There is a growing (and, shall I add, disturbing) trend of blowing shofars (ram’s horns) as a Christian worship practice. I have been aware for some time that some Christians have been incorporating the symbols of Judaism into their corporate worship. For the most part, these practices seem to be taking root in congregations of Dispensationalist and/or Charismatic persuasion. For instance, the first time I saw this syncretistic worship was when I happened upon a John Hagee broadcast. Gentiles (that is non-Jews) were wearing yarmulkes and utilizing prayer shawls in Christian worship.
Now, trying to be charitable toward my fellow Christians, I assume that at least in part the rationale behind adopting Jewish symbols and practices into Christian worship is a misguided attempt to recognize the historical roots of Christianity and to express a sense of solidarity with Jews, in general, and likely with Israel, in particular, given the role of the modern nation-state in Dispensationalist biblical interpretation. I sincerely believe that most Christians engaging in these syncretistic practices of appropriating bar mitzahs, seder meals, prayer shawls, and, now, shofarot have little to no awareness that their practices are more likely to cause offense than to express solidarity and respect. On this point, see this excellent short article by Jean Gerber, “Be Wary of Christians Wearing Kippahs” .
So, not only is the appropriation of Jewish practices and symbols into Christian worship likely sending the opposite message than the one intended by these Christians, the supposedly spiritual rationale behind the use of some of these rituals and the shofar, in particular, is suspect at best and pagan at worst. It is not like having a guest cellist join your band or an Australian grooving on the didgeridoo for sheer novelty. The use of shofarot in supposedly Christian worship amounts to something akin to sympathetic magic.
That is, the shofar are being blown not just because it makes an awesome and unforgettable sound but because it is believed by some (and promulgated by those selling “authentic” shofars to Christians) to effect changes in the invisible (spirit) realm. I have heard this view from a practitioner but just do a google search yourself for examples, if you need more evidence. (See for instance, Shofar Call International )
The blowing of the shofar is supposed to strengthen (or wake-up) the LORD’s angels in order that they might defeat the demons at work in our churches and cities. Now, I believe in angels and demons (which, of course, will make it difficult for some readers to distinguish between my credulity and those I am critiquing here — but I cannot help that at the moment) but I see nowhere in Scripture where such a view of the shofar and its effect is condoned or set forth.
Most of the websites that comment on the use of the shofar recognize its military use in Israel’s history and its (not unrelated) use in worship in the Temple of the LORD of Hosts (angel armies) but the practitioners seem to derive a magical use from this liturgical use. So, I would suggest that this particular and peculiar use of the shofar is neither Jewish nor Christian. So, I think Christians should stop these syncretistic practices and dig deeper into the rich history of Christianity to revitalize their worship and influence on the world.
Simply put, “Christians, Toot your own horn!”
The following are links to some titles that may help Christians dig more deeply into the rich traditions of Christian worship:
If you have any other book recommendations on this topic, please feel free to include them in your comments. IP