An Evangelical Judaic Hybrid Mush
It seems that something that is becoming much more common today in some Evangelical circles, and can be witnessed through their religious programs, is to promote a more prominent link to Judaism in their own faith – or rather – to incorporate Orthodox Hebrew practices into their own faith. The 700 Club has even gone so far as to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and although this is the most prominent example of Christian Evangelicals celebrating Jewish traditions and holidays, it is not the only one present in an ever growing trend in the Evangelical circle of involving all things Jewish.
John Hagee, who’s a Christian Zionist1 has even gone so far as to wear a Tallit – or Jewish Prayer Shawl – during one of his sermons and a few preachers along with Hagee have gone so far as to sell them to their followers for a “suggested donation” to their ministry.
Ironically enough, although many Evangelicals deride and eschew ancient Christian traditions as being paganistic and have condemned them for being the human traditions mentioned in the Bible (cf. Mark 7:8), some of them are ready and willing to utilize Jewish traditions that are not explicitly mentioned in but only hinted at in the Bible.2 While, at the same time, they will fight Catholics tooth and nail over their faith and traditions because, as a part of our argument, we sometimes cite non-explicit Scripture verses!
A New York Times article details the rising trend in Evangelical churches to imitate traditional Jewish religious rites and incorporate them into Christian ceremony because it, “brings a richness that we miss out on sometimes as Christians when we don’t know the history,” (emphasis mine). This according to Mrs. Austin whose marriage in a megachurch was capped off by the wedded couple signing a ketubah, a traditional Jewish marriage contract. She validates this action by stating, “Jesus was Jewish, and we appreciate his culture, where he came from.” According to the article, the couple are “members of Oak Hills Church, a nationally known megachurch,” and “They were using the ketubah as a way of affirming the Jewish roots of their faith.” (emphasis mine)
Apparently, the bride’s evangelical sister also went so far as to incorporate a huppah – the Judaic wedding canopy – into her wedding which also involved the Jewish wedding contract.
This makes me pinch the bridge of my nose!
Because, for starters, I think this is absolute affront to deeply held beliefs by the Jewish people. It cheapens the meaning of everything to which these elements of Judaism stand for. It strips these things held sacrosanct by Jews and distorts them into ideas for which they were never intended to represent because it discards the essential intrinsic and distinct Jewish belief, and leaves only the concept.
It’s sort of like taking a cake box, removing all of the elemental ingredients contained within which actually make the cake, and then parading around with the empty box and calling it the same thing as the real cake. You have an empty representation without the inconvenient realities involved in actually putting the time and effort into making the cake, wanting the cake to begin with, or caring for the ingredients in the first place. You just wanted the picture of the cake because it looks pretty and seems significant, but you don’t have to commit to having the actual cake be a part of your life.
This is the same thing, and in essence spits in the face of Judaism and her beliefs while proclaiming to identify with them.
Secondly, this practice also spits in the face of 1500, nay more like 1800 for an Evangelical, years of cultural and traditional practices of their own antiquated Christian faith. These Evangelicals so vehemently disassociate themselves with anything that seems like Catholic beliefs that they will eradicate almost 2000 years of ancient Christian practices from their faith.
Almost all of the traditions, beliefs, and practices of the ancient Church grew out of the Jewish roots of its founders – the Apostles! The Apostles were Jewish! When they first started preaching the Gospel and began to establish and build up the Church, they utilized the Jewish model of worship because they had no other concept with which to build a reverent worship of God outside of the Levitical – Exodus standard created and established by God Himself. Why would they? God’s standard for worship hadn’t required a different approach except where specific examples of ushering in the New Covenant were established in what happened with Christ’s sacrifice, its significance, and the events which transpired at His death – i.e. the tearing of the curtain in the Temple. Therefore, the ancient Christian church established its faith, its traditions, its forms of worship, and its practices and procedures on the Jewish roots of the Apostles. (read more here)
Most of all, I think this trend in certain Evangelical circles simply highlights and underscores the underlying condition of the movement itself and that is that they are missing deep historical religious roots and thus they have to draw connections that don’t exist in order to create them. Instead of seeing their faith in the scope of history, as coming down in a long line of Christian practices and faiths, these specific Evangelicals are so adamant about authenticating their beliefs and yet so diametrically opposed to acknowledging the truth of history, that they will, in some circles, incorporate elements from a faith which has little to do with, and less resemblance to their brand of Christianity, than they claim. All the while they’re twisting things to create what they call the root to our faith.
While Judaism and the Old Covenant is the basis and foundation upon which Christians have gained a New Covenant, we are still a distinct and separate entity. We can, and should, hold reverence and respect to the place Judaism holds in our own history, however, I think it incumbent upon us to remember that we have a different doctrine created on the belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Because of that, we ought to honor and give deference to the roots of our own faith and, inasmuch as it applies to our different Christian faith traditions, utilize that which is given to us through the tireless efforts, work, and blood of those on whom this faith is built! I think it is also incumbent upon us as a separate religious entity to acknowledge the depth and reverence to which Jews hold their own faith, practices, and religion in general and to respect the sanctity of their holy religious items and ideas. They are beautiful and they are reverent practices which are so admirable because they bestow at the forefront of their faith a dignity for God. Many Evangelicals have eschewed everything having to do with religious items, belongings, rites, and postures that I think they – because they are simply human beings and human beings deeply desire and need these things – crave these things but cannot obtain them through the avenue of Christian history out of the fear of resembling Catholicity and it is an unfortunate and sad decision. Rather than understand the reasons for “acting out” the faith as Catholicism does, and perhaps incorporate those habits into their own faith, they’d rather forge ahead on a much wider path around it and back to Judaic roots with which they truly have no real connection.
- Christian Zionism is the belief that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy and that the “ingathering” of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. This belief is primarily, though not exclusively, associated with Christian Dispensationalism. The idea that Christians should actively support a Jewish return to the Land of Israel, along with the parallel idea that the Jews ought to be encouraged to become Christian, as a means fulfilling a Biblical prophecy has been common in Protestant circles since the Reformation. (source Wikipedia)
- Although wearing a tallit is not specifically commanded in the Bible, there is a commandment in the Bible to tie fringes to the corners of your outer garments (Numbers 15:38, Deuteronomy 22:12). This was interpreted by the sages to be a specific garment: the tallit, and that it should be used in Jewish prayer. Thus throughout the generations the Jewish prayer shawl has been preserved as a garment for prayer. (source Bayithyahweh.org)