It now appears that secularists don't like Easter any better than Christmas. Rudolph, Frosty, and the Grinch have stolen Christmas. Now some communities are replacing the Easter Bunny with the "Garden Bunny." I suppose the "Garden Bunny" will promote "Garden Parties" and Easter eggs will get some new moniker as well.
What the secularists don't realize is that the term Easter already denotes heathen observances. The Easter egg and the Easter bunny really have little to do with what Christians celebrate on Resurrection Day. Both have their origin in heathen practices dating back to the days of the early church.
The name "Easter" came from Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre), the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Teutonic people worshiped Ostare, the dawn goddess of fertility. This heathen deity was also known as Ostare, Eostra, Eostre, Eastur,Eastra, Auston and Ausos. Heathen religions of the Mediterranean regions, particularly the Mystery Religions, also celebrated various fertility myths of springtime. Since the earth "came alive" in the spring, heathen religious practices often revolved around the vernal equinox. Secular historians gleefully suggest that Christianity copied from these heathen religions and made springtime a time to celebrate the "myth" of Jesus' resurrection. The major problem with this is that the Mystery Religions came after the beginning of Christianity and the origins of the celebrations in northern Europe are questionable.
Since most public Easter observances have little to do with historic Christianity, why bother with substitutions? What do "Easter Egg Rolls" on the White House lawn have to do with the Christian observances? How is the Easter bunny a Christian symbol? Both are remnants of heathen myths. Perhaps part of the confusion arises out of the fact that many churches today promote their services with "eggstravaganzas," "Easter egg hunts," and giving out "Easter baskets" to the children.
Let me make sure you understand that I, for one, think that coloring Easter eggs is a harmless family activity. Easter baskets filled with candy and chocolate bunnies are okay by me. If parents want to perpetuate the myths while their children are home, I find that little more disturbing than those families that tell their children Santa Claus brings them gifts at Christmas. We gave our children Easter baskets, hunted Easter eggs in our yard, and talked about the Easter bunny. It didn't take my kids too long to figure out that the Easter bunny and Santa Claus were both about 6' 2" tall and weighed around 250 pounds. At the same time, there was greater emphasis on the greatest fact of all human history -- the resurrection of Jesus!
I'm opposed to the secularizing of our culture but I'm also opposed to the paganizing of our churches. It is one thing to decorate a building for Christmas and/or Easter, but it is another to openly promote the commercialism of Christmas or the heathenism of Easter in the church. You see, Christians don't celebrate the vernal equinox. Christians don't celebrate the renewal of springtime. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
After all, the resurrection is the central fact of our faith. Paul wrote that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17). For me, my commitment to Christ is not about discovering meaning or purpose. My adherence to the faith is not grounded in an emotional experience or an encounter with Christ, whatever that means. My decision for ministry is not built on a desire to teach Christian ethics, although I do, or because of the biblical moral code. The fact is, I am a Christian because the testimony of Scripture tells me Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion. The testimony of eyewitnesses recorded in Scripture and the testimony of secular writers and the churchmen of the first and second century convinces me that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week after his untimely death at the hands of wicked men. I can't shake it! Every effort to disprove it fails. Every effort to explain away the resurrection falters. It is true -- it is the best attested event in human history. Anthony Flew was right when he said, "You Christians live on the fragrance of an empty vase." The tomb was empty! Prove otherwise and I'll lay aside my convictions and "eat, drink, and be merry" for there is nothing left but earthly pleasure.
You can substitute the Garden bunny for the Easter bunny or sing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" all you want. I don't care. In fact, I'll join in. But don't confuse these stupid and silly celebrations with the real event -- the birth of Christ and the resurrection of Christ!
Let me close with a word to the wise. People's discipleship will rise no higher than the tools you use to win them to Christ. We already have congregations comprised of shallow Christians who yearn for little more than "baptized heathenism." I don't think that's what Jesus commissioned us to do.