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War on Passover?

Evangelicals move in …
 
 
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Interesting story in the Washington Post about the increasing numbers of evangelical Christians who are holding Passover Seders, to the chagrin of some Jewish leaders:

It was just like a traditional Jewish Passover Seder. Except:

The Seder meal was served before the Seder service started, instead of two-thirds of the way through.

There was dancing.

And Jesus was everywhere.

The stripes and the holes in the matzoh represented his whipped and pierced body. The wine (actually grape juice) represented his blood. The matzoh was wrapped in white cloth, symbolizing the way Jesus's body was wrapped for burial.

You don't traditionally find Jesus at a modern Seder celebrating Passover, which began last night. But this was no ordinary Seder. The 250 people at Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring on Tuesday night were holding a Christian Seder, a phenomenon that's gaining popularity across the country -- to the consternation of many in the Jewish community as well as some interfaith leaders.

Although for decades some churches have held Seders to better understand the Jewish faith, many churches, especially evangelical ones, are now giving them a markedly Christian spin. […]

But Christian Seders "set off great anxieties" in the Jewish community, says Christopher Leighton, executive director of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore. "There's this fear that well-meaning Christians will end up confiscating Jewish liturgical property."

Even more, there's the fear that evangelicals are using the Christian Seder to proselytize among Jews. Objectors point to the involvement of Messianic Jews, those who believe in Jesus Christ, and Jews for Jesus, a missionary group that seeks to bring Jews into Christianity, in the growing popularity of the ritual among evangelicals.

Harris and her husband, Michael, who led most of Immanuel's Seder, are Messianic Jews. And they readily acknowledge that the Seders are "a major evangelistic tool," Meri said. "Lots of people bring their nonbelieving Jewish friends, to give them the idea that Christianity is really connected to the Jewish people." […]

Leighton, a Presbyterian minister, said the gradual transfiguration of the Seder in its passage from the Jewish dining room to the evangelical church hall can be "downright offensive."

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer .