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Easter And Paganism

Easter bunnies and eggs demean the value, the worth, the significance and uniqueness of the cross by reducing a sovereign God—Who sacrificed everything to save us—to the level of Just Another God among gods. Make all the excuses you like, the fact is, when you allow this emulation of pagan tradition to take place on you watch, you are saying God—our God, Jehovah God, Jesus Christ—is no better than Isis and Juno and all the rest. Rituals and practices designed, from their inception, to deny the holiness of God are inappropriate vehicles for evangelism. Truth is hard. Truth takes investment and commitment. Truth takes courage.

Something For Nothing

We—myself included—have no concept of the actual cost of God’s divine gift to each one of us. I do not have children, but I cannot fathom, in any way, the idea of handing over one of my nieces or nephews to be brutalized and killed just to atone for some heinous crime some stranger committed. Some idiot ran a red light and now my nephew has to get lynched in order to save her. Most people could not comprehend the enormity of such a gift, of my handing over my flesh and blood to be brutalized and murdered in order to save them. Many of us, who call ourselves Christians, are, in fact, indifferent to that sacrifice.

This is the true mystery of God, that He does not destroy us all. Much as God’s love is tough to parse and consider, I struggle, daily, with understanding God’s rationale for not having wiped us all out eons ago. Because we, all of us, me, each in our own way and to whatever extent, are certainly guilty of this behavior. We, all of us, in our own way, want something for nothing. And, having received that inestimable, unfathomable gift, having received something when we’ve given God nothing, do not appreciate that free gift from God. Who sent His only Child to be brutalized, flesh ripped from His bones, tortured, humiliated, marched through the streets, to atone for our mess. And yet we, all of us, live lives that do not honor that sacrifice. And we acknowledge that inestimable, glorious sacrifice by turning away from God and spitting on the cross by indulging in pagan rituals and honoring pagan gods.

I am not anti-Catholic. I do not believe, as many in our tradition do, that Catholics are “not saved” and are, therefore, bound for hell. I believe a devout Catholic can have a thriving personal relationship with Jesus Christ, although I disagree with that church’s proxy system of getting to God through a priest or, say, a set of Rosary beads. What I absolutely take the Catholic church to task for, however, is its long history of compromise with pagan religions, a practice Paul vehemently condemned [I Cor. 10:20-21]. Our traditional celebration of Easter is one such compromise.

After discovering that people were more reluctant to give up their holidays and festivals than their gods, the Catholic church simply incorporated Pagan practices into Christian festivals. As recounted by the Venerable Bede, an early Christian writer, clerics copied Pagan practices and by doing so made Christianity more palatable to pagan folk reluctant to give up their festivals for somber Christian practices.

This is, consistently, the story of Calvary.

In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre (Ostara), whose sacred animal was a hare. The colored eggs associated with the bunny and other Vernal festivals have been symbols of rebirth and fertility for so long the precise roots of the tradition are unknown, and may date to the beginning of human civilization. Ancient Romans and Greeks used eggs as symbols of fertility, rebirth, and abundance- eggs were solar symbols, and figured in the festivals of numerous resurrected gods.

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Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the Spring equinox were common. It was believed that at this time, when day and night were of equal length, male and female energies were also in balance. The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the hare together represent the god and the goddess, respectively. Moving forward fifteen hundred years, German children awaited the arrival of Oschter Haws, a rabbit who will lay colored eggs in nests to the delight of children who discover them Easter morning. It was this German tradition that popularized the 'Easter bunny' in America, when introduced into the American cultural fabric by German settlers in Pennsylvania. Many modern practitioners of Neo-pagan and earth-based religions have embraced these symbols as part of their religious practice, identifying with the life-affirming aspects of the spring holiday. The Neopagan holiday of Ostara is descended from the Saxon festival. Ironically, some Christian groups have used the presence of these symbols to denounce the celebration of the Easter holiday, and many churches have recently abandoned the Pagan name “Easter” with more Christian oriented titles like “Resurrection Sunday.”