June 28, 2003


During the "great heterosexual AIDS explosion", when one-fifth of all Americans were going to be dead by 1990, "STD" replaced "VD" in the language itself. Why?

Because HIV infection is not a venereal disease. Intravenous gonorrhea transmission is uncommon, and so a new term had to be invented which would support the broadly true, but nonspecific and very misleading, "AIDS is spread through sex". Throughout the whole "education" campaign, in the Congressional hearings, in the pronouncements of Surgeon General Koop, one question never got asked much: what is the extent of third party infection? But that was the one that would have given the game away, and there would have been no way to talk around it had "VD" still been the term. First things first. So now we have "Sexually Transmitted Diseases", a category which includes both blood-borne and mucosal contact infections. I'm no doctor, but I doubt if confusing the two would earn an A in Epidemology class. Of course, when the public has to be--helped--to make the right decisions, those who catch on are tacitly supposed to understand the reason for the deception and keep their traps shut. To do otherwise plays into the wrong hands.

And now "Judeo-Christian" is coming under the gun so that Islam won't be left out. "Abrahamic Religions" is now with us to prepare the way to a properly defined discussion, just as "Sexually Transmitted Diseases" did, and "Psychological Addiction" before that, and it's just as politically motivated and intellectually dishonest.

Judaism and Christianity share a text, even though in versions different enough that it's easy to understand why many Jews don't think this consitutes much common ground. It's not hard to understand why the Christian term "Old Testament" is grating, to say nothing of the different translations, the Christological arrangement of the books, and the reading of Isaiah as a prophecy of Jesus. It's easy to miss what we take for granted, which is that there's a broad common acknowledgment, prior to any issues of translation or arrangement, as to what the original Hebrew and Aramaic source materials are. There's also a consensus, at least in the mainstreams, as to what principles are involved in textual scholarship, whether the object of study be the Bible or Shakespeare. There is no Divine Permission to change those rules. This has been more or less the case since the introduction of the Higher Criticism in the first half of the nineteenth century (in the course of which nobody got subjected to a Papal or Rabbinical fatwa). The dog that never barked is that for all their persecution of Jews the Christians never came up with a new and improved original version of Genesis and Exodus in which Moses prophesied Christ.

But if the existence of common primary texts is the basis for the term "Judeo-Christian", then how can Islam get inside those quotation marks? Why, it's simple. Just introduce a new phrase, "Abrahamic Religions", that does away with that inconvenient concept of even a possible common court of Scriptural appeal. None necessary any more. In fact, one of the ARs can dismiss the Bibles of the other two as unreliable and superseded, insist that its portrayals of Moses and Jesus are the only true ones, have no supporting documents within a millenium and a half of Abraham, practice violence against converts to the other two according to to a present-tense and first-person-plural Book all its own, believe that the said Book was handed down directly fron On High, and still be a full-fledged member.

"Abrahamic Religions," like "STD," lets us move on to that Higher Ground where what ought to be merges with what is. We're going to be reading and hearing more and more about the ARs.

Posted by james_h at June 28, 2003 07:20 PM