Five Reasons You Probably Shouldn’t Attend a Christian Seder

The Seder plate at Rabbi Joseph Edelheit’s home, including oranges, olives, and tomatoes.

It’s Passover until this evening, and lots of Christians — especially evangelicals — are attending Passover Seder dinners. But they’re not traditional Seder dinners, with Jews. No, they’re a co-opted rite, sometimes hosted by a “messianic” Jew, and sometimes just by Christians who’ve read a Wikipedia entry.

I’ve been to a Seder for the past couple years. My family and I have been hosted by Rabbi Joseph Edelheit, a sometime contributor to this blog, and a dear friend. In his role as director of the religious studies program at St. Cloud State University, Joseph has hosted Seder dinners for Christian students — at the Lutheran campus ministry for instance — but the difference is that he’s really Jewish. He’s a rabbi. He’s not playacting. This is really his thing.

Many Christians, particularly evangelicals, are drawn to primitive Christianity. They want to follow Jesus like those first Christians did, before Constantine and Charlemagne mucked everything up with Christendom. I personally think that’s a noble goal, and I’m not totally averse to it. However, having a Seder meal at your church or Christian college is not the way to do here. Here’s why:

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A Tomato on the Seder Plate

The Seder plate at Joseph Edelheit’s home, including oranges, olives, and tomatoes.

For the second year in a row, Rabbi Joseph Edelheit graciously invited Courtney, the kids, and me to share in his family Seder dinner for Passover. It was a wonderful experience.

There are longstanding, traditional elements on a Seder plate, including maror, charoset, karpas, z’roa, and beitzah. We had all of those.

But one of the things that I like most about the traditions of Passover is that they are open to change and modification, at least in the Edelheit home. Last year, he added an orange to the plate, to show solidarity with women and GLBT persons.

This year, he added two elements. One was tomatoes, in solidarity with migrant workers who work in near-slavery in America:

Over the last few years, the issues of actual slavery (estimates of people working today as slaves in the world today range between 12 and 27 million) and workers’ rights (many, like the tomato pickers in Florida, are said to work in near-slavery conditions) have achieved greater visibility in parts of the Jewish community. Especially at Passover, the holiday that commemorates the ancient Hebrews’ freedom from slavery. Individual seder leaders, and organizations like RHR (which produces an “anti-slavery” Haggadah supplement and table cards that contain stories of modern-day slavery), Boston’s Workmen’s Circle branch and Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, Mass., have incorporated reminders of farm workers’ rights into their seder readings.

This year the tomato — along with words of accompanying text — becomes the latest symbolic food officially added to some seder tables.

RHR and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (the central labor representative of agricultural workers “in low-wage jobs” in Florida) this week announced that they are urging Jewish homes to put a tomato on their seder plate.

Of course, this reminded me of my friend, Brian McLaren, who has been fighting for the rights of Immokalee workers in Florida for several years.

But the other element on the plate really took my breath away.

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Looking Forward to Tonight’s Seder Dinner

Roasting the Passover eggs as I post this. From today’s StarTribune:

Edina pastor and author Tony Jones, a theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch church in Minneapolis, plans to attend a Seder with his family at the home of Rabbi Joseph Edelheit on Saturday. Jones met Edelheit in the Nashville airport, struck up a conversation and became “fast friends,” he said.

“I think the ecumenical and interfaith movements of the late 20th century were great,” Jones said. “But they were almost always at a very high level, a bishop talking to a rabbi talking to a seminary professor. I think for Gen Xers and younger, we’re probably more likely to just reach out and make those connections on our own with our neighbors or our co-workers rather than because our bishop or pastor or priest tells us, ‘Hey, we’re having an official interfaith dialogue between the rabbi and the seminary professor.’

“The fact is, we live in a more pluralistic society,” he said. “Jews and Muslims and Hindus and atheists live on the same street with me, the Christian. Multiple religions has become the very fabric of society we live in.”

Christians have long held an interest in Passover because the events of Easter — Jesus’ death and resurrection — happened during the Passover festival when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem.

Read the rest of the article: A shared Seder that nourishes connections | StarTribune.com.


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