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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When Christians celebrate “Biblical Feasts”: Take 2

Other posts you may or may not want to read:

imageI have been incredibly naive.  Because I thought there were a FEW of these sites; a few fringey Christians scattered here and there who were selfishly appropriating Jewish symbols, language.

It turns out there are thousands of “Torah Observant Believers in Yeshua,” as they like to call themselves.  And many – perhaps because they don’t fit within mainstream Christian schools – are homeschoolers.

image First reaction?  I feel so sad for their kids.  I won’t post links here, but one site has a video of two little girls who have obvious spent weeks memorizing Psalm 23 (Mizmor l’David).  They look so proud of themselves, but their pronunciations are so non-standard as to be unrecognizable by a Hebrew speaker, and, like all of these folks, they insist on pronouncing any Godly names they come across in somewhat bizarre ways.

(photo shows a menorah found on another blog - made by a child in the earnest belief that Jesus would admire and expect him to observe this holiday)

These kids have no spiritual home – no place within Christianity (which mostly holds that Torah observance was superceded by Jesus’ atonement) or within Judaism (which holds that as believers in Jesus, whatever they call him, they are Christian).

Many of these blogs (a quick Google search will help you find them if you must) have been super-active lately because of the yamim tovim, which, I suspect, is one reason people take on “Hebrew Christianity” to begin with. 

Stripped of its saints’ days and minor feasts, the mainstream Christian calendar is a drab one indeed.  Just as stripped of its majestic Latin mass, its Greek roots, pared down to its Protestant essentials, Christian worship often simply fails to stir the soul.

At the same time, I recently met somebody online who is a struggling Bas Noach – she’s looking for community, looking for homeschool resources, looking for directions.

What’s a ben/bas/bnei Noach?  A person who honours the Seven Noachide Laws.  Google it for more information, but basically, it’s Torah belief and observance – for non-Jews.  There are seven simple laws all non-Jews are supposed to follow, and Noachides are mostly ex-Christians who have become dissatisfied with Christianity and seek something simpler and more true.

And it IS simpler, and more true.  But I feel sorry for their kids, too.  Bnei Noach are probably fewer and farther between than Hebrew Christians.  This woman basically wanted to find books that explain Torah from a Jewish perspective without saying anything outrightly Jewish, because they’re not Jewish. 

imageFrankly, that’s tough to find.  Liberal books and other resources are short on Torah, and the more frum you get, the more you get the feeling from books, CDs etc., that you’re being drawn into an exclusive club.

Jews do believe – unlike many major religions – that you don’t have to be Jewish to get into heaven.  Perversely, we kind of believe it’s EASIER for non-Jews to get into heaven. 

But failing a huge increase in the numbers of Torah-believing bnei Noach, it seems also to be a lonelier route to heaven, as your family quizzes you about why you no longer believe in Jesus at the same time as suspicious Jews wonder what you’re going to do with their Torah teachings.

Lonely.

Hebrew Christians don’t seem all that lonely, to be honest.  Perhaps because there are plenty of them, or perhaps they also participate in Christian churches.  To me, they also seem more than a bit smug.

Perhaps other Christians around them believe they are MORE Christian because of their bizarre Jewish terminology and rituals.  Like speaking in tongues, only it’s the HOLY tongue!

They know Jesus’s Hebrew name!  They garble God’s name in Hebrew instead of English!  They build sukkahs – far out, man – and blow a shofar*, and do apple crafts in September instead of – oh, yeah… even mainstream schools do apple crafts in September.  They must be the super-holy people of God’s holy people, right?

image Do they feel like they’re getting closer to Jesus by speaking his language?  Though how Chanukah comes into it, I’m not sure.  In fact, many of their Jewish customs post-date Jesus by centuries.  Modeled on a Rabbinic Judaism that didn’t exist in his day, much of the modern Jewish prayer service would thoroughly confuse him if he were to come back to life today.

Ha ha ha ha ha.  Not that he’s going to, but they sure do seem confident that their careful mitzvah observance (which he himself may have actually condemned) will help bring him back.

I’m trying to be respectful here, but on a few final points, I must state loudly and clearly, just in case any Christians (yup, you, too, believers in Yeshuah!) happen to be reading this:

  • Learn more about Jews and Judaism; I guarantee you don’t know enough.
  • Yup, even if you were born Jewish.
  • Find out why we don’t believe Jesus is the fulfillment of anything, even if you eventually disagree.
  • Find out how we pronounce God’s names, and why.
  • Learn about the seven “bnei Noach” commandments that you CAN follow and how important they are to humanity.
  • And PLEASE – only use our words, symbols, images in the ways we mean them.  They are OUR “information property” and we don’t take kindly to theft.

* Shofar:  BOY do they love shofars and shofar imagery, because, of course, it’s totally tied up with the “shofar gadol” messianism, even within mainstream Judaism.  Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile… or something.

I welcome your comments and questions.  Moderation is on to block spam, but I will post all legitimate comments, even if I do not agree with your views.

9 comments:

Batya said...

very dangerous
Too few Jews can distinguish.

Anonymous said...

It is understandable that if you are not a Christian you will take offense to them using your (Jewish) symbols in the practice of their religion. But should you? Is it ''theft'' as you declare?
I don't think so. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Christians believe that Jesus is their 'role-model' and He was not a gentile. He wore tefillin and tallit, he celebrated the Biblical feasts, etc. Much of the paganizing within Christianity is due to it's divorce from Judaism.
I believe ultimately ''Christianity'' was simply a belief in Jews keeping the Torah, Gentiles keeping the Seven Mitzvot and the unique belief that God had revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, that although He is omnipotent was was willing to be small in order for us to be able to relate to him. Kind of like a more personal burning bush.
The issue is not whether or not you believe that. The issue is when you say that is wrong from Christians to try to come back more to the natural form of the religion or that they are stuck with the pagan influence as a result of the estrangement.
IF Jesus is the Messiah THEN the use of Jewish symbolism is the most authentic expression of the faith. IF Jesus is not the messiah at least the Gentiles have practiced a closer to the truth faith.

As a second point, I understand about people who use Jewish symbols only to lure Jews to their churches and do a game of bait and switch. Not cool.
B'Nei Noach -- wasn't Noah a ''lonely man of God'' No one should be sorry for someone trying to do the right thing.
Christians adopting Rabbinic Jewish customs -- Point made BUT
Judaism became much more ''Christian'' after Jesus and specifically destruction of Temple. One might argue that the Rabbis teachings in the post-temple period were closer the Judaism that Jesus saught. Just food for thought.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

Thanks for visiting!
However, I'm going to disagree that imitation is a sincere form of flattery, since most Christians who follow these practices believe that Judaism as Jews today believe and practice it is NOT an authentic path to salvation.
Flattery would be, "we believe you Jews have a good thing going on and we'd like to be more like you."
I'd say most Hebrew Christians are mocking more than flattering: imitating superficially, and not caring about the truths behind modern Jewish belief and practice.

Dara said...

I agree with most of what you've said here...however, is it true that a Jew who believes in Jesus is considered Christian? I was taught if your mom is Jewish you are Jewish, no matter what.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

@Dara: Thanks for stopping by!
You're right: if your mother was Jewish, you are Jewish no matter what. Yet it's also true that belief in Jesus as the messiah makes someone a Christian (by their own definition, usually).
The point to be clear on is just because the person retains their Jewishnesss doesn't mean that their Christianity is a form of "Judaism," any more than Buddhism, Communism, or any other thing that Jews happen to find themselves believing in is Judaism.
Not everything a Jew does is Jewish (ask Bernie Madoff about that).
However, since they ARE still Jewish, I and probably most Jews would welcome them back if they wanted to learn more and start honestly practicing Judaism.
However, it is my understanding that most "Hebrew" Christians are born Christian and take on Jewish observances to enhance their Christianity. Despite what the missionaries would have you believe, very few are originally observant Jews who come to believe that Jesus "completes" their faith.
Hope this helps!

C Yocheved said...

Brava.

Anonymous said...

Who's to judge? What may be offensive and even obscene to some is edifying and spiritually satisfying to others. HaShem is bigger than the religious lines we all seem to dictate, so let others find their own way, is what I say. Embarrassed for them? Nauseated? It might be true, but at the end of the day, it really isn't our call. If it speaks to their soul, so be it. Shoving everyone in pre-formed little boxes is a thing of the past and really is considered outright "bigoted" nowadays and really shouldn't be forced. Jesus was Jewish and celebrated Chanukah, so if Christians want to as well, more power to them. What's it to us?

Anonymous said...

Who's to judge? What may be offensive and even obscene to some is edifying and spiritually satisfying to others. HaShem is bigger than the religious lines we all seem to dictate, so let others find their own way, is what I say. Embarrassed for them? Nauseated? It might be true, but at the end of the day, it really isn't our call. If it speaks to their soul, so be it. Shoving everyone in pre-formed little boxes is a thing of the past and really is considered outright "bigoted" nowadays and really shouldn't be forced. Jesus was Jewish and celebrated Chanukah, so if Christians want to as well, more power to them. What's it to us?

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

@Anonymous:
"so let others find their own way, is what I say" -
I agree! I only feel I have to clarify things when those others either blur the lines, either suggesting that Jesus-worship is a legitimate expression of their Jewishness or that Jewish ritual is a legitimate expression of their Christianity. If they want to find their own way and NOT call if Judaism, that's okey-dokey by me.

"If it speaks to their soul, so be it" -
I could disagree with this rather wildly. In previous eras, practices like child sacrifice or self-flagellation may have "spoken" to many individuals' souls... I like to think I wouldn't stand by for that, either. Understand, I'm not likening Christianity to these terrible things. There are small evils and big evils; all I'm saying is that not everything that "speaks to us" is a valid and godly pursuit.

"Jesus was Jewish and celebrated Chanukah" -
Most likely true, but HOW did he celebrate? Chanukah was a new festival in his time; most modern customs surrounding the holiday have been initiated since his death. If his followers today put on yarmulkes, light eight candles (adding one each night), speak Yiddish, play with a dreidel, exchange gifts or money, eat latkes, or dance the hora, they are NOT doing it to celebrate like Jesus... they are doing to emulate modern rabbinic Jews, in order to "borrow" the depth and legitimacy of modern Judaism to infuse their Christian belief.

As for those "pre-formed little boxes," yes indeed. I believe I was put in one, at birth, by God. If you consider that belief somewhat bizarre or outdated, I don't blame you. But I'm not going to yield to anyone who considers my belief less than politically correct "nowadays" (since before Roman times, they've been throwing that "nowadays" at us...).

Most Christians I know - and most Jews, too - are pretty proud of their "little boxes" (ie their calling, or mission in this world) and recognize that good fences, good boundaries, will always make us better neighbours.