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March 24, 2013 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Maud Newton, who grew up as a Charismatic Christian in a heavily Jewish community, asks: What could be wrong with Bible-believing evangelicals giving their son a bar mitzvah? [slnyt, mostly]

Referenced but not linked in the NYT piece:
posted by Westringia F. (112 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
(In addition, Schorr wrote a blog post regarding the aforementioned HuffPo debate, and Jewish Journal published a counterpoint to Grater's piece.)
posted by Westringia F. at 12:58 PM on March 24, 2013


Growing up Catholic, I always equated Confirmation with Bar Mitvahs as a coming of age ritual, although my Jewish friends had far better parties. I guess Evangelicals don't have anything similar.
posted by jonmc at 1:10 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, speaking as a Jew, this doesn't bother me a bit. There is a reason we talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition. And this is much, much preferable to the not so long ago history of evangelical Christian anti-semitism.
posted by bearwife at 1:13 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had a Bat Mitzvah, and it was a LOT of work. Any kid willing to go through it gets my respect.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:17 PM on March 24, 2013


If anyone can serve as a weather vane for this phenomenon, it’s John Hagee, an influential Charismatic preacher and the inspiration to Brian and Tara Lewis. His sermon “The Mystery of the Prayer Shawl” is available on CD. For $49, believers can also buy a blue-and-gold tallit made in the Holy Land.

What a shamless huckster. He's tapped out the revenue streams that are actually relevant to his particular brand of nonsense, so he'll steal Jewish ones. I bet rosaries come next.

Beyond my contempt for Hagee and his ilk, what I think this speaks to is the relative youth of American Evangelicalism compared to it's Abrahamic cousin faiths. Religion is really only validated by numbers and time, and I can understand the urge of the laity to try and 'link' themselves to customs that have survived through the throes of history.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 1:18 PM on March 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Somebody needs to show them the last episode of Weeds.
posted by localroger at 1:22 PM on March 24, 2013


You know, speaking as a Jew, this doesn't bother me a bit. There is a reason we talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition. And this is much, much preferable to the not so long ago history of evangelical Christian anti-semitism.

Speaking as a Jew, this does bother me. Not the idea of having an evangelical marking of taking on adult responsibilities, but calling it a bar mitzvah. It's just a different form of anti-semitism. There's a reason most communities give a lot of backlash to cultural appropriation by the majority.

(I also have my major issues with the term "Judeo-Christian", but that's a little different.)

A lot of evangelical Christians take Jewish celebrations, copy them, then use them to get Jews to convert. It's obnoxious.
posted by jeather at 1:26 PM on March 24, 2013 [18 favorites]


do they insist that all males be cut (circumcised) shortly after birth? if not, then they miss all the fun.
posted by Postroad at 1:32 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I found it odd that the NYT article didn't mention confirmation at any point, but I think that the current timing of Confirmation in the Northeast (ie, 7th or 8th grade) is a relatively new thing, not necessarily shared around the globe, and is probably timed to meet up with the general times for Bar / Bat Mitzvahs.

That said, confirmation is a group sacrament, so I only went to one combined Bat Mitzvah / Confirmation party growing up.

do they insist that all males be cut (circumcised) shortly after birth? if not, then they miss all the fun.

They settled that like 1,960 years ago!
posted by thecaddy at 1:35 PM on March 24, 2013


then use them to get Jews to convert

Good grief, would this actually persuade any Jew to convert?
posted by bearwife at 1:47 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


It takes a special kind of presumption to declare oneself a more authentic version of a religion other than one’s own.

Actually, once you've presumed that you know God's will, and that you're going to eternal glory while I go to damnation, any lesser presumption just doesn't register with me.
posted by tyllwin at 1:52 PM on March 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


At the event, he wore a prayer shawl and sang the Sh’ma Yisrael.

Didn't anybody tell them what that particular prayer means...?
Cultural appropriation sucks when it's white people "playing Indian," and it sucks when it's Christians "playing Jew."
In some ways it's worse, because [in some parts within certain traditions]* the Christian creed is literally blasphemous to Judaism.
*I added this because I am aware of the extreme diversity of Christianities.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:53 PM on March 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


I was raised a Unitarian and we always seemed to have good relations with the local synagogues, especially the more liberal Reformed temples. Our differences were negligible and seemingly more cultural than theological. And we were certainly politically aligned. In one town our small fellowship was allowed to meet in the local synagogue on Sundays. They said they wouldn't be using it... =)
posted by jim in austin at 1:55 PM on March 24, 2013


I'm partly surprised that the Bar Mitzvah (which has been in the mainstream of American cultural discourse, sitcom plots, literature, stand-up comedy routines and such for decades) hasn't yet become de-Judaeified into a broadly secular 13th-birthday coming-of-age ritual yet, in the way that Christmas has been largely stripped of its pagan Christian roots and is now celebrated by Jews, Muslims and atheists alike.

Then again, the secularisation of Christmas did involve the addition of secular Christmas songs, generally about all things snowy and wintry, with nary a manger in sight. (A lot of that was, incidentally by Jewish songwriters like Irving Berlin.) Perhaps something similar would have to happen for Bar Mitzvah to be similarly secularised.
posted by acb at 1:59 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because I am a small and petty person, I stopped paying attention when the wife referred to her husband as "Dr. Brian" in paragraph five.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I didn't have room to discuss everything I would have liked to mention in the article, but speaking as a devout agnostic who as a child was dragged through a variety of Protestant churches, both old-line and not, on the way to the Charismatics, and who after college briefly converted to the Episcopal church, I can tell you that Evangelical fundamentalist Protestants tend to have a real issue with the pomp and circumstance of the liturgical churches -- this was part of Martin Luther's gripe and it has endured and intensified -- and Confirmation is no exception. I'm not saying it makes sense, but they tend to reject Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions as... insufficiently Christian. Baptism is pretty common, but it often occurs, at least in my experience, well before the age of 12.
posted by maud at 2:12 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


So yes, speaking as a Jew, this is worrying, cultural appropriation and so forth...also very much not in line with Jewish law and theology. Judaism is pretty specific about which parts of Jewish tradition are meant to be shared with non-Jews and which aren't. Having a Seder is OK, as is wearing a kippah. Wearing a tallit is not. I think it's reasonable to ask that if you decide to appropriate Jewish culture you at least do it on Jewish terms.

But like thecaddy I'm kind of wondering what these evangelical Christians think about Pauline Christianity in general. My understanding was that the early church is pretty clear that you don't need to be Jewish to be Christian and in fact you don't even need to keep being Jewish if you become Christian. However a brief Wikipedia skim assures me that it is more complicated than all this, especially if you are a fan of Reinhold Niebuhr.

Does anyone know -- is there an ongoing theological debate about the status of Jewish ritual in Christianity among Evangelicals? Or do they not go in for that kind of thing?
posted by goingonit at 2:16 PM on March 24, 2013


Christianity's always been good at appropriating other religion's good bits. Although it's far more lost in the mists, Judaism certainly did its fair share in the early days. I can't offhand think of any religion that's appeared totally de novo or not been subsequently influenced when it moved into new cultures; certainly not one with any durability.

The range of reactions to those whose godly IP is being taken goes from total lack of interest through to mild amusement, active participation, intense annoyance or indeed warfare against the blasphemers. I think it's utterly intrinsic to the anthropology of religion, both the taking and the reacting, although it hasn't had that much attention. Probably because few religions are happy admitting that they're wearing borrowed hats - the tendency to say "It's always been that way" is strong, even in the face of evidence that 'it' is merely a decades-old addition to a two thousand year old tradition.

Incidentally, has anyone done a taxonomy of religious headwear? There's such a splendid panoply out there.
posted by Devonian at 2:18 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm partly surprised that the Bar Mitzvah (which has been in the mainstream of American cultural discourse, sitcom plots, literature, stand-up comedy routines and such for decades) hasn't yet become de-Judaeified into a broadly secular 13th-birthday coming-of-age ritual yet, in the way that Christmas has been largely stripped of its pagan Christian roots and is now celebrated by Jews, Muslims and atheists alike.

But Judaism's a minority religion and Christianity isn't. Secularising the majority tradition is one thing, secularising a minority practice is another. Judaism inhabits this weird place in the cultural discourse where it's there, but an awful lot of Americans don't actually encounter the practice of Judaism with any sort of regularity. So you can have a bar mitzvah joke on the TV and people will get it, but most of the people watching will never have been to a bar mitzvah.
posted by hoyland at 2:29 PM on March 24, 2013


This hinges on a couple of pretty blatant double standards.

The first, and most obvious, is that Christianity teaches that there's only one Truth - that if you don't believe in Jesus, you are wrong (and in most denominations, damned forever for it) and will never achieve salvation. Whereas Judaism teaches that the Torah was given to the Jews as a set of laws that only Jews were asked or expected to keep which have only to do with this lifetime, not afterwards. If you're not Jewish, you're simply not required to pay any attention to those laws -- there is no concept of salvation, because no matter what faith you follow Jewish or not, everyone faces the same fate after death, period. Which means that from a purely Jewish perspective, a) A Christian literally cannot become a bar or bat mitzvah, because they are not responsible to keep the mitzvot, so there is no covenant they're fulfilling by doing so, b) Simply by following the tenets of Christianity and accepting Jesus as divine, a Christian would be in direct violation of the mitzvot, since we believe that G-d does not and will not and can not have a divine human counterpart. Believing otherwise is breaking the commandment in and of itself, making calling any celebration in Jesus's name (whether it be a bar mitzvah, seder, baby naming, whatever) completely nonkosher according to Jewish tradition. And c) As far as Judaism is concerned, who cares what Christians do, since they're outside of the obligation and they'll get the same treatment after death whether they do this nonsense or not. So even Jews who are (understandably) offended by the practice of taking Jewish traditions or beliefs and twisting them to mean things they do not and cannot mean - often explicitly saying that the Jews are doing them "wrong" because we don't include Jesus - aren't going to make a huge stink about it, because so long as it doesn't affect us in any way, we can just roll our eyes and ignore it.

The second, and more troubling, double standard is that because these Christians believe that theirs is the only way and the only truth and that they have their origins in Judaism, therefore they see all of this cultural and religious appropriation as "Perfecting" Judaism (their words). And it doesn't matter to them what the Jews think about it, because the Jews are Wrong. But these are by and large the same people who spend billions of dollars fighting "taking the Christ out of Christmas," literally saying that no one who celebrates a non-Christian holiday during the same calendar season as Christmas has any right to American notice or cooperation. In other words, it sure as hell would matter to them if Jews started doing the same thing, and took over Christian practices with no Jesus component to them as a perfection of Judaism. But because they believe they are right and everyone else is wrong, they are free to appropriate anything and call it Christian, with no threat of having the tables turned on them or way to see how offensive it is.

It's two communities talking past each other, with evangelical Christians not caring that religious Jews find it upsetting, and those Jews too few in number and too little invested in any reason for fighting back to really attempt to address it in more than token ways. But I like to imagine that if assimilation continues within the American Muslim community as it has with pretty much every other set of new immigrants, that it's only a matter of time before some Westernized / American Muslims start to put a star and crescent on top of an evergreen tree in winter and call it a tribute to Allah's everlasting protection. In my opinion, that's the only way Christians will ever be able to feel what they are imposing on us Jews -- and since Islam is another all-or-nothing religion, I say let them fight it out, yasher koach.

Far more frightening (and touched on in the article), is that evangelical support for Israel is based on the idea that all of the world's Jews need to move to Israel and be killed in a fiery torturous armageddon so that Jesus can come back. They don't have peace in the Middle East at heart - if blowing up the Dome of the Rock could cause World War 3, they would potentially see it as a good thing and worth encouraging. But Israel embraces their support nonetheless, seeing Evangelical Christian end-times believes as harmless nonsense worth exploiting, so long as they get the money and political support they need. I think there's a point where it's worth standing up and saying "you're welcome to believe what you want, but leave us out of it." And then do everything you can NOT to play along.
posted by Mchelly at 2:31 PM on March 24, 2013 [35 favorites]


Is this somehow, in a warped way, tied into the whole fetish evangelicals have for Israel and the rebuilding of the temple and the second coming and the Jews accepting Christ and on and on?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:42 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm partly surprised that the Bar Mitzvah (which has been in the mainstream of American cultural discourse, sitcom plots, literature, stand-up comedy routines and such for decades) hasn't yet become de-Judaeified into a broadly secular 13th-birthday coming-of-age ritual yet, in the way that Christmas has been largely stripped of its pagan Christian roots and is now celebrated by Jews, Muslims and atheists alike.

I don't know. It seems like every November there's a ton of argument and wank about how non-Christians should or should not celebrate Christmas holidays. Bottom line: damned if you do, damned if you don't. Some conservatives have even expanded the "war" to include American Thanksgiving and now Easter. (My view: How I do and do not engage in family traditions when warmly invited are none of your business.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:44 PM on March 24, 2013


Yeah, I found it odd that the NYT article didn't mention confirmation at any point, but I think that the current timing of Confirmation in the Northeast (ie, 7th or 8th grade) is a relatively new thing, not necessarily shared around the globe, and is probably timed to meet up with the general times for Bar / Bat Mitzvahs.

It was 16 where I grew up, northeast, mid-1990s. It used to be younger, but I have the impression they actually bumped it up post Vatican II
posted by Diablevert at 2:49 PM on March 24, 2013


(Just realized I probably should add that when I say "let them fight it out," I mean from a spiritual and intellectual grappling perspective, not actual fisticuffs or bloodshed or anything).
posted by Mchelly at 2:50 PM on March 24, 2013


Good grief, would this actually persuade any Jew to convert?

The so-called "Jews for Jesus" Christian missionary organization uses similar tactics of cultural appropriation to evangelise "supersessionalism."

The practice is offensive. Not flattering. And also rather pathetic.
posted by zarq at 2:52 PM on March 24, 2013


I never really understood what Jews for Jesus were meant to be doing/believing.
posted by sweetkid at 2:58 PM on March 24, 2013


Converting Jews through deception.
posted by zarq at 2:59 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


At the event, he wore a prayer shawl and sang the Sh’ma Yisrael.

Didn't anybody tell them what that particular prayer means...?


Yeah, this, a hundred times this. The Sh'ema (not the Sh'ma Yisrael: there is one and only one Sh'ema), like the Shahada for Islam, is explicitly and exclusively central to Judaism. It is not reconcilable with the teachings of Christianity, and for a goy to say it is a contradiction in terms at best and offensive at worst.

It's ours. You're not entitled to it.
posted by clockzero at 3:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can all of this be called "appropriation"? For example, the Shema Yisrael was quoted by Jesus. Christians haven't stolen this or taken it for themselves at some later date, it was there from day one when Christians still considered themselves Jewish. Saying that Christians can't have it is about 2,000 years too late and totally ignorant of Christian history and belief.
posted by Jehan at 3:08 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the only reason Christian Bar Mitzvahs have never been a thing is that the story of Jesus yada-yadas from age 12 straight to his baptism in his late twenties? And, really, baptism has always played substitute for those okay-you're-one-of-us-now Jewish rituals, be it Brit Milah (in Christian denominations where infant baptism is the norm) or Bar Mitzvah (in believer's baptism denominations). Maybe the Pentecostals are trying to conserve water or something? Beats me.

The cultural appropriation objection is entirely valid (which is to say I agree: this is weird and gross), but it's coming a bit late. The Tanakh, where all the Bar Mitzvah stuff comes from (including Deuteronomy 6:4), was appropriated by Christianity on day one. That's what the Old Testament is. Unless Jesus (or Paul or whoever) said, "Meh, you don't gotta do that one," everything in there is up for grabs.

The really odd thing, though, is that they'd literally lift a ceremony from Jewish tradition, shawl and all. That's a bit much, yeah.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:12 PM on March 24, 2013


and for a goy to say it is a contradiction in terms at best and offensive at worst.

Is that the prayer where Jews thank their God for not making them one of the goyim? As an agnostic, I like that one cause I can say it sincerely.
posted by three blind mice at 3:18 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's ours. You're not entitled to it.

It's Jesus' number one top favourite, and Mark has him quoting it verbatim. Christians think of it as theirs too, I'd think, and if they have to recite a Jewish prayer, it makes sense to pick the one that's also a central tenet of their religion.

Unless it's the language it's recited in that's significant?
posted by jack_mo at 3:19 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that the prayer where Jews thank their God for not making them one of the goyim? As an agnostic, I like that one cause I can say it sincerely.

what i don't even
posted by Sys Rq at 3:20 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless it's the language it's recited in that's significant?

Well, yes, why are they saying that one in Hebrew?
posted by benito.strauss at 3:23 PM on March 24, 2013


It's ours. You're not entitled to it.

It's Jesus' number one top favourite,


Jesus was a Jew.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:29 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone can say the Shema in the sense that they can speak the words, Jehan, that's not exactly the point. It's that the recitation implies a vision of the divine and the relationship of the Jews to our God that is unique to our tradition, and in that sense, it's entirely fair to say that Christians "can't have" it any more than they "can" recite the Shahada and still call themselves Christians.

Is that the prayer where Jews thank their God for not making them one of the goyim? As an agnostic, I like that one cause I can say it sincerely.

I...think that's a joke, three blind mice, not a prayer.

It's Jesus' number one top favourite, and Mark has him quoting it verbatim. Christians think of it as theirs too, I'd think, and if they have to recite a Jewish prayer, it makes sense to pick the one that's also a central tenet of their religion.

Unless it's the language it's recited in that's significant?


As many people have pointed out over the years, Jesus was not a Christian, and the Father-Son-Holy Spirit plurality strikes me as incompatible with what the Shema says. This could easily become a very complex and touchy theological/historical discussion, so I just want to note that I meant no offense, my remarks are just my opinion as a Jew who knows a bit about his own faith and about Christianity, and leave it at that.
posted by clockzero at 3:30 PM on March 24, 2013




Can all of this be called "appropriation"?

In the specific context given in the article—namely, the sudden adoption, 2000 years later, of the modern Jewish ceremony, albiet adapted to fit the needs and desires of the Christians involved ("Brian and Tara plan the theme of the bar mitzvah cake. 'How about Christ in the Torah?'"; "wondering along with his wife why there was no male equivalent to the quincineras thrown for girls")—I'm going to say yes.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:35 PM on March 24, 2013


As many people have pointed out over the years, Jesus was not a Christian, and the Father-Son-Holy Spirit plurality strikes me as incompatible with what the Shema says.

Nontrinitarianism is a thing, and the Christian denomination we're discussing is big on it.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:36 PM on March 24, 2013


I...think that's a joke, three blind mice, not a prayer.

No, it;s a prayer.

ברוך אתה ה' א-להינו מלך העולם, שלא עשאני גוי
Blessed are You, Eternal our God[1], who has not made me a gentile.

It's partnered with prayers thanking god, who has not "made me a woman" and "made me a slave."

The traditional explanation for these prayers is that none of these three are bound for the entire collection of religious obligations that a Jewish man is (women are freed from time-bound commandments, in part due to child-rearing). This is in some dispute, and there are some who see these prayers as, well, quite questionable.

It's worth noting that many Jews do not say these prayers. They are not part of the Reform liturgy, as an example.

Also: This is all a bit of a derail, but I wanted to make sure that there wasn't any confusion in the thread. None of these prayers have anything to do with the Shema.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:36 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know when Bar Mitzvah celebrations became A Thing, but it was relatively recently. It certainly wasn't around in Jesus' lifetime; and if it had been then the early Christians would have rejected it: "Bar Mitzvah" means the status of being obliged to follow Jewish law, which is inconsistent with mainstream Christian beliefs about what it is to be a Christian.

I used to communicate with a former member of J4J, and apparently they were quite careful about keeping their incorporation of Jewish practices consistent with Christian doctrine. For instance, they wouldn't recite prayers that said things like "who has commanded us to ...", as they believed that Christians had been "freed of the curse of the Law" and that they weren't commanded to do those things. I got the impression that other Christo-Judaic groups weren't careful, and that J4J looked down on them for this.

While I am criticising people, may I just say that "Bat Mitzvah" should be "Barat Mitzvah", because it's silly to have an Aramaic form for boys and a Hebrew one for girls. Thank you.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:40 PM on March 24, 2013


this topic hits pretty close to home for me.

I am an atheist. My parents raised me as protestant. My grandparents are jewish. On monday, I get to attend the family seder. The seder my family uses is full of unwritten "But the jews were wrong to think that" and "And that's why we hate the egyptians" and "But thankfully jesus will fix the good jews".

This whole thing makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Not only do I not believe in either religion ostensibly being celebrated, but based on last year's excellent post by dmd, I also believe that the holiday itself is motivated by nothing more than nationalistic propaganda.

So, yeah. Bring on the manischewitz
posted by rebent at 3:41 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nontrinitarianism is a thing, and the Christian denomination we're discussing is big on it.

Ah, good point, Sys Rq. Still, the Christian God here is Christ or incorporates Christ, right? Not the God of the Jews, no? And so the God that these Christians are referring to in their recitation of the Shema is not the God of the Shema. I mean, using that logic, you could address the Shema to any deity. That's what makes this appropriation, I would say.

ברוך אתה ה' א-להינו מלך העולם, שלא עשאני גוי
Blessed are You, Eternal our God[1], who has not made me a gentile.

It's partnered with prayers thanking god, who has not "made me a woman" and "made me a slave."


Oh my, I was wrong! As a bar mitzvah'd Jew, I would never say anything like that to God. I think He would be embarrassed for me if I did. That sentiment is totally alien to the Judaism I know.
posted by clockzero at 3:42 PM on March 24, 2013


I don't know when Bar Mitzvah celebrations became A Thing, but it was relatively recently.

Middle Ages. Although references to 13 as the age of majority predate that by a considerable margin.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:45 PM on March 24, 2013


Anyone can say the Shema in the sense that they can speak the words, Jehan, that's not exactly the point. It's that the recitation implies a vision of the divine and the relationship of the Jews to our God that is unique to our tradition, and in that sense, it's entirely fair to say that Christians "can't have" it any more than they "can" recite the Shahada and still call themselves Christians.
But here's the thing, it's not unique to Judaism anymore, and hasn't been for 2000 years. Christians can and do recite it, indeed, Jesus told them to. It means to them whatever it means to them. I agree that Christians shouldn't be thoughtlessly uptaking things that aren't theirs, such as bar mitzvahs. But the Shema is theirs too, it always has been. Christians can't appropriate the Shema from Jewish people any more than somebody from the US can appropriate the English language from the English. It would be unhistorical to argue otherwise.
posted by Jehan at 3:47 PM on March 24, 2013


I don't even believe in God and I still wouldn't thank Him for not making me something else.
posted by clockzero at 3:47 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a reason we talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Yeah, the reason is mostly to exclude Muslims, and define them as "other" from Western culture.
posted by Jimbob at 4:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Nontrinitarianism is a thing,

All the hard work of all thsoe Church Fathers and Emperors and Arianism is still making waves! Next, we'll be seeing Gnostics all over....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:09 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Still, the Christian God is Christ, not the God of the Jews, no? And so the God that these Christians are referring to is not the God of the Shema.

No, you've got that completely wrong. It's ...complicated... but the long and short of it is that, in one way or another, they're the same guy. How exactly that's supposed to work depends on which denomination (of a gazillion different ones) you're talking about, but most agree that God (the Father) is God (the Jewish one), and Jesus (the Son) was basically just something He did for illustrative purposes.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:17 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's one thing to lay claim to a little Judaic tradition as part of Christian development. It's quite another to do it in the name of end times. I've always been amazed by the Israelis willing to accept or tolerate evangelical support because, you know, the latter's plans do not work out well for the Jews.
I wish Christianity had something similar to a bar mitzvah for a young person to accept the faith and responsibilities of an adult.
This kind of reminds me the Times story a few months ago about New York Christians putting mezzuzahs on their doors. It sort of has appeal, too, but you can't just take other people's religious symbols and think they won't mind.
posted by etaoin at 4:17 PM on March 24, 2013


There is a reason we talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Yeah, the reason is mostly to exclude Muslims, and define them as "other" from Western culture.

I don't think the history of the term supports that. It's a term that looks back on faith, not forward.
posted by etaoin at 4:21 PM on March 24, 2013


No, you've got that completely wrong. It's ...complicated... but the long and short of it is that, in one way or another, they're the same guy. How exactly that's supposed to work depends on which denomination (of a gazillion different ones) you're talking about, but most agree that God (the Father) is God (the Jewish one), and Jesus (the Son) was basically just something He did for illustrative purposes.

I think the crux of the issue here is that non-Christians do not necessarily agree with Christians about theological matters.

It's one thing to disagree. It's another thing to make a claim which is then contested, and subsequently ignore or deny the contested nature of the claim. I suspect that the people referenced in the article may not respect the contested status of their use of the Shema, and I think that's questionable.
posted by clockzero at 4:25 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish Christianity had something similar to a bar mitzvah for a young person to accept the faith and responsibilities of an adult.

As mentioned above, for many Christians, they do. It's Confirmation and/or First Communion. In the slightly weird (but, you know, One True) version of Lutheranism I was raised in, Confirmation was explicitly tied to Baptism, with the idea that it was the conscious adult acceptance of the promise of Baptism. Obviously, not all Christian denominations do this, but many do.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:27 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the crux of the issue here is that non-Christians do not necessarily agree with Christians about theological matters.

Evangelicals don't always seem to recognize this....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:28 PM on March 24, 2013


Oh my, I was wrong! As a bar mitzvah'd Jew, I would never say anything like that to God. I think He would be embarrassed for me if I did. That sentiment is totally alien to the Judaism I know.

Worth reiterating that American Reform and Conservative Jews no longer say that prayer. That's most Jews. The Torah and Talmud talk about a lot of things that modern Judaism doesn't follow. Or like this one, that have been changed over time by rabbinic groups to a more enlightened understanding.
posted by zarq at 4:31 PM on March 24, 2013


I've always been amazed by the Israelis willing to accept or tolerate evangelical support because, you know, the latter's plans do not work out well for the Jews.

Well, yeah, but the Israeli Jews don't believe in that stuff, and it's clearly a load of nonsense. Meanwhile they have allies in these deluded fundie Christians. What's the harm?

I think the crux of the issue here is that non-Christians do not necessarily agree with Christians about theological matters.

Evangelicals don't always seem to recognize this....


Evangelicals very often don't agree with each other on theological matters. Christianity is a big tent, and there's a heck of a crazy circus going on in there.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:33 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's problematic to say Christians can't have the Shema - after all, it's in the Torah, which is also in Christianity as the "Old" Testament. And you could never say Christians can't have the Torah, however they choose to interpret it.

But where Jews see it is, "this is our holy document, given to us by G-d, and we don't believe your version, but you're welcome to believe it if you wish (and interpret ours however you want)," Christians seem to take the same two texts and say "these are both the word of G-d, you're wrong, and everything you believe about your book is also wrong." It's not about appropriation, it's about arrogance - but again, that comes back to Judaism teaching that people who aren't Jewish are more or less allowed to believe what they want, and Christianity teaching that everybody who believes anything other than Christianity is both wrong and on the path to eternal damnation (making it your holy duty to set them straight for "their own" sake).

Appropriation comes in with the ceremonies, rituals, and observances that Jesus himself did away with in the name of following his new teachings. When your own god says "you don't need these commandments," then it's pretty arrogant to take them on, reinterpret them, and then say that you're perfecting the practice of the people who never stopped.
posted by Mchelly at 4:38 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Evangelicals very often don't agree with each other on theological matters.

I dunno. Most Evangelicals seem to think that you secretly do agree with them, if you would only stop being stubborn and admit it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:41 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Appropriation comes in with the ceremonies, rituals, and observances that Jesus himself did away with in the name of following his new teachings. When your own god says "you don't need these commandments," then it's pretty arrogant to take them on, reinterpret them, and then say that you're perfecting the practice of the people who never stopped.

Right. But Jesus (who, again, is not God as such, but okay yes he is, but no he isn't, but) (allegedly) said exactly the opposite about the Shema. He said it was the biggest most important thing ever.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:42 PM on March 24, 2013


Catholic confirmation age has moved around a lot. My father made First Communion and confirmation at the same time around age 7. I was 12 and in 6th grade. It has been around 16 for a while now, and while most kids have a party, it is not on the scale of Bar Mitzvah. My one son who stayed in long enough to get confirmed had a picnic party in our yard. It is a matter of choice whether the kid wants to get confirmed or not. Some who did not get confirmed as teens come back later and take classes and are confirmed at the Easter Vigil.

Bar Mitzvahs around here are more like weddings, huge fancy themed things. My Jewish husband just had the Bar Mitzvah ceremony at the synagogue and a small reception there after, no big thing, but that was many years ago and his family were not wealthy.
posted by mermayd at 4:43 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also (and please forgive if this is just continuing a derail), the Jewish view of the mitzvot (commandments) is that it is an honor for us to have been chosen to perform them. The whole concept of the "chosen people" comes from the idea either that G-d singled Jews out for the responsibility of keeping the Torah, or that the Jews alone among the nations chose to do so when every other nation declined. One of the founding myths/teachings in Judaism is that when G-d presented the idea of the Torah laws, the Jews all together responded "na'aseh v'nishma," "We will do, and we will listen" (Exodus 24:7 if you're keeping track) - in other words, first we agreed to do whatever they were, then afterwards we were interested in finding out why and what they mean, and what exactly we had agreed to.

Seen through that lens, the problematic daily blessings make a little more sense and are a little (I can't say entirely) less xenophobic. "Goyim" means "nations" - everybody in the world. It's not a pejorative. So Jews thank G-d for not making them one of the nations - for making them Jews so they are able to fulfill the commandments at all. Then they say thank you for not making them slaves, because Jewish slaves were also not able to fulfill every mitzvah. Finally they thank G-d for not making them women, because women have even fewer direct obligations -- while women say thank you for making them "according to your will," which taken together are either a huge misogynistic cop-out (and is the biggest reason these blessings were dropped by the Conservative, Reform and liberal movements of Judaism), or are a continuation of this theme -- if you are thanking G-d for allowing you to have this amazing opportunity to fulfill obligations, then you give thanks for all that you're allowed -- and if you're not obligated, you give thanks for being given the opportunities that you do have. It's worth noting that most prayers in Judaism are said in the plural (we thank you for giving us / we ask forgiveness for our...) But these blessings are individual (I thank you for not making me...) - it's meant to be a personal statement of gratitude for having the opportunities you have.

I can go into more depth on the Orthodox (and even the Orthodox feminist) perspective on those individual prayers as they pertain to women, but I worry it's a bit too derail-y in a thread utterly unrelated to the subject.

On preview, Sys Rq, I'm agreeing with you re: Shema.
posted by Mchelly at 4:57 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is one of those things where their appropriation of the bar mitzvah doesn't make me feel diminished or hurt or anything like that. It's just odd and silly.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:08 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Truthfully, I think this appropriation of bar/bat mitzvahs has more to do with cultural factors rather than religious ones. Most evangelicals in America don't belong to a subculture in the greater United States (unlike Jews, and to a lesser extent, Catholics), and the culture of the US at large does not have a strong coming of age ceremony, unlike almost every culture out there. When do you become an adult? When do you start receiving the responsibilities of your parents? When are you welcomed into the fold of sacred trust, ready to receive stories of a culture? There's just not a good America-at-large answer to that. I think this absence makes a hollowness for a lot of Americans, and so many try to find a replacement. As odd as it is to see evangelicals to grab onto Jewish culture, they probably feel that it would be a stronger connection (and a religious one to boot!) than pulling Germanic, Irish, Italian, English, or French traditions, especially as evangelicals have a greater racial mix now.

The problem with lack of traditions is that it's very hard to make them convincingly from whole cloth, so if you need a tradition, you do what everyone else does: you steal.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:17 PM on March 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is a Christian bar-mitzvah-like confirmation program called Rite 13 that was developed by an Episcopal church over 20 years ago and requires two years of study. Not sure how widespread it is, but I was impressed by their sample materials (note: pdf).
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:35 PM on March 24, 2013


Does anyone know -- is there an ongoing theological debate about the status of Jewish ritual in Christianity among Evangelicals? Or do they not go in for that kind of thing?

OOKay.....let me just say, as an evangelical Christian who became one because a "completed Jew" took her to church....

Theologically speaking, (Christian theology that is) one of the things Jesus did by his death and resurrection was make it possible for Jew and Gentile to be reconciled into "one new man" -in other words, all who believed in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, would be "one body" of believers.

That said, (and I am fresh with this because I am presently reading in Acts) one of the first controversies in Christianity, right after Jesus died, was -did new Gentile converts need to be circumcised or follow the law? The upshot was, they needed to avoid sexual immorality, food sacrificed to idols, and strangled meat (because they were not to eat blood.) That's IT. They were not expected to follow Jewish ritual or be circumcised.

Now, as far as this thing with bar mitzvahs and prayer shawls? I personally know people who get into this, and I think they are full of crap. That is not part of our faith tradition as Christians, and I do consider it cultural appropriation. Now, when it comes to something like Passover, the thing is we Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of Passover, since he is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for us. Having never been to one, I assume there are Jewish cultural things (such as, oh, the extra place for Elijah) that are cultural Jewish practice and not necessarily linked to what went on in the chapters of Exodus.

So, in a way I can see both points of view. Christians don't believe in multiple Gods, most of us believe in the Trinity-One God in three Persons, so the Shemah has meaning to us as well. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the One that Moses and the Prophets spoke of, the One that was to be sent into the world. Obviously, modern Jews (aside from Messianic Jews) disagree with this.

I personally think Christians with prayer shawls, etc. are ridiculous, and I don't blame Jews for being a bit put off by that. OTOH, we do share the Old Testament, and our roots come out of the same theological ground. But if one is a Zionist, they won't have a better friend than most Christians, because we are taught if we bless Israel we will be blessed, and if we curse Israel we will be cursed.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:37 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obviously, modern Jews (aside from Messianic Jews) disagree with this.

To be clear:

"Messianic Jews" are Christians. They're not Jews. They're not "modern" Jews. Jews don't believe in the Christian Messiah. We don't believe in a triune god. We don't believe in proselytization or the aggressive conversion of others to our faith. We don't believe in the Christian concept of supersessionism. And we certainly don't believe that we need to recognize your belief system or believe in your religion in order to become "completed."

These concepts (belief in the Christian messiah, belief in a triune god or gods, adherence to proselytization, belief in Christian supersessionism,) are orthogonal to Jewish faith and culture. They do not apply to us.
posted by zarq at 6:51 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Somebody, somewhere, must have opened a bar called 'Mitzvah', right? Next to the Holy City Minigolf, or something? I'd like that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


but the long and short of it is that, in one way or another, they're the same guy.

Yes, or more specifically, the same deity. All together the Jews, Christian, Sikhs, and Muslims have the same deity, but all of them disagree on the rituals and who was divinely blessed. The original "One True Name" was probably Sumero-Akkadian, like Anu, Marduk, or maybe Ishtar. Or possibly an Aryan deity.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:07 PM on March 24, 2013


I'm neither a Christian nor a Jew so I have nothing very intelligent to offer on whether this is wrong or not, but I am a devotee of terrible reality shows so after reading this article then watching the HuffPo interview I felt compelled to watch The Sisterhood.

After wasting the better part of my Sunday on it, I think there's an important point missing from this debate: The people doing the "Christian bar mitzvah" for their son are batshit crazy. Even the other people on the show -- and these are people who would willingly appear on a TLC reality show -- think they're two fries short of a Happy Meal. They're wannabe televangalists who seem to have a bizarre understanding of both religions. From what they said (only portions of the actual ceremony were shown) the kid didn't learn any Hebrew or do any study -- his dad said he "didn't have time." He did plan to recite the Shema, which he learned in a day. There was some discussion that the mother (who is not Jewish) might read something -- an idea that was met with horror by their Jewish party planner. We did see the kid give a speech about how he plans to be the first "Jewish African American Christian Conservative" president. And speaking of "Messianic Jews," the whole thing was overseen by this guy.

There's a lot of really intelligent discussion and debate going on here, but uh, I think it's way more of both than these parents put into this thing.

(That doesn't mean this isn't a debate worth having, of course -- according to the article, other people are also doing Christian bar mitzvahs and seem to be a little more serious about them -- but just to provide some context: the people who inspired the article in the first place appear to be crazy attention whores)
posted by retrograde at 7:15 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Messianic Jews" are Christians. They're not Jews

This is how my friend introduced herself to me, and when she was at home and not at art school she was part of a Messianic Jewish congregation led by a pastor with the last name of Cohen. I understand there is some controversy over how people like her identify themselves, but I default to what they call themselves.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:16 PM on March 24, 2013


I understand there is some controversy over how people like her identify themselves, but I default to what they call themselves.

It's not just "some controversy." As far as I know, no American Jewish denominations recognize Messianic Jews as religiously Jewish. Instead they simply view them as what they are: a Christian missionary organization.

Your friend and her organization can call themselves religious Jews. They can mimic our prayers. They can pepper their rituals with words in Hebrew and Yiddish to their heart's content. They can call themselves "completed" or "saved" or any other term.

But no, that doesn't make them members of the Jewish religion.
posted by zarq at 7:32 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Couple of comments deleted; even well-intentioned Holocaust jokes seriously not welcome.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:44 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Catholic confirmation age has moved around a lot. My father made First Communion and confirmation at the same time around age 7. I was 12 and in 6th grade. It has been around 16 for a while now, and while most kids have a party, it is not on the scale of Bar Mitzvah.

I'm pretty sure it depends on the parish (or the diocese, given that the bishop turns up). Where I grew up, confirmation was eighth grade, so 13 or 14, and it stayed that at least until I finished high school. (I went to high school with people from two parishes.) My best friend, who's two years younger than me, grew up in a parish (in a totally different part of the country) that is altogether more conservative, but their confirmation had been at 16 (or older) for as long as she can remember. I don't know if it is just her family, or that parish, but they treat confirmation as much more of a choice than it was where I grew up. I wasn't confirmed, but I think everyone else was as a matter of course. My best friend waited until she was 21 and I think it was typical for every RCIA group to have a couple people being confirmed as adults who weren't converts (though most of them had probably left Catholicism at some point and come back).
posted by hoyland at 7:53 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


No joke intended, LobsterMitten, I'd wager that the trappings of Judaism would go out the window in a heartbeat if the wannabes got a taste of the persecution & pogroms that have followed the Jewish people since forever.
posted by dr_dank at 8:01 PM on March 24, 2013


I'm partly surprised that the Bar Mitzvah (which has been in the mainstream of American cultural discourse, sitcom plots, literature, stand-up comedy routines and such for decades) hasn't yet become de-Judaeified into a broadly secular 13th-birthday coming-of-age ritual yet, in the way that Christmas has been largely stripped of its pagan Christian roots and is now celebrated by Jews, Muslims and atheists alike.

Jews are G-d's Chosen People, but Christians want everyone to join. Jewish holidays have significant history behind them, and often involve rites and rituals, while churches see a significant influx of people on Christmas Eve, to break bread and sing the songs once once a year. People, by and far, are lazy, and if they're not strongly religious or hold onto their cultural practices, any adopted practice is likely to be a simple one. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs seem to require a lot more dedication from the young person than other cultural coming-of-age ceremonies, even Confirmation. At least, my Confirmation experience was pretty simple, with some classes beforehand, but I don't think any of my fellow Confirmants felt like we had passed any sort of threshold into adulthood. But as hoyland said, Confirmation practices vary quite a bit, between denominations and regions.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2013


I'd wager that the trappings of Judaism would go out the window in a heartbeat if the wannabes got a taste of the persecution & pogroms that have followed the Jewish people since forever.

This is really loading up a conversation in a both unfair and inaccurate way. Since some of the "trappings" are not only the result of persecution, but also ended up causing some of it much in the same way a ritual of any religion is deemed wrong by another.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:41 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


With regard to the prayer shawls: how much do you want to bet that the ones Hagee is selling are a nice linen-wool blend?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:58 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Seven years of Hebrew school, all so I could get that last joke.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:11 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


You were robbed, Benito. I ain't been to Hebrew school at all and I got that joke. (Leviticus 19:19)
posted by chrchr at 11:29 PM on March 24, 2013


It is not the first time Christians have wandered into Jewish territory. In Transylvania (Romania) you had the Szekely Sabbatarians, and outgrowth of the original Unitarian movement that eventually was absorbed into mainstream Hungarian Judaism and eventually destroyed by the Holocaust. And there are still communities of Subbotniki in the Ukraine and Russia. Then we have the Bnei Menashe, a group of former headhunting tribes in Burma who converted first to Christianity and continued into Judaism, with many now emigrating to Israel. And let's not leave out the Inca Jews of Peru!

And then there are the numerous African-American Black Jewish congregations... such as the Black Hebrew Israelites. including Orthodox. Check out Y-Love..
posted by zaelic at 3:21 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zarq, would it matter that my friend was Jewish as far as her family line went? I have known plenty of people who identified as Jewish culturally who did not hold orthodox Jewish beliefs, as I suspect you do as well. Or for that matter, how would the Apostle Paul be classified, since he started out a Pharisee of Pharisees, and had all the Jewish bona fides? Does belief trump someone being descended from Abraham? I'm seriously asking.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:54 AM on March 25, 2013


Not to answer for zarq, but I'd say that if you were brought up Jewish (religiously or culturally) and then converted, you can say stuff like "my family is Jewish" or "I grew up Jewish" or things that don't suggest you're Jewish and not another religion. "I grew up Jewish, so I still [have seders] but I am Christian now" is a totally understandable stance. "I am a Jew who believes in the divinity of Christ" isn't, so much.

I know there's a tension between "words have meanings" and "people should be given the choice to self-define", but if I said "I'm a Christian, but I don't believe Jesus was divine, or divinely inspired, or that the Bible is true, or that there is even a God" would you be willing to call me a Christian?
posted by jeather at 5:05 AM on March 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


jeather has it. Thank you.

Does belief trump someone being descended from Abraham?

No, we're talking about two different things here. Let me try to explain.

St. Alia, being born Jewish is both a biological and religious identity. Jews believe that people can be biologically Jewish -- meaning that someone is of Jewish heritage if one of their parents is biologically Jewish (usually the mother) -- regardless of what their level of religious observance is. Or lack thereof.

People can be of Jewish heritage and descent without religion ever being a factor in their lives. So one can choose not to ever follow the Jewish religion and still be considered biologically Jewish. In fact, even if a person converts to another religion and renounces their Judaism, they are still considered Jewish by virtue of their genetic heritage. But they wouldn't be considered religiously Jewish.

There is a difference between self-identifying as someone of Jewish biological heritage and being a religious Jew -- an observant member of the Jewish religion. One can be Christian and of Jewish heritage. One can't be religiously Jewish and also Christian.

Jews simply do not believe Jesus was a messiah. Also, for the most part, everyday Judaism is not really focused on the messiah. (There's an exception.) It's certainly not something that's focused on by the majority Reform and Conservative sects. The concept wasn't mentioned anywhere in the Torah. "The notion of an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who will sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences of our own sins is a purely Christian concept that has no basis in Jewish thought."

Does this make sense?

--

When I talk about Judaism on MeFi, I always try to keep a couple of things in mind:

1) There are many Jewish religious sects and denominations, and some religious/observant/spiritual Jews (including myself) probably don't fit neatly into them. If I speak about "what religious Jews believe," I always try to make sure I speak in general terms, so I don't sound like I'm speaking for all of them. Or trying to impose my beliefs on them.

Each of those sects deserves the right to not be misrepresented. But they all have something in common: as far as I know, none of them think Jesus was our messiah. Not according to any Jewish religious definition.

2) There are tons of non-religious, secular Jews who identify as atheists or agnostics, but also as Jewish. They are of Jewish heritage, yet not religiously Jewish. I wouldn't want to presume to speak for them, or try to impose my beliefs on them, either.

So it's important to draw a clear line in these conversations, between people who are religiously Jewish and those who are of Jewish heritage. If your friend believes Jesus was a messiah, then she is the latter, not the former.
posted by zarq at 6:30 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite (tongue in cheek, needs nuance, etc etc) formulation of this is along the lines of 'you can be a good Jew if you believe in one God or fewer'
posted by Salamandrous at 7:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is a reason we talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition. And this is much, much preferable to the not so long ago history of evangelical Christian anti-semitism.

As a secular Jew, I agree that it's much, much preferable to anti-semitism. However, it is also creepy as fuck.
posted by callmejay at 7:29 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like the "Judeo' prefix was a recent addition, but perhaps I am wrong.
posted by rosswald at 9:12 AM on March 25, 2013


My best guess about the "Judeo-" prefix has always been that it's a post-World War II thing, when the Holocaust made anti-Semitism tacky. It would be interesting to see a linguistic history of the term, track how wide-spread it is at various times.

And most of the people I hear using it strike me as using it to exclude people (Muslims, Atheists, NewAgers, etc.). My take-away lesson of 20th Century Judaism isn't so much "The Jews must be strong" as "Look carefully when people start drawing borders and putting other people outside of them".
posted by benito.strauss at 9:35 AM on March 25, 2013


From Wikipedia:
The earliest use of the term "Judeo-Christian" in the historical sense dates to 1829 in the missionary journal of Joseph Wolff,[1] and before that as "Judeo Christian" in a letter from Alexander M'Caul dated October 17, 1821.[2] The former appears in discussions of theories of the emergence of Christianity, and both are used with a different sense from the one common today. "Judeo-Christian" here referred to Jewish converts to Christianity.[3]

The term "Jewish-Christian" had been used in this sense as early as 1785 in Richard Watson's essay "The Teaching and Witness of the Holy Spirit",[4] and "Jewish Christian" (as an adjective) as early as 1644 in William Rathband's A Briefe Narration of Some Church Courses.[5] "Jewish–Christian" is used in 1841 to mean a combination of Jewish and Christian beliefs,[6] and by 1877 to mean a common Jewish–Christian culture, used in the phrase "the Jewish–Christian character of…traditions".[7]

Early German use of the term judenchristlich ("Jewish-Christian"), in a decidedly negative sense, can be found in the late writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, who emphasized what he saw as neglected aspects of continuity between the Jewish world view and that of Christianity. The expression appears in The Antichrist, published in 1895 and written several years earlier; a fuller development of Nietzsche's argument can be found in a prior work, On the Genealogy of Morality.

The term "Judeo–Christian" did not gain popularity, however, until after The Holocaust in Europe. Reacting against the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany, European and American commentators sought to redefine Judaism as integral to the history of The West.[8] The term has since been used as part of American civil religion since the 1940s to refer to standards of religious ethics said to be held in common by Judaism and Christianity, for example the Ten Commandments or Great Commandment.
I thought the fact that it used to have negative connotations was interesting.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The somewhat close relationship between Judaism and Christianity, including the use of the Old Testament by Christians, was not necessarily a foregone conclusion from Christian origins. You get a sense of some of this in the New Testament. As St. Alia notes, the New Testament records controversies in the early Christian congregations about the role of Judaism. And there were other Christianities that saw this very differnetly. Marcion, for instance, believed Jesus was a different god from YHWH of the Old Testament and proposed a Christian Bible that didn't include the Old Testament.
posted by chrchr at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2013


St. Alia, I do respect the fact that you respect your friend calling herself Jewish. It is commendable, I think. However, in the minds of many observant Jews - or even "lapsed" Jews, for lack of a better word - referring to Messianic Judaism as Judaism is actually very, very controversial. This may be a "tailor your vocabulary to your audience" thing.

I'm pretty sure it depends on the parish (or the diocese, given that the bishop turns up). Where I grew up, confirmation was eighth grade, so 13 or 14, and it stayed that at least until I finished high school. (I went to high school with people from two parishes.) My best friend, who's two years younger than me, grew up in a parish (in a totally different part of the country) that is altogether more conservative, but their confirmation had been at 16 (or older) for as long as she can remember.

I was 16, but there were also some 15 and 14-year-olds in my group. There hadn't been any confirmation in my parish for a couple years prior to that, though. They also skipped the next couple years after that, until my brother and his whole crew of kids were confirmed. I think my parish just waited until they had a critical mass of kids who were all about the same age.

(I was slightly bitter that my brother and his friends got access to a much cooler list of saints' names to pick from; my group was using confirmation names like "Elizabeth" and "John" and "Sarah," but my brother's group was using names like "Conan" and "Aphrica".)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on March 25, 2013


Nothing wrong with the phrase "Judeo-Christian" in and of itself. There is some continuity from Judaism through Christianity, even though obviously the two religions diverged a long time ago.

What adds to the humor of the Christian bar mitzvah is that so many of the Jewish traditions that these Evangelicals are adopting, are traditions that either did not exist during the time of the Nazarene Jews, or they are traditions that are now very different from how they would have been carried out, in addition to the whole thing about how part of the whole point of Chrisitanity was that it was open to both Jews and non-Jews.

The whole thing seems analogous to Tea Partiers dressing in tricorn hats, even though there's often little or not connection between what they espouse and what the Founding Fathers had stood for. It's historical cosplay, in an attempt to create a narrative of oldness and purity. It's all actually quite new, just as Fundamentalism is a recent development.

"Abrahamic religions" covers Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Islam relates differently to Judaism and Christianity, even though there is also a sort of continuity between the three of them.

I thought the fact that it used to have negative connotations was interesting.

Nietzsche used it with negative connotations, against both Judaism and Christianity. He didn't bother invoking Islam, not only because Islam follows Christianity and not vice versa, but also because it wasn't relevant to his milieu in the same way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the fact that it used to have negative connotations was interesting.

Generalizing from Nietzsche can be, um, tricky.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:36 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, so this looks like a good place to ask a question I normally find fraught with potential trouble, with people who understand that I seek knowledge instead of want ammunition for arguments:

If there's no 'messiah' in Judaism, what about those who claim to be waiting for 'moshiach'? I remember signs of "We Want Moshiach Now!" in parts of New York - I believe I heard that it was from the Lubavichers - but the best explanation I could get at the time was that 'moshiach' was a word for 'messiah'... and being goyim I couldn't understand.

(I can accept that, honestly. There's stuff out there I lack the proper frame of reference to understand fully, but at the same time, I'd like to at least have an idea so I don't end up being inadvertantly offensive.)
posted by mephron at 11:59 AM on March 25, 2013


Mephron: Perhaps what is confusing you is that when Zarq says "we don't believe in the Christian Messiah," what he means is "we don't believe Jesus was the Messiah" rather than "we don't believe in the concept of Messiah".

There is the concept of a Messiah in Judaism; it's just that the Messiah hasn't shown up yet (at least, most think that's the case; the Lubivatchers think that one of their Rabbis may have been, but the rest of Judaism disagrees). As for "Messianic Judaism," that's a school of thought that says "yes, the Messiah came - it was Jesus!" And again, Jews disagree on that point.

In fact, that's how one of the nuns I had in Sunday School described how Judaism and Christianity were related and where they branched off - "Christians believe Jesus was the Messiah that we'd been waiting for, and Jews think that He wasn't and are still waiting."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


To add to what the Empress says, the Jewish concept of the Messiah as described primarily in Isaiah and the other prophets, is a political and military leader. He's a savior figure in the sense of liberating the Jews from the centuries of war and strife they had experienced at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians, and later Persians, Greeks, and Romans. There's no sense of redemption from sin or any of that Christian stuff. The Jewish Messiah of the prophets is supposed to restore the Davidic kingdom and throw off domination by foreign powers. The word "messiah" simply means "annointed one", and the Davidic kings were annointed with oil as a symbol of their selection.
posted by chrchr at 12:47 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also worth pointing out: the word "Christ" itself means "the annointed one." It's not a last name.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:07 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


mephron: If there's no 'messiah' in Judaism, what about those who claim to be waiting for 'moshiach'? I remember signs of "We Want Moshiach Now!" in parts of New York - I believe I heard that it was from the Lubavichers - but the best explanation I could get at the time was that 'moshiach' was a word for 'messiah'... and being goyim I couldn't understand.

There is definitely a concept of the Messiah in Judaism. I can't speak for anyone else, but I was always taught it was totally unimportant to how one lives one's life.

chrchr and Empress have the basics, I think. Also see Jews for Judaism's brochure, titled "The Jewish Messiah." It's a pdf download.

One of the links I posted earlier also gives a breakdown. "JewFaq: Mashiach" Here's more from aish.com: Why Jews Don't Believe In Jesus

I don't know much about Lubavitcher beliefs regarding Rabbi Schneerson, other than that no other Jewish sect agrees with them. I personally think their obsession on the topic is very weird and from a Jewish perspective nonsensical, but that's just my admittedly uneducated opinion.

EmpressCallipygos:: Mephron: Perhaps what is confusing you is that when Zarq says "we don't believe in the Christian Messiah," what he means is "we don't believe Jesus was the Messiah" rather than "we don't believe in the concept of Messiah".

Well... not exactly. I appreciate that you're trying to help. But, I meant "we don't believe in the Christian Messiah."

Jews don't believe that Christian beliefs about the messiah apply to us. We don't believe in a messiah who is an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who has supernatural powers (other than leading a bunch of genetically-prone-to-be-argumentative Jews which alone should probably be considered an heroic superpower,) or someone who will sacrifice themselves to save humanity from the consequences of their own sins. Those are all Christian beliefs. Not Jewish ones. They have no equivalent or parallel in Jewish philosophy.

We don't believe Jesus was the messiah. We don't believe that Christian criteria for their messiah apply to us either.
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Dubious claims time, please correct me if I'm wrong: according to Colin Wilson, many followers of Jesus only believed that he was a military, etc. leader. However, almost all of them were killed en masse by the Romans, many in one incident. By luck (?), the faction who believed in Jesus as a divine figure were able to escape.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:12 PM on March 25, 2013


Cool story, Stickerbeast, but there's no historical evidence for it. Wilson is probably inspired by the Bar Kokhba revolt, and is assuming that Bar Kokhba and Jesus were the same person. To be sure, the first century in Judea was a time of ferocious religious and political tumult, and it seems like messianic figures were thick on the ground. Even the gospels felt the need to throw a bone to John the Baptist, which presumably indicates that there were enough followers of John the Baptist around at the time that the gospel writers found it desirable to co-opt him.
posted by chrchr at 1:21 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Empress, chrchr, Zarq, thank you for your explanation and where I misunderstood. I appreciate it, and now I understand better.
posted by mephron at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're quite welcome, mephron.
posted by zarq at 2:08 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zarq, you may find it interesting that even many in the New Testament quit following Jesus while he was alive precisely because they were expecting that military leader. Even the 12 Disciples originally expected the same thing.

In Christian teaching, we believe Isaiah 53 to be a description of the coming Messiah as the Suffering Servant.
(Oh, and as to the expectations of the conquering hero, Christians see Christ's Second Coming to be the fulfillment of THAT.)


I do appreciate the explanations given here regarding what Jews who have converted to Christianity should be called. I too simply see them as Christians but again, those other terms were what I was presented with at the time (1980, if it matters. I don't remember quite the controversy then, but being I was in Florida at the time, I'm sure there probably was some.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is the concept of a Messiah in Judaism; it's just that the Messiah hasn't shown up yet

Take your time. We'll just sit here in the dark.
posted by clockzero at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wilson is probably inspired by the Bar Kokhba revolt

No, it's a different dubious claim entirely.

Now that I'm home, I can actually look this up in A Criminal History of Mankind. Wilson was talking about the First Jewish-Roman War.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:20 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Relevant quote, which I cite more for entertainment than any pretense of accuracy:
At this early stage there were two distinct groups of disciples. The Nasoraeans, or Messianists, were the original followers, who believed that Jesus was a political Messiah who would lead the Jews to freedom. He was still alive, and would in due course reappear to fulfil his promises. (King Arthur later inspired identical beliefs in Britain, and many people were still expecting him six centuries after his death.) They most emphatically did not believe that Jesus was a god in any sense of the word - this would have been contrary to all Jewish religious teaching. The other group, who came to be called Christians, were followers of Paul as much as of Jesus. Within a few years of the crucifixion, this Paul, who loathed the Messianists, had undergone a sudden conversion, which suggests that his original hatred of Jesus was based upon some deep fascination that he found unacceptable. Paul created a new version of Messianism that was far more strange and mystical than that of the Nasoraeans. Paul’s Jesus was the son of God, who had been sent to earth to save men from the consequences of Adam’s sin.
Wilson says that these Nasoraeans mostly died in the First Jewish-Roman War, leaving Paul's followers to create the legacy of Christianity.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:24 PM on March 25, 2013


A Criminal History of Mankind.

That is a very interesting looking book, and I hesitate to read it. Four hundred pages and four thousand years of violence has got to have some effect on one's soul.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:40 PM on March 25, 2013


That's a great story, Stickerbeast, and plausible too, but there just isn't a way to know. Interestingly, Paul's first writings are dated to the early 50s c.e., so Christianity seems to have pre-existed even that early Jewish uprising.
posted by chrchr at 11:15 PM on March 25, 2013


ACHOM is awesome. It's a bit tainted by Wilson's interest in woo (he was as interested in spiritualism as true crime) but he had a long career as one of the most prolific true crime writers of the 20th century, and ACHOM is the distillation of a lifetime spent observing the human condition at one of its more fascinating extremes.
posted by localroger at 5:49 AM on March 26, 2013


That's a great story, Stickerbeast, and plausible too, but there just isn't a way to know.

Yeah, that's the thing. If I had a hard cite saying that this was false, then that would be the end of it, but apparently not much is known about the Nasoraeans (or many other things of the time), so we're just left with Wilson's interesting but unprovable hypothesis.

ACHOM is a really smart and fun book, especially for how it deals with Nero, but it also contains some blatant errors and other weird ideas. Wilson is a clever autodidact and a good writer, but he's not a historian.

Still, it's a good read either way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:02 AM on March 26, 2013


St. Alia of the Bunnies: "Zarq, you may find it interesting that even many in the New Testament quit following Jesus while he was alive precisely because they were expecting that military leader. Even the 12 Disciples originally expected the same thing.

Interesting. I had never heard that. Thanks.

In Christian teaching, we believe Isaiah 53 to be a description of the coming Messiah as the Suffering Servant.

Yeah, I have a couple of co-workers who are Southern Baptist and we talk about this stuff infrequently. The Christian interpretation of Isaiah is different than the Jewish one, which views that section as speaking about the people of Israel, not a messiah. There's precedent for that interpretation earlier in Isaiah, where Israel is named "G-d's servant" or something similar.

The Jews for Judaism site goes into the Jewish perspective in detail, as does Aish.com. Be forewarned that both are framed somewhat defensively, as responses to missionaries. So they're going to say that the Christian perspective is a misinterpretation and wrong.

I do appreciate the explanations given here regarding what Jews who have converted to Christianity should be called. I too simply see them as Christians but again, those other terms were what I was presented with at the time (1980, if it matters. I don't remember quite the controversy then, but being I was in Florida at the time, I'm sure there probably was some.)"

Jews for Jesus would have been around for nearly a decade by then, I think. It would likely have been a big deal within Jewish communities but not necessarily have made news outside of them.
posted by zarq at 10:50 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Noss has done a good job of giving a good overview of the history of religions. The conservative Nazarenes, led by James the brother of Jesus (of Nazareth), still followed the Law of Moses. As Christianity was gaining momentum, there were more and more uncircumcised converts, which upset the conservative sects. Historically that was one of the bigger breaking points from Judaism, by allowing the "unclean" to be baptized into Christianity. Paul was reported to have been born about the same time as Jesus, and actively persecuted Christians until he had a vision of Jesus and made the conversion. Paul became one of the more liberal advocates and since there was such a low bar of admission, the fact that the liberal group of Christians grew exponentially greater than the conservatives is not hard to see why.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:08 PM on March 26, 2013


Religion & Politics.org: Evangelical Ketubah, Messianic Mezuzah: Judaica for Christians. Told mostly from a Christian perspective and barely touches on the concerns many Jews have over these practices.
posted by zarq at 7:10 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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