Christians Get Grafted with Jewish Products

Some years back, when I was living in Jerusalem, I knew a very amiable Christian fundamentalist from Texas who had a bit of an obsession about not being Jewish. He attended a Messianic Jewish congregation, and had volunteered to serve in the Israeli army to show his support for the Jewish state. Eventually, by poring over his family tree, he found an ancestor who he decided had been Jewish, and that therefore he himself was also Jewish. I was told that later on he converted to Orthodox Judaism with a view to becoming a Messianic Israeli, which I suppose would be OK as long as he didn’t die during the period he didn’t believe in Jesus. At this point, he was shipped out of the country diagnosed with “Jerusalem Syndrome”.

At the time, I just thought of him as an eccentric, but actually there’s a whole subculture of American Christians for whom Judeo-philia goes far beyond simple Christian Zionism. Case in point: New Day Christian Distributors, which has a page-sized industry advert in the latest Christian Retailing magazine (p. 48):

Are You “Grafted In”?

What Does that Really Mean?

…Romans tells us how we as Christians have been grafted into the Jewish faith. We Christians, in reality, recognize the root from which we have sprung, knowing in the words of our Jewish Lord, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22)

Though historical Christendom has chosen to define itself as “not Jewish”, the truth is that the earliest Christianity was Judaism. Jesus was a Jew and He never changed His religion. Despite attempts to sever its Jewish connection, the Church has ever worshiped the God of the Jews, in a faith that is anchored in a Jewish book, and built on the foundation of a Jewish Messiah.

Whether your customers are Messianic Jews, part of the Charismatic movement or just want to be more in touch with their Jewish heritage by searching for their roots, you can better help them in this area by letting New Day help you!

This means selling items associated with Jewish culture to Christians: shofars, mezuzahs, menorahs (engraved with a Star of David merged with a Christian “ichthus” sign), Kiddush cups, tambourines (“mentioned in Psalms”) and, in particular, Tallit prayer shawls:

Worn in symbolic remembrance to Him and his commandments, used in prayer and worship (very popular with John Hagee, Juanita Bynum, Benny Hinn and Judy Jacobs Ministries)

The company’s website explains the shawl in more detail:

Wearing a prayer shawl establishes a special connection to God. A tallits is more than a prayer shawl. It is filled with profound meaning and religious significance. Just as Jesus (who was also a Jew) told us to take communion in remembrance of him, Christians today are wearing the shawls as a symbolic remembrance of Him. They are using it for worship, prayer and as a symbolic act of the covering that Christ gave us when he shed his blood, as a “covering” of our sins.

Of course, in some respects this isn’t all bad, given the unhappy history of Christian anti-Semitism (still in evidence: the head of the Coptic church recently complained about Vatican apologies for past anti-Semitism since the New Testament shows that Jews are Christ-killers), and Messianic Jews need their religious artefacts. However, one also wonders about the wholesale appropriation of the Jewish heritage by non-Jews; it wasn’t just “historical Christendom” that decided to “define itself as ‘not Jewish’” – Judaism also decided that Christianity was not Jewish. This reminds me of the way some New Agers have appropriated Native American customs and objects, leading to controversy.

Philo-semitism has a long history in America and elsewhere, and a desire to assert some sort of connection or identity with the “Chosen People” has been a perennial urge. However, some recent manifestations have tipped over into the morbid; recently we saw a Nigerian Christian leader tell the Jerusalem Post that “African Christians…would love to kiss the feet of a Jew”.

16 Responses

  1. […] has been a trend in recent years for some Christians to appropriate Jewish cultural products: back in May I blogged on a company which provides Christians (and not just Messianic Jews) with shofars, […]

  2. […] However, there is also a wider context here of cultural appropriation. A few months ago I blogged on the trend by American conservative evangelicals to purchase prayer shawls, mezuzahs, and other […]

  3. […] trend within Evangelicalism to appropriate Jewish artefacts and practices is something I noted here, and this is doubtless what WND hopes to cash in on. Of course, little vials of “Holy Land […]

  4. […] in American “civil religion”. Also, among Christian Zionists there is now trend towards appropriating Jewish culture: buying Jewish devotional products for their own use, affecting to write […]

  5. […] has nothing to do with. I’ve always found it interesting that fundamentalist Christian Zionists, while appropriating all kinds of things from Judaism, have a horror of Jewish mysticism, which is seen as […]

  6. […] with an increasing evangelical desire to appropriate aspects of Judaism – a trend I blogged here. Under the heading “Yom Kippur not just for Jews”, WND gives more detail: The spring […]

  7. […] That’s true enough, but don’t think the lack of actual Jews living in these countries is the determining factor. Many American Christian Zionists also have “abstract ideas of Jews”, which is why Pastor John Hagee, despite his philo-semitism, couldn’t see the bad taste in opining about how God sent Hitler as a “hunter” to persuade Jews to establish Israel. And Jewish culture is also commodified and appropriated by some Christian Zionist groups, as I blogged here. […]

  8. […] the issue to be fudged to some extent. Within Christian Zionism, there is also often (as I noted here) a strong vicarious identification with the culture of Orthodox Judaism and with the Israeli […]

  9. […] of Christianity that appropriates Jewish culture in its worship practices (a trend I wrote about here). Mardirosian is prominent local Christian Zionist, and she was apprently in large […]

  10. […] Christian fundamentalist appropriation of aspects of Judaism is something I’ve blogged on previously; I’ve also recently noted the Jerusalem Connection’s hope that Spanish and Portuguese […]

  11. […] are actually Christians, but like an increasingly large swathe of American evangelicals, they prefer to identify vicariously with Jewish cultural expressions and militaristic Zionism than with the historic […]

  12. […] see John Hagee wearing a prayer shawl, support for the building of a new temple in Jerusalem, and specialist outfits selling Jewish ritual and cultural objects to Christians. Jesus becomes known as […]

  13. […] No evidence is forthcoming, but Messer is certainly known to Paula White and her ex-husband Randy – in 2007, Messer was on hand with his Torah scroll when Randy White returned to the pulpit of Without Walls International Church following the divorce announcement. On that occasion, though, White merely “clutched” a Torah scroll (according to Tampa Bay Online) – unlike Eddie Long, he wasn’t wrapped in it. There is a popular trend towards the use of Jewish devotional items in evangelical Christian worship, as I discussed here. […]

  14. […] Fellowship Church, based in Winter Springs, is typical of a growing strand in American Evangelicalism in which Jewish cultural forms are appropriated as “Hebrew […]

  15. […] is a Messianic Rabbi, and the event also involved the use of a chuppah – there’s a growing trend in American evangelicalism to express the “Hebrew Roots” of their religion by […]

  16. If these people want to convert to a tradition within HISTORIC (not new-age) Christianity that to this day retains a very “Hebraic” ethos, ritual and liturgy, they should look no further than the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, many of whose members descend from Jews (and “God-Fearers”) who voluntarily converted to Christianity in the 1st through 4th centuries. That’s the church Bob Marley joined before his death, by the way. Lauryn Hill was also baptized into it if I’m not mistaken.

    Sadly, I suspect the main buyers of these types of products, despite being very philo-Semitic, don’t share similarly warm feelings toward Africans. Christian Zionists are mostly white Fox News-watching right-wingers, after all, with many of them Southern.

    Thus, a black African Semitic Christian church would give them too much cognitive dissonance for them to seriously consider joining.

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