This post was recently shared in a Facebook group I’m part of: “No ‘Christian Seders,’ Please!”
Having grown up Jewish before discovering Christianity in college, this piece did a great job explaining all the reasons I feel squicky about this trend in churches. I always thought that the best way to “observe” Passover as a Christian would be to coordinate a seder with a local synagogue and turn it into an educational, interfaith experience. But if Christians want to observe Passover with the backdrop of the Last Supper, perhaps it should be called something else.
Which leads me to a concept I’ve been mulling over for a while, and finally have a name for: goy-splaining.
Like man-splaining, in which men explain things to women in a condescending, patronizing manner that they would never use when addressing other men, goy-splaining is an all-too-common occurrence in which gentiles attempt to explain the Old Testament to Jews. It is often the case that the Christians who do this have never personally studied Judaism for themselves, but rather learned about Judaism or Jewish concepts in church, from their pastor(s).
Needless to say, the inherent bias here is problematic. And as a Jewish-born Christian, I struggled for many years with how to reconcile the Christian take on Old Testament stories and prophecies with the Jewish ones I’d been taught. Which were the “true” teachings? Which was the “correct” way to read Scripture?
I still don’t have solid answers for this, but I do have a few reflections:
If you believe that God divinely orchestrated the writing and binding together of what would eventually be called “The Bible,” then it’s understandable to read Old Testament stories and find parallels in the New Testament. The sacrifice of Isaac, for example, is a parallel to the sacrifice of Christ. And the Passover story, in which the Jews were delivered from slavery in Egypt, can be read as foreshadowing the eventual deliverance from “slavery” to sin, since Easter is just around the corner.
At the same time, the Bible writers – whoever they were – didn’t know about any of this. They were Jews writing hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ, who would eventually be called the Son of God. So their perspectives, circumstances, and the historical context of their writings are not to be ignored.
I’ve reached a somewhat peaceful place of acceptance that two different religions can read the same Scripture differently, and still be valid in their own right. I definitely believe it’s possible for two groups to have differing interpretations without abusing the text for their own purposes. If that weren’t possible, then Judaism as we know it would not exist. Rabbis have debated and disagreed for centuries about context, about exegesis, and hermeneutic, and the Jewish religion as a result is totally cool with agreeing to disagree about many things. You won’t find many No True Scotsman fallacies being used in Jewish circles, which is quite refreshing (unless, perhaps, you are ultra-Orthodox, or a Jew who believes in Jesus, in which case that’s a whole different can of worms).
Christianity, on the other hand, doesn’t have nearly as stellar a reputation of agreeing to disagree. Far too many Christians are completely closed off to understanding interpretations they disagree with. The concept of understanding, mind you, is quite different from having to agree with it.
The attitude of “Those poor Jews, they missed their own Messiah, we should help them out” is extremely disrespectful. “Goy-splaining,” then, is probably one of the most toxic things to happen to Judeo-Christian relations. In the interest of keeping the peace, it needs to stop.