Easterphobia or Why Do You Have to Throw Christians Under a Bus?

i-hate-easterYour newfoumd (sic) respect for a holiday named after a goddess is coupled with a newfound (sic) contempt for Hebrew Roots.

While you say your new book is about respecting others, I notice in your blog posts, comments, and writings, the Hebrew Roots whom your organization once seved (sic) is referred to almost exclusively in the negative light. Your above comment is no exception.

Judah Gabriel Himango
from a comment on the blog post
God Fearers: Easter Ham or Passover Lamb?

If you’ve been reading my blog over the past few days, you’ve seen how my own recent Easter experience went as well as my own inability to make a connection to the observance. Nevertheless, I don’t think Easter is evil, wrong, bad, or pagan, whatever the origin of the name of the observance. I suppose my Pastor used terms such as “Resurrection Day” and “The Lord’s Day” last Sunday to get around that little problem, but since there were absolutely no bunnies or eggs present (well, eggs were probably served for brunch, but most likely they were scrambled), I didn’t see any obvious idolatry involved.

I didn’t want to write on the conflicts between some minority expressions of Hebrew Roots Christianity and the more traditional Christian churches, but when I read some of the comments on Toby’s blog post, including the one I quoted above, I couldn’t let it lie (and I didn’t want to start something again with Judah because I actually like the guy). My personal struggles are what they are, but I get a little tired of Hebrew Roots people playing the “superiority” card and saying that Christians in churches are terrible people because they won’t embrace some of the Hebrew Roots priorities. Frankly, such bigotry against Christians by these groups is ill-befitting of anyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ (or Messiah if that’s your preference).

I was just talking about this issue a couple of weeks ago when discussing the problem with religious people. If a religious person, particularly in a minority variant of Christianity which sees itself as above or superior to the majority of Christians, encounters other believers who hold different views, sooner or later, there’s going to be a “spitting match” in the blogosphere. I have tried avoiding blog posts such as this one because I didn’t want to participate in such a match, but where do I draw the line when I see unjust comments being made against believers by other believers?

I suppose I could have ignored this poorly considered jab against Christians who celebrate Easter and that would have ended it, at least from my point of view, but it was included in a collection of remarks that were direct responses to something I’d said on Toby’s blog. Yes, I still should have ignored it.

But I chose not to.

Boaz Michael, author of the book Tent of David, which I mentioned on Toby’s blog, corrected something I said:

TOD addresses Easter, “Another area of difficulty involves the observance of Christian holidays. Some churches heartily embrace some of the pagan-derived aspects of Easter and Christmas. Understandably, this makes many Messianic Gentiles uncomfortable. The simple solution is not to go during that time of year. It should not have too significant an impact on your relationships there to miss church for one or two weeks; in fact, it’s quite common for people to be out of town during holidays.”

tent-of-davidLate last year, I deliberately didn’t go to church for Christmas services for more or less the reasons Boaz stated, but to my way of thinking, Easter is the “higher” tradition as far as the church is concerned. The crucifixion and resurrection of the Master is at the center of all things and without these events, there would be no salvation for all of mankind. That the church should ignore something so vitally important seems ridiculous and while I believe the Passover Seder could have much meaning for Christians, it doesn’t always cover the full, expansive intent and glory of the risen King.

So I chose to attend Easter Sunday services at my church and did not consider such services optional. As I mentioned above, it wasn’t a spiritual “power surge” and I ended up feeling more disconnected from the community because of my lack of emotional attachment, but that has more to do with me than the importance of fellowship and the beauty of watching a new day dawning and knowing that the tomb is empty.

One of the other comments Boaz made addresses this point very well:

Actually, the consequence of Tent of David is not necessarily the celebration of Easter but rather a respect for those that do honor the resurrection of the Messiah. It is about learning to see the good in others, appreciating and valuing people’s attempts to connect with God. It is about learning to manage things Easter with love and care of the individual that is sincere in their intentions and efforts. It is about building relationships that will create bridges of dialog.

At the end of the day TOD is about respecting others, not assuming evil intentions, and a mission of transformation.

He said, It is about learning to see the good in others.” Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?

Nevertheless, I’ll probably get “slam dunked” by my critics and my friends alike for how I’m wording all this, but what I’m writing at least has the benefit of sincerity and transparency. If you disagree with how different churches do things, then don’t go to those churches. If you have a problem with church in general, you don’t have to go to church. I don’t complain about where you go to worship. Why do you (whoever you are, since I’m addressing more than one disgruntled person at this point) have to complain about where I choose to worship?

I know Judah was complaining more to Boaz about TOD than he was to me, and I don’t think Judah intentionally disdains all people who go to church and call themselves “Christian” instead of “Messianic,” but the Boaz has a point. Even if we struggle with some of the practices in the church, we cannot dismiss her or her service to Christ. We must, since we also call ourselves disciples of Messiah, learn to see the best in others. After all, Christ died, even for those believers we may not like or don’t agree with. If Jesus thought his sacrifice, even for “those people,” was worth it, who are we to say he was wrong?

28 thoughts on “Easterphobia or Why Do You Have to Throw Christians Under a Bus?”

  1. “the importance of fellowship and the beauty of watching a new day dawning and knowing that the tomb is empty.”

    Ahhhhh, just beautiful James, thank you!!

    Also, I remember hearing a young lady say that FFOZ, it’s leaders and materials, are hard to ignore because they basically slap you upside the head with grace and kindness.
    I have to agree. And it’s way more “Messiah like” than being slapped upside the head with ridicule.

    Blessings,
    Ruth

  2. I’m sure you realize that not everyone has the same opinion of FFOZ and their materials, but it’s hard to get past the quote of Boaz saying that we should learn to see the good in others and to build bridges.

    That said, I’m going to cringe every time I see that a new comment has been posted on this blog until I determine that it isn’t someone out to attack me for such viewpoints.

  3. James, always tapping the “sensationalist keg” :P, by the way, I posted on the blog as well, I am hoping FFOZ can address some of their more apparent contradictions, they are clearly looking for an audience (smiles), and I of course enjoy the discussion…

  4. I’m afraid I must join the chorus against Easter or the Christian attempt to focus on a Resurrection Day whose timing was deliberately severed from its Jewish connections to Passover and First-Fruits celebrations. The legacy of the Council of Nicea and its Christian calendar of events is still anti-Jewish, even if we downplay or minimize any reference to pagan symbols or names. The Reformation offered some improvements in several areas, but nonetheless left a number of needed corrections undone. One of these was the fundamental disdain for Jews and their views that left the wild olive branches unable to be nourished by the Jewish Root of the cultivated tree. Thankfully, the degree of disdain has diminished somewhat, so that Easter celebrations are much less likely to instigate violent anti-Jewish pogroms as once they did. But is a remembrance of an empty tomb on the wrong calendrical day sufficiently meaningful? For me, remembering the mere fact of resurrection is not sufficient — there is so much related context that is required to provide a satisfactory degree of meaning to it.

  5. “My personal struggles are what they are, but I get a little tired of Hebrew Roots people playing the “superiority” card and saying that Christians in churches are terrible people because they won’t embrace some of the Hebrew Roots priorities.”

    Amen James!!

  6. James, I think what Judah was actually getting to in his 2nd response to Boaz was not at all about how and where one worships, but about the general trend lately by those who have adopted the FFOZ, UMJC, etc viewpoints regarding “Divine Invitation”, Bilateral Eschatology, etc to constantly paint Hebrew Roots congregations (that haven’t adopted that view) in a negative light.

    – “While you say your new book is about respecting others, I notice in your blog posts, comments, and writings, the Hebrew Roots whom your organization once seved (sic) is referred to almost exclusively in the negative light.” –

    I think Judah has a point. And this is by no means an attack on you or anything of the sort, just an opinion as an observer. One of the big criticisms being given against Hebrew Roots congregations (those of a One-law opinion) is that they are constantly belittling the church and church traditions. In all honesty, while people (not said with a negative tone) like FFOZ and UMJC have changed their view of churches and have started to affirm the church’s place in G-d’s salvation plan, certain Hebrew Roots congregations have become the “bad guys”. Nothing positive is ever said about them, they are always being painted in a bad light, their viewpoints and theology gets dismissed and sometimes even belittled, etc. They have in fact taken been “excluded” as being part of the body of Christ by many of these organisations.

    I therefore understand Judah’s frustration and I do think he has a point. Many in Messianic Judaism have been painting Hebrew Roots congregations primarily in a “bad light”.

    Derek actually said something the other day that made me think exactly about this:

    – “I believe God has been working in Judaism and Christianity and we should see God in both, while recognizing human failure also.” –

    When I read this I immediately thought, isn’t G-d working in Hebrew Roots Congregations as well? Or is it a movement completely devoid of Him? Isn’t the Hebrew Roots movement also a movement of G-d in which we also need to see the human failure?

  7. I’m chiming in on James’ side of this (if there are, in fact, “sides” here… something I’m sensing but could be wrong about). It is one thing to disagree with someone about something in the Hebrew Roots movement and another to disrespect someone about something in the Hebrew Roots movement. As a follower of James’ blog I am only aware of his patience to those who comment, contentious and immature as they may be. And a few, I’ve noticed, have been contentious and immature. I have often commented in my remarks about this, thanking James for setting a standard for grace and kindness. To disagree with another person or with aspects of another movement is not automatically labeling them as the “bad guys.” Jaco makes a good point, however. Perhaps when criticizing one should balance the criticism with something positive… if only as a conceptual “lubricant” or gesture to help “the medicine” of the criticism “go down.”

  8. @Zion: Actually, most of the time I don’t “tap the sensationalist keg.” This blog post admittedly is my emotional response to how I perceive Christians being dismissed as pagan and apostate by a number of Hebrew Roots groups because the church doesn’t hold to the same perceptions. Most of the time, I try to post uplifting and inspirational meditations. You just never come around when I do. 😉

    @PL: I understand that historically, after every Passion Play, there’s a pogrom, so the Jewish interaction with Easter has never been a good one. On the other hand, I think that’s beginning to change, at least in some circles. Also, while Resurrection Day is a tradition and not an appointed time, many traditions can have spiritual meaning. I know that FFOZ has suggested following the Hassidic tradition of “the Meal of the Messiah” as an alternative to Easter for some, but if people like me are ever going to reconnect to the church, then celebrating Easter in one manner or another is going to have to happen. I doubt it will be a commemoration that Jewish Messianics will feel good about. When Messiah comes, I don’t doubt that we’ll all learn new things and be corrected.

    @Kaye: Thanks.

    @Jaco: I did acknowledge at the end of my blog post that I realized Judah was responding to Boaz and not so much to me, but I think it behooves people in Hebrew Roots to be mindful of how their words are perceived by those who are just “passing by,” so to speak (and we should all be mindful of this). Attacking Easter is going to be perceived as an attack on everyone who celebrates it. If you clicked on the links I provided that describe my personal experience with this last Easter, you’ll see I didn’t exactly “have a blast,” but I did notice that it was exceptionally meaningful on a spiritual level to most of the people who serve the Messiah, that is, “Christians.” Like it or not, Hebrew Roots is going to have to accept the fact that in most cases, the hungry are being fed, the sick are being visited, and the grieving are being comforted by the church. It’s not a matter of saying, “They celebrate Easter so they are pagan.”

    I understand that there’s a rift between organizations like FFOZ and UMJC who are defending Jewish covenant uniqueness and identity and many Hebrew Roots folks. Both sides chafe at what they perceive as the other side’s insensitivity to their needs.

    When Derek distinquishes Judaism and Christianity, he could very well (and I’m guessing here) be including Messianic Judaism in with the other Judaisms and Hebrew Roots in the same category as Christianity. Even when I was part of the Hebrew Roots movement, my Jewish wife called me a “Christian.” I just stopped thinking it was a bad name and agreed to accept the definition. After all, what is a Christian but a follower of Christ, the Messiah?

    I’m sorry about Judah’s frustration, but it’s not all about him. Everyone that was named in my blog and in these comments is frustrated, too. I wrote this blog post out of a sense of frustration. I don’t enjoy these little games and spitting contests, and I’d much rather write about my faith in the coming Messiah, my discussions with my Pastor, my evolving understanding of Paul, and the books I review.

    This blog is primarily a day to day chronicle of my journey of faith, which sometimes includes adventures in being intermarried. I don’t want to waste my time “rabble rousing” and there are enough of those sorts here in the blogosphere.

    But whether Judah intended to or not (and I hate talking about someone behind their back), his words had a detremental effect on those believers who cherish the resurrected Messiah and the risen King. Loving the fact that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, according to the prophets, to show the way to an everlasting life and a promise of restoration for national Israel is not a bad thing.

    Does God work through the Hebrew Roots movement? Probably just as well as He does through Messianic Judaism, the other Judaisms, and all the other Christianities…with varying degrees of success. I’ve known Hebrew Roots congregations who were very Messiah and service centered, authentically helping their communities and treating others with lovingkindness. Unfortunately, because the Christian/Hebraic movement casts such a large net, others who have a theological ax to grind also can put on a tallit and kippah, call themselves a “Messianic Rabbi” and teach all manner of strange things. I know that Judah is not any of those things and neither are most of the people I permit to comment here (I have to set aside some of the occasional “exotic” comments for the sake of my readership, so you’ll never know about them), but as I said before, we need to be mindful of our words, even when they say what we don’t intend them to. Think James 3.

    1. @James – You pose a particularly poignant question with your phrase “if people like me are ever going to reconnect to the church, then …”. I realize that this is the current theme of your blog, reflecting your present personal exploration. But the question to which I allude is one of “who must connect to what”. I invoked the term Reformation deliberately in my last response, because it will never do merely to re-connect Christians with the church organizations that seem to be available. The reasons for which they became disaffected from them must be addressed. In the USA, the mid-1960s was a period that strongly affected the way Christians perceived Christianity, and the fellowship of believers. While it did not do away with existing church organizational and doctrinal structures altogether, it did create alternatives that have become quite popular and thereby even prior structures have been modified as a result. Was this a modern Reformation? It might qualify, because even as the original Reformation resulted in Protestantism as an alternative outlook to Catholicism, and Lutheranism as a particular denominational expression, Evangelicalism has now arisen in response to the recent renewal, as have a host of quasi-Jewish-oriented responses along with Jewish renewals and MJ itself. Yes, the revolution among Christians was paralleled by a Jewish one. The original Reformation impelled theological development, some of which was positive and some of which has recently been discussed on this blog for its arbitrariness and injustice about deciding who may be “saved”. Similarly, a good deal of theological development has been pursued within the past half-century, with similarly mixed results. The work is not yet complete, and individual Christians must demand change and not merely seek reconnection. It seems to me that in some degree you have been doing so in your conversations with Pastor Randy. Hence I invoked an example of past errors relative to Easter celebrations, and their theological source in Imperial Roman Christian attitudes reflected in the Nicene Council decisions. Perhaps something like the “quartodeciman” view should be reconsidered, and perhaps it is time to put away the remaining erroneous views that were favored and promoted by the Emperor Constantine. Who knows but that perhaps even the ancient schisms between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism might fade into history along with Protestant sectarianism, and Christians might be reconciled with Jews? Certainly an end result similar to such reconciliations will characterize the messianic era. The degree to which such might be pursued even now in anticipation of it remains to be seen.

  9. Perhaps when criticizing one should balance the criticism with something positive… if only as a conceptual “lubricant” or gesture to help “the medicine” of the criticism “go down.”

    I’m working on it, Dan. Thanks.

  10. I just think that, in a time of uncivil discourse in every aspect of post-Judeo-Christian/postmodern society, that those believers who take the time and make the effort to speak with civility should be supported and encouraged to continue to do so. And that those believers who refuse to engage in civil discourse would be well served to cease and desist if their representation of Messiah is less than worthy of an individual representing the King of king’s.

  11. Completely unrelated here, but right when I checked the title of this meditation, the TV Guide was on “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”

    I thought the similarity of the two titles was, rather, coincidental? 🙂

    Peace to you, all.

  12. @Nate: Coincidence, I think. I’m pretty sure there are other story titles that are similar. 😉

    PL said: The work is not yet complete, and individual Christians must demand change and not merely seek reconnection. It seems to me that in some degree you have been doing so in your conversations with Pastor Randy.

    Yes, we (or at least I) must be the change we want to see in the church.

    …perhaps it is time to put away the remaining erroneous views that were favored and promoted by the Emperor Constantine.

    And that will take time and effort.

  13. Thanks for this post. Personally, I, as a ‘recovering pastor’ wrestle with much of Christendom that is off the track and chooses to justify itself rather than admit error. I love my brothers IN the church and am glad Abba used the church in my life to bring me to this point in my journey, but I also recognize, truth is truth.

    Some need well reasoned truth, others a gentle whisper, still others need a sharp rap on the side of the head… (I was of the latter kind! LOL!) All messages can be given in love, though may not seem loving.

    Constantine has been in the church for 1800 years +/-… I doubt we have 1800 to remove him…

    Certainly, HR needs to show much love, but anytime tradition is tested by truth, the assumption is that the one pointing out the error (HR) is unloving… So be it.

    Thanks for your willingness to tackle the tough subjects in your blog. I do enjoy it.

    Shalom!

  14. Oh, poor James…You stand for nothing therefore you fall for anything…The Jewish Rabbis you so admire, if you ever get a chance to talk to them will tell you unequivocally that Easter is Pagan and that Christianity took a Jewish book and corrupted it to the core… And yet you run around kissing everyone’s butt…Make up your mind and stand for something…

  15. I am not trolling. I am just exposing you hypocrisy. You bash the HR movement for Bashing the Church, but God forbid you say anything about the Rabbis. You are lacking what the Bible say about equal weights and measures…

  16. I am not trolling.

    That’s a matter of opinion, but I’ll let it slide for now.

    Actually, I take exception to how far authorities, both the Jewish and Christian varieties, can overwrite the Bible in this blog post. Also, in today’s morning meditation, I speak critically of how far Christian “halachah” can extend itself beyond the Bible in comparison to the Jewish sages. I’m hardly being unfair, Dan.

    You are lacking what the Bible say about equal weights and measures…

    That’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black in terms of how you and your associates characterize not only Messianic Judaism, but the traditional Christian church.

    Oh, and I’ll remind you again that my tolerance for these back-and-forth debates is very limited. I didn’t create this blog to simply engage in theological spitting contests.

  17. Jaco Olivier wrote, . . . isn’t G-d working in Hebrew Roots Congregations as well? Or is it a movement completely devoid of Him?

    As a supporter of FFOZ and affiliated with the UMJC, I have never heard anyone say either of these things either publicly or privately. I do not know anyone who casts doubt on the fact that we are all members of the one Body of Messiah. Beyond that, we differ strongly with HR on some issues we consider to be essential.

    Perhaps you and HR in general can agree that God is at work in FFOZ and the UMJC, and that we are not devoid of God, but are fellow members of the Body of Messiah even though you differ with us strongly on those issues?

    IMO, that would be a good place to start.

  18. Perhaps you and HR in general can agree that God is at work in FFOZ and the UMJC, and that we are not devoid of God, but are fellow members of the Body of Messiah even though you differ with us strongly on those issues?

    IMO, that would be a good place to start.

    Indeed.

  19. Carl wrote… “Perhaps you and HR in general can agree that God is at work in FFOZ and the UMJC, and that we are not devoid of God, but are fellow members of the Body of Messiah even though you differ with us strongly on those issues?”

    Just like you, I also NEVER said that God was NOT working in FFOZ or the UMJC. I believe He is. I merely stated that (or try to state) that when I read Derek’s blog, that was the thought that went through my head because he (and many similar to him) tend to focus only on the negative side of the HR movement. I also tried to state that I understood Judah’s frustration that a ministry that use to support his, and those of similar believe than him, now tend to only write negative things with regards to that movement.

    Carl also wrote… “IMO, that would be a good place to start.”

    I actually have respect for the UMJC, and tremendous respect for FFOZ. I actually support them and have read and will continue to most of their material. I could not attend Boaz’ Tent builders seminar in Cape Town earlier this year (work), but asked many people within the HR movement here in Cape Town to attend. In the past three years I have been following Derek’s blog everyday, I also started with his online courses at Ancient Bible. I have been following James’ personal journey back into the church ever since he started this particular blog. I’ve read all 91 Keshner Journal articles I could download for free. I’ve also read the 37 articles I’ve downloaded from Messianic Jewish online. I do understand that this does not mean that I know everything about the UMJC or FFOZ or anyone who holds similar believes. But, I’ve made an effort to try and understand where you all are coming from. I’ve learned a great deal and agree with much of what you believe. So, I actually do believe that God works in FFOZ and within the UMJC. If my question offended you in anyway, I am sorry. It was not my intention.

    But, I’ve also read the “other side’s” work. (I won’t name any of the names in respect for James’ opinion). There are many people I completely disagree with, and I completely understand where you guys come from when you say these people bring tremendous harm to the Jewish people and Messianic Judaism. But, I’ve read and listened to some amazing people – wonderful children of God, who does amazing work. Apart from that, I also work for a Christian ministry that believes in Replacement Theology and list Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots under Occultism. So, I am actually walking the “Tent of David” walk.

    My current understanding and believe is probably between FFOZ’s Divine Invitation and type of “One Law” theology, and I agree with you that all of us are part of the one body of Christ.

  20. It’s interesting because when I was at FFOZ’s Shavuot conference last year, it was obvious that the people there represented a wide variety of perspectives, from “straight up” Christians to “hard core” Messianic Jews, and everything in-between…including many HR folks. We may not always agree with each other, but if we can acknowledge that what we have in common is being disciples of the Master, then we can use that foundation upon which to build a dialog.

  21. I don’t know if anyone is still visiting the comments of this blog post, but part of the “passion” that inspired discussion is the perception that most of Christianity is still antisemitic and supersessionist. However, I just found an article at Aish.com called When Christians Repent, which represents a major effort of dozens of Christian leaders from 40 countries on five continents to reject supersessionism and to repent for the great harm the church as caused Jews over the last two-thousand years. I think it’s time to wake up and realize that Christianity is changing. Sure, it doesn’t include all churches everywhere, and change is slow in coming, but those people out there who have given up Christianity as a lost cause have given up too soon.

    Like I said, be the change you want to see in the church. This group of Christians have done just that.

    1. This is a tremendous “afterthought,” James… I’m going to contact them as their emphasis on repentance and the theme of my Holocaust-related book are so interrelated. Thanks. Very hopeful… ~ Dan

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