(RNS) — I spent the 16th anniversary of 9/11 at the 16th annual meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, held under the joint auspices of the Union and Jewish theological seminaries in New York City. Appropriately, the central question before the group was how best to expand long-standing Jewish-Christian interfaith encounters in America to include Muslims.
My assignment was to discuss the use of “Judeo-Christian” language to reinforce the idea of a clash of civilizations. As in when Tony Perkins said on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” in 2014, “We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.”
Or when, last year, retired Air Force Col. Tom Snodgrass, a contributor to a website called Right Side News, referred to “the overt and covert war being conducted by the political forces of Islam in order to subjugate the Judeo-Christian religions and their societies.”
A fellow panelist was Columbia’s distinguished Middle East historian Richard Bulliet, who spoke about his “Islamo-Christian” conception, first published in 2004 as “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization.” Bulliet’s idea is that theologically, doctrinally, and historically, Islam and Christianity have far more in common than most adherents of either faith tradition realize.