From ancient times, Judeo-Christian believers based their morality on the revealed word of the one Hebrew God, revered by Jews and Christians alike. Geoffrey Lantos, director of the marketing department and a business professor at Stonehill College, notes that this belief "is the basis for Judeo-Christian values" which have seeped into many cultures and philosophies throughout the centuries regardless of religious preferences. Whether or not one accepts the Bible's religious authority, an examination of the text reveals that it addresses issues of practical morality that echo the laws and commonly accepted practices of modern Western society.
Source of Morality
Many Western cultures agree that a higher power enables them to tell right from wrong, holding them to a moral standard. The Ten Commandments, Jewish prophetic writings and Christian gospels and epistles, describe moral directives against killing, swearing, adultery, stealing and lying; and encourage respect for God, parents and one's fellow man. Lantos points out that the book of Proverbs contains much business wisdom, including warnings against deception and greed. Judeo-Christian scripture also addresses issues of civil obedience, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and peaceful interpersonal relations. The teachings of Jesus and the apostles encourage respect and love for God and one's neighbor, and care for the less fortunate.
Judeo-Christian morality stresses human equality before God and the law rather than economic equality through governmental mandate, says Dr. Ronald R. Cherry, author of "The Judeo-Christian Values of America" written in "The American Thinker." The message of equality, compassion and individual moral accountability appealed to the common people. Its influence spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond through the apostles' and saints' missionary work and writings, to form a body of common moral standards that transcended religion. Lantos states, "All major religions [promote] constraint in consumption … refrain from lying, stealing, cheating, lust, greed, murder [and] adultery." Though disagreements of theology exist in and between religions, the general morality of Judeo-Christian tradition informed the rise of "traditional values" in Western civilization and the foundation of American government in its elevation of liberty over material equality.
Influence on America's Society
Regardless of the Founding Fathers' doctrinal preferences, Judeo-Christian values characterized their worldview and "provided a moral consensus … and belief in an intrinsic underlying truth," Lantos explains. The Declaration of Independence's words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…" reveal the Judeo-Christian idea of universal equality. The U.S. Constitution reflects Judeo-Christian assumptions of right and wrong in matters of justice, the rule of law and fair play that were commonly held by colonial society even in the light of their theological differences. These foundational documents that have guided and shaped the United States for more than 200 years and numerous recorded writings and speeches by the members of the Constitutional Convention expose the Judeo-Christian presupposition of a sovereign moral authority as the source of the value of human life, their rights and what they considered the proper "legal framework for organizing a society," says Lantos.
Absolutes in a Non-Absolute World
Dennis Prager, host of an interfaith dialogue on SNR radio, syndicated columnist and author on issues of morality, maintains that Judeo-Christian tradition holds a "belief in universal, not relative, morality." In other words, although the idea of inerrant and infallible scripture and objective truth is falling out of favor, even among some Christians, a strict reading of Judeo-Christian morality, as handed down from ancient times, relies on absolute truth. This truth emanates from a perfect Creator who cannot lie nor err and holds the ultimate authority to determine right and wrong, holding individuals and countries morally accountable for their actions.
- Stonehill College: Ethical Reasoning Perspectives IV: Judeo Christian Ethics
- University of California, Los Angeles: "Judeo-Christian"
- Jewish World Review: What Does "Judeo-Christian" Mean?
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Religion and Morality
- California State Polytechnic University, Pomona: The Judeo-Christian Values of America
- University of California, Irvine: Foundations of Western Political Thought
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