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I am a Gentile and a practicing Christian and would like to know how the Jewish community considers some Christians celebrating their own particular forms of a Christian Seder?

Christian Passover

There has been increasing interest among Christians in this ancient festival. There are various reasons for this renewed interest: an increasing sensitivity to cultural and societal problems and a corresponding desire to learn about others; a renewed awareness of the importance of the Old Testament Scriptures as Christian Scripture; a desire or even a need in our modern world to recover a sense of the sacred through liturgy and sacrament; the willingness to find new and innovative ways to worship; and perhaps even the enjoyment that comes from acknowledging the continuity with a 3,000 year old community of faith.

As a result, there has been an explosion of interest in adapting the Passover festival to Christianity. Various organizations, such as "Jews for Jesus," have long promoted Christian Passover services as a means for Jews to retain their cultural heritage while confessing Christian faith. They have also used the Christian Passover as a means to communicate to Christians the Jewish religious heritage that they value.

Our goal here in presenting a Christian adaptation of Passover is to retain the theological, confessional, and educational dimensions of the service. That is, it is presented as a way for people of Christian Faith to express that faith in the context of a gathered community by participating symbolically in the story of salvation. It is presented very deliberately and purposefully as a Christian service, with no apologies. Yet, there has also been a deliberate attempt to preserve the spirit of the Jewish traditions and experience in the service, and to respect the faith journey of Israelites and Jews across the centuries. For that reason, apart from the fact that it will likely be Christians who are participating in the service, the thoroughly Christian dimension will come at the end of the service. After all, that is really how God chose to work in history: to the Jew first, and then also to the rest of us!

Being a Catholic I would like to follow the following approach to celebrating the Christian Seder: The Seder Meal as a Christian Home Celebration: Preparing and Celebrating the Holy Thursday Meal. Some of our ministers are in favor of this, while others are afraid to offend the Jewish community.

Is doing so considered to be offensive in any way to your holy religion? Or is it somehow frowned upon?

How can we celebrate a Christian Seder that would be acceptable to the Jewish community in general?

  • but the Seder is not a scriptural practice. Appropriating it is taking a rabbinic practice. How does that reflect any theological continuity? – rosends Oct 2 '16 at 15:41
  • @Danno I am not quite sure how I should tag this question. – Ken Graham Oct 2 '16 at 15:52
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    It seems it is still "replacement theology" and would not have anything to do with Pesach. – sabbahillel Oct 2 '16 at 18:02
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    I think that this is primarily opinion based. That being said, I will note my personal opinion. If the context is merely to concertize Christianity by emphasizing ritual, as opposed to dogma alone, and naturally turning to Judaism as a source for those rituals, then while it may make some Jews feel violated--having their rituals appropriated by those who historically abused them, I would think that many would feel that on the whole it is mutually beneficial to have a demographic that identifies more strongly with its religion; even one that is far from ideal according Judaism. [cont.] – mevaqesh Oct 5 '16 at 1:56
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    [cont.] HOWEVER, that only goes for internal Christian affairs. If the venue is devoted to missionizing Jews, such as a Jews-For-Jesus event, then that would be insulting by its very nature; the assertion that Judaism does not present its own adherents room for Salvation, for which they must turn to Christianity. Ironically utilizing Jewish rituals for such an event, would only add insult to the injury. – mevaqesh Oct 5 '16 at 1:56
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+100

An ex-Christian once described to me the seder that her church did when she was growing up. It was adapted from the haggadah, the text that we Jews use, but it had some Christian overlays. I don't know if all Christian seders do this; from the description in the question it sounds like this is not uncommon.

Adding Christian symbolism or theological claims to a Jewish practice feels to many Jews like misappropriation. You see this in the deep, visceral reaction that many Jews have to "Jews for Jesus". It's not just that they're luring Jews into Christian worship but that they use the symbols of Judaism to give the impression that what they're doing is compatible with Judaism. (Many of us consider what they do to be fraud.) In a similar way, a Christian "Pesach seder" that likens the three matzot to the trinity or to the eucharist, the pesach lamb to Jesus, or anything messianic that is not entirely in the future, is problematic. In my experience, most Jews who are aware of these alterations would be somewhere between extremely uncomfortable and offended.

You, as a Christian, want to celebrate the history that our religions share. Further, Christianity holds that a key event in your religion happened on Pesach, so naturally you want to celebrate that. I get that. I have a suggestion for you to consider: study or re-enact your traditions for that night -- a re-enactment of the "last supper" rather than a Pesach seder, in other words. After all, you're celebrating Easter, not Pesach. Even if you hold that that meal occurred on Pesach (which doesn't work from the perspective of Judaism, but Christians might not be concerned about that), the Pesach seder of 2000 years ago was not the same as the seder we know today.

If that suggestion doesn't appeal because you want to hold something like a Pesach seder because of your historical connection to Judaism, then consider studying the Pesach seder in an interactive fashion. You could actually do many of the things that are most engaging (especially for children) -- songs like "Dayeinu" (it would have been enough) and the four questions, the recitation and possible re-enactment of the plagues, and learning about and eating the symbolic foods. To this you could add a reading of the text from Exodus. Further, there are parts of the traditional Pesach seder that would probably make your eyes glaze over because they're steeped in traditions of Jewish study that will probably be unfamiliar to you -- so go ahead and skip those. Don't think of it (or bill it) as "having a seder" but instead "studying the seder, with selected parts". (One detail: it would be best if you did not say any of the blessings that contain the phrase "Who has commanded us", since (a) you're not actually holding a Pesach seder and (b) you weren't actually commanded.)

A Christian seder that looks sort of like a Pesach seder but is actually Christian in nature is very likely to bother Jews who know about it. But this doesn't mean you can't teach your community about Pesach if you want; I presume that you teach other parts of the Tanakh (what you call the "old testament") too. The key is truth in advertising; a Pesach seder is a Jewish, not Christian, observance.

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    "Adding Christian symbolism...uncomfortable and offended." Yes. This. – Cyn Jan 21 at 6:58

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