By Harmony Daws
28 Apr 10
This month Ynet News reported that 1,000 Christian Americans have signed a document asking if they can convert to Judaism and form a settlement in Samaria. They want to join the Israeli Defense Force and live kibbutz-style beyond the green line of armistice. Pastors at 70 American churches had the conscience to denounce the plan. This group’s agenda is extreme but reflects a rapidly growing trend in the Christian American church to go beyond philo-Semitism and actively incorporate Judaism into its own identity. American Christians, already besotted with Israel, increasingly seek to observe Jewish holidays, know Jewish “history” and even bring Jewish traditions into their wedding ceremonies.
This can be seen as a natural outcome of at least three factors: the social and political power of Judaism in America (which silences any criticism from reaching the mainstream); the ardent Zionism of mainstream evangelical leaders; and the utter inability of Christians to respect Judaism as a fully distinct, unrelated religion with its own values, culture and agenda.
Since it was just Easter, the Wall Street Journal comments on the increasing number of Christian celebrations of the Passover seder, the ritual meal eaten in memory of the Hebrews fleeing Egypt, in an article titled “Is Passover the New Christmas?” Increasingly enchanted by all things Jewish, the evangelical church is not only donating tens of millions yearly to Israel but also trying to import Israel into the American church itself.
Married journalists Steve and Cokie Roberts (Jewish and Catholic, respectively) have been on the media circuit helping them do just that—promoting their new book Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families. Allegedly Catholic, Cokie Roberts spearheaded the integration of Jewish tradition into her family and now proudly reports her seder is “not Christianized in any way. … This is very much a Jewish ceremony that we celebrate.” This is important to note: As Christians appropriate Judaism, it is Christianity which must bend. Predictably, the Roberts got press on FOX, ABC, NPR, venerable newspapers, and plenty of other big news outlets. This year Glenn Beck publicly observed the seder and compared the Jewish flight from Egypt to Christian pilgrims leaving England.
When the Jewish Encyclopedia discusses origins of the Passover ritual, it refers to the Mishnah (the first record of the oral tradition of the Pharisees), not the Old Testament. The Encyclopedia credits Gamaliel II with codifying the tradition. The Encyclopedia says observant Jews practice the custom of reciting relevant passages from the Talmud. Extant written “manuscripts do not go back beyond the thirteenth century [AD], the time, probably, when the service for Passover eve was first written separately, since no mention of the fact occurs in earlier writings.”
Is there a Biblical mandate for a purely Christian observance of Passover? The Christian gospels say relatively little about the “Passover meal” of Jesus the night before the crucifixion (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22). What they do say is decidedly not Jewish. Christ makes the meal about His own coming death and His betrayal by Judas. He does not remind the disciples about the Hebrews leaving Egypt. He does not narrate the story of Exodus. He does not quote the Talmud. He does not command His followers to recreate the Passover feast in the future.
Instead He institutes a new tradition with these words when He broke the bread, “ This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) For centuries Christians interpreted this command through the ritual of communion; yet it can be most fully understood as a command to daily “eat His flesh and drink His blood” (John 6:53) by constantly participating in our own crucifixion of self-will. As often as we eat or drinkanything, we are supposed to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us and live in the context of complete surrender to Him.
Unfortunately, Christ’s spiritual revolution is increasingly passed over. American evangelicals prefer Jewish ritual to the “sterile” sacrifice of actually practicing death to self. Twenty years ago, my own birth family celebrated the Jewish Passover. (I was about eight, so I accept no responsibility for this mistake.) I can still remember the distinct ambiance of the event, the unleavened bread, herbs and the succulent lamb weighing down our walnut dining room table as we remembered not Christ but the triumphant Jews routing Egypt.
Today, Christian kids are more likely than ever to experience this “gateway” ritual into Jewish practice . Then, as young adults, they may want to bring Jewish ritual to their wedding. In February the New York Times wrote about Christian young adults signing a Jewish wedding contract before (perhaps significantly) they take the Christian communion.
The contract, called a ketubah, was codified by Talmudic Pharisees in Babylon, during a time when the Pharisees were overturning God’s laws and leading the exiled Hebrews into occultry. This doesn’t seem to matter to evangelicals. A couple profiled by the Times was said to be “affirming the Jewish roots of their faith.” After their wedding they hung their ketubah document above their marriage bed. They are part of “ a growing phenomenon of non-Jews incorporating the ketubah…” The bride actually learned this Jewish tradition “from her older sister, also an evangelical Christian, who had been married five years earlier with not only a ketubah but the Judaic wedding canopy, the huppah.” The article adds, “an increasing number of gentiles have taken up Judaic practices: holding a Passover Seder, eating kosher food and studying kabbalah, the Jewish mystical movement.”
Most Christians do not recognize modern Judaism as a truly distinct religion with its own god, its own mandates, and its own very strong position about Jesus Christ. Instead, Judaism is viewed as a benevolent parent religion to Christianity, a venerated grandfather who didn’t quite get the news about Jesus and at whose feet Christian “descendants” should learn.
If Judaism were indeed a largely extinct religion without its own intense and exclusive demands about truth, maybe all this would be okay. But it’s not. Judaism is a powerful world religion with ambitions and characteristics every bit as real as those of Islam. Seemingly unaware of this fact, Christians are slow to realize the bastardization of their faith that happens when they appropriate living Jewish traditions like the seder. Jews, on the other hand, are very willing to defend their religion from being diluted.
The Journal quotes Rabbi Neil Gillman, professor emeritus at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He says, “‘It’s deceptive to introduce Christian themes into the Jewish seder. When you start talking about Jesus, that is no longer a seder. That is a different creation altogether,’” a vehicle for preaching or proselytizing.” And Christian preaching is loathsome to Jews—if it is successful, they believe, it will lead to the “spiritual genocide” of the Jewish race.
As we have said many times, the modern Jewish religion is extremely aware of the inherent hostility between itself and Christianity. The two faiths could hardly be more opposed in their basic tenets. Judaism absolutely rejects the deity of Christ, which is (or should be) the central foundation on which all other Christian beliefs are built. Modern Judaism exalts the Jewish people as the correct representations of God in this world while Christians call for a spiritual revolution that extends to all people of all races. Jewish leaders and sacred texts know that these two faiths are diametrically opposed; unfortunately, Christians seem completely ignorant.
It is richly ironic that Christians today eat unleavened bread on Passover in exaltation of the Jewish religion. The yeast was originally left out of the bread to symbolize Hebrew separation from the world. But Jesus told Christians that in their age, the yeast meant a new enemy, who were “wicked and adulterous.” He gave us this command: “Be careful, be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Jews do not forget Christ’s vitriol against their scholars. But Americans in the church—the ones for whom this warning was ultimately intended—seem all too willing to disregard Christ’s words and obey Talmudic authorities.
Harmony Daws is a writer for National Prayer Network. To greater understand the illogic behind hate laws, read her article “Top Eleven Reasons You Should Fight Hate Laws.”
Rev. Ted Pike is director of the National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog organization.