Of Mega-Churches and Christmas Trees


At its recent biennial convention in San Diego, the Reform movement apparently borrowed a few chapters from the modern evangelical handbook:

In a darkened room at the San Diego Convention Center last week, nearly 1,000 people clapped, sang and danced to evening prayers, with the words projected on two large screens against a bucolic backdrop of mountain vistas and rolling streams.

Featuring a five-piece band, function changefontSize(id,size,line) { document.getElementById(id).style.fontSize = size; document.getElementById(id).style.lineHeight = line; } a small vocal ensemble and a charismatic, storytelling leader, the weekday evening service could have been held at any of the growing number of mega-churches in America.

In the JTA story, Ben Harris goes on to explain how Ron Wolfson, a professor of education at American Jewish University–home to a Reform rabbinical school–has been attending services at Saddleback Church in Anaheim, Calif., for several years. He has developed a friendship with its charismatic pastor, Rick Warren, author of a A Purpose-Driven Life. And as co-founder of Synagogue 3000, an organization dedicated to revitalizing synagogue life, Wolfson is championing the methods of the mega-church movement.

While my immediate reaction was one of visceral shock, my rational side recognizes that synagogue worship in America has long borrowed from Protestant models. If having a choir in a temple doesn’t make anyone blink an eye these days, it’s only because we’ve grown accustomed to it over the decades. So there’s nothing inherently wrong–or unprecedented–in borrowing worship techniques from another religion.

At the same time, Jews, especially Reform Jews, are a religiously skeptical, politically liberal lot. I suspect many would chafe at the adoption of methods from a movement whose politics are antithetical to their own. And the unabashed embrace of faith found in evangelical churches doesn’t always sit well with modern secular-leaning Jews. But it’s worth a try.

In other news, Julie Wiener nicely dissects the Christmas tree dilemma in interfaith families from all angles, with a lovely shout-out not only to our own Rabbi Lev Baesh, but to his blog comment from earlier this month.

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