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Saturday, November 1, 2014

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Be wary of Christians wearing kippahs

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According to the March 24 issue of the New York Times Magazine, in the article titled “Oy Vey, Christian Soldiers,” Christian bar mitzvah ceremonies and seders are taking hold in fundamentalist evangelical circles.

It just goes to show that even at my age, I have not heard it all. But Christian bar mitzvahs? They outshine (if that is the right word) even Christian seders.

According to a Pastor Brian Lewis and his wife – both charismatic, speaking-in-tongues Christians – this is a trend that harkens back to biblical times. Hence they use the ceremonies to mimic their attachment to a Jewish rite. They also note that Jews who are saved will be resurrected to eternal life. The rest of us? Not so much. See Dante’s Inferno.

Another pastoral family had their son study Hebrew with a “Messianic friend of the family,” and at his “bar mitzvah” the boy wore a tallit and recited the Shema. What’s next? Chopped liver statues of the bar mitzvah boy?

Of course the ultimate goal of all of this flurry of Jewish copy-cat behaviour is the deeply held belief that Israel is the beginning of the redemption – theirs, not ours – and that when Jews all return to Israel, the end of days will be at hand. Oh, and we will have to become practising Christians.

This is not dialogue. This is Christian triumphalism.

Also cited in the article, a rabbi notes that Christians are not only holding seders but are being married under a chupah, and some are wearing tallits over their clothes. Christians are buying kippot and shofarot in Israel, and generally building on the exterior trappings of Judaism. Pastor John Hagee, for example, offeres a CD sermon “The Mystery of the Prayer Shawl.” For $49 you can purchase your very own. Made in Israel!

Years ago, as program director at our local Hillel I was asked by the Christian chaplaincy on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus to assist in their planning of a seder just before Good Friday and Easter. I refused. They were confused. Was I not honoured to be asked to recreate Jesus’ last Jewish ritual – aside, I guess, from being crucified, an honour later shared by Jewish rebels against Rome?

No, I was not. The seder, I replied nicely (I hope), is a ceremony commemorating the foundation story of Judaism. It’s not up for appropriation into Christianity.

A member of “Rabbis Without Borders” – whatever that is – believes this takeover isn’t a problem.

“It bothers me in my gut” another rabbi says, “but I have to take a step back.” Back into a deep pit, maybe.

No, the seder’s not for the taking, nor are bar and bat mitzvahs or the wearing of a tallit or a kippah – unless it’s in a synagogue – nor any other part of Jewish ritual or ceremony.

The new fundamentalism in Christianity wants to hug us till we all go to Israel or convert and bring about the second coming. This is so scary that I cannot believe any observant Jew, rabbi, or even the biggest atheist at Yom Kippur services would agree to this creeping assimilation of our religion into a Judaic/Christian mind-meld.

Yes, these earnest people are great supporters of Israel. Yes, they send money and lobby on behalf of the state. But what happens when, in a few years, Jews consistently and stubbornly refuse to cluster in Israel, but continue to live in Diaspora? What happens when we continue to say “No thanks” when pressed to convert?

I have for a long time maintained that we can say nicely “Thanks for your support, but we will remain who we are.” Period. We should view with distrust the embrace of apocalyptic Christianity as it applies to Jews and Judaism.

One final story: Years ago during a recrudescence of Jews for Jesus, a speaker at UBC invited Jews to hear his pitch. He started out very empathetic. As we began to take issue with him, he dropped his guard. In an instant he fell back on all the old canards about our refusal to recognize the truth. It took less than one hour.

Let’s stay out of Christianity’s theology. Let them leave our ceremonies – for us.

If pressed, let’s explain carefully what is ours and why. That will be a dialogue that really counts.

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