Judeo-Christian” are not similar to white supremacists or Islamic jihadists who go into Walmart or a nightclub or an army base and open fire in hopes of committing mass murder. Judaism in the 1930s, before the creation of the “new category” of “Judeo-Christian,” wasn’t static or dead—it was full of vibrant Yiddish culture, Zionist innovation, and religious reform and reaction. . . .
What’s more, the term “Judeo-Christian,” though perhaps useful as a political, rhetorical formulation to label the Jewish and Christian alliance against Nazism and later Communism, never really became a practically meaningful “us.” Jews and Christians still feud, as can be seen in everything from the Christian left’s support for anti-Israel boycotts to the Jewish left’s opposition to Christian conservative legislative moves to restrict abortion. Jews and Christians still go to different synagogues and churches.
When asked about religion, very few people voluntarily describe themselves as “Judeo-Christian.” The theological and ritual differences between the two different religions are just hard to blur without eliminating the force and meaning of the 2,000- or 4,000-year-old traditions. And because Christians far outnumber Jews, it’s not hard to predict that if Jews and Christians did merge into Judeo-Christians, Christianity would dominate. How that counts as “pluralism” rather than as a kind of anti-pluralism—the refusal to accept the continued existence of Judaism as a distinct religion—is a mystery to me.
Since, as Stoll points out, neither Jews nor Christians actually think of themselves as Judeo-Christians, does anyone? Possibly only Brooks himself, who recently published a book describing himself as “a wandering Jew and a very confused Christian.” In essence, as Stoll writes, the columnist now seems bent on “inflicting his personal spiritual confusion, or syncretism” on his hapless readers, with Jewish particularism as just so much collateral damage.