Jesus and the Easter Bunny: A tale of two tales

Easter is just around the corner, and despite a pandemic gripping the world, many spirits are lifted by the prospect of spring and the celebration of this highest Christian holiday. For many children, its religious significance is lost on the promise of chocolate Easter bunnies and painted eggs and not of heavenly bliss.

As a child I loved Easter. I still relish its traditions and grow nostalgic at its arrival each year. The pageantry and celebration of Easter services reminds me of the days I spent reveling in my own faith. There is no time more uplifting and inspiring than Easter.

“He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” (Based loosely on Luke 24:34)

This triumphant refrain will (it is hoped) ring out across churches throughout America. It is the victorious declaration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and with it the hope of millions is secured.

But did Jesus really miraculously rise from the dead or is this one giant hoax? It depends who you ask.

Most Christians when pressed for “evidence” will default to one of two positions. Either they will claim the Bible contains objective, historical testimony which provide incontrovertible proof this event occurred. Or when challenged for proof miracles can take place, they will resort to the, “Somethings are beyond human understanding and this is one of them” defense. Getting a believer to part with this sacred dogma is almost impossible.

I have no ulterior motive to attack this hallowed doctrine other than a sincere quest to know the truth. I used to be a devoutly committed evangelical Christians who lived each day in the light of this glorious truth. When I began the excavation of my evangelical faith it was with one desire: to deepen my commitment to Jesus — not abandon him altogether.

The plain and simple fact is this: Either I had to be true to where logic and reason were leading me, or I had to deny my own capacity for honest rationality as a depraved sinner and ignore what my mind was clearly telling me. I decided to trust God and keep seeking the truth certain he would reward my efforts.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

If there is a God, he is definitely not the God of the Bible. I did everything I could to find the truth and in the end I rejected Jesus. I immersed myself in the Bible for hours and hours everyday analyzing and synthesizing the textual data by using the theological skills I had acquired in Bible college and seminary. I agonized over my faith studying the writings of the church Fathers and historical doctrines of Christianity over two millennia. The deeper I delved, the clearer things became. After years of exhaustive research it was plain to me Jewish Christians had invented the “Heavenly Christ” which Paul then co-opted for his own purposes.

The turning point for me was a careful and rigorous examination of the prophetic link validating Jesus as Messiah was synthetic. It offered illegitimate proof Jesus was who Christians claimed he was, especially as the eternal son of God and returning son of man.

The collapse of my faith was due to a steady and sustained erosion over many years. It was the consummation of intensive study which slowly began to erode various beliefs I had accumulated over fifteen years of immersion in evangelical culture and institutions. Like the frog in a slowly heating bath of water, the loss of my faith was imperceptible until one day I realized it was dead.

I understand we are all at different places on the path of life. I also appreciate most people are trying to live life with as little fear and pain as possible. There is no doubt religions like evangelical Christianity are a tremendous balm for the soul. It offers an escape from fear of death with the promise of a glorious afterlife. It provides soothing comfort in dealing with life’s problems while on earth by offering peace, strength, guidance and even joy amidst its struggles. Why would anyone want to give up these benefits for the sake of intellectual integrity?

Evangelicalism is no longer exclusively private and personal if it ever was. It has roared into the public square with a vengeance during the Trump presidency. Some of its proponents have been seeking to restrict or remove the personal rights and freedoms of those with whom they disagree. Efforts to influence Middle East policy or roll back environmental regulations threaten global stability and viability.

Evangelicalism has grown a militant wing which poses a threat to basic human freedoms and perhaps a disregard for the future well being of the earth under the twin ideologies of apocalypticism which sees the earth marching inexorably towards total destruction and dispensationalism which teaches all Christians (true believers) will be “raptured” out of harms way to watch earth’s cataclysmic end from the heavenly sidelines.

This way of thinking naturally breeds irresponsibility and promotes violence as the human means to a divine end for all living beings. But this of course is a false security which unbeknownst to evangelicals may spell the doom of mankind and not their salvation.

Unless one has been imprisoned by this pernicious ideology, it is difficult to understand both its grip on a believer and its ability to cripple the way one views the world. Science and liberalism are seen as suspect. The unseen spiritual world is accorded a higher status and significance than the mundane world where Satan is thought to rule those controlled by sin (unbelievers).

Imagine if a cult was suddenly placed in control of society. Think how dangerous that would be. Now, what if certain segments of evangelicalism exhibited “cult-like” characteristics. Would they not pose a potential threat both home and abroad depending on their reach and influence?

Herein lies the growing dangers inherent in the actions of those evangelicals seeking to force their biblical worldview on the rest of the world. Evangelicals earnestly believe sin is the spiritual cancer plaguing the world and they alone have the only true cure in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The problem is, according to them, the world is unaware of its own terminal sickness so they have to “force” the remedy on them whether they want it or not. Sound great so long as they are right. Are they right?

Now suppose evangelicals not only do not have the cure but what they offer will in fact make the world sicker. Do we have an obligation to stop them from trying to “infect” others with their noxious ideology particularly the weak, desperate and vulnerable? These might include children of evangelicals, substance abusers and addicts, seniors, mentally unstable, emotionally distraught, financial hardship,

The LGBTQ community and women’s advocacy groups do not fall into these categories per se except they are vulnerable to the will of the majority. Many politicians are only too eager to cow tow to their evangelical constituents in exchange for support.

My personal journey of exploration has taken many years during which time I have experienced great pain and sacrifice. It has not been without significant cost I have finally reached the light at the end of a long lonely tunnel. I have paid the price so others won’t have to.

To try to condense decades of research into a few pages would be impossible. I feel it would create more questions than it answers. I have labored over the years in an effort to simplify my findings in a way others can examine the evidence and determine for themselves its meaning.

I have been diligently trying to publish as many posts as I can to provide as much data as I can for those interested to appraise. I believe anyone who approaches the material without a preconceived faith bias will be rewarded with a fresh perspective of who Jesus really was. But it all begins with doubt. Until one is willing to entertain the possibility they may not know the truth, they will remain stuck in their own prejudices, likely which they inherited from others and did not discover on their own.

Trust in your own intellectual ability to discern fact from fiction, truth from lies. Resist the temptation to default to a faith bias and strive for dispassionate objectivity. Religious propaganda is immensely powerful because it has built in safeguards to prevent defection.

Fear of divine reprisal is the trump card of Christianity.

The Bible contains a wealth of literary material which one could spend several lifetimes studying and still not cover it all. However, how one “sees” the Bible depends on one’s perspective, obviously. Accepting everything the Bible teaches as indisputable inerrant truth does not make you a biblical expert but a victim of religious propaganda. One must adopt a realistic perspective that sees the Bible as exclusively the work of men and not the Word of God.

The men who write, edited and compiled the various books of the Bible were fundamentalists. They had an implicit and unwavering trust in God which is evident in their writings. Thus it is their purpose to persuade their readers/audience of this conviction in hopes of eliciting a faith response. This power of persuasion is the very thing a modern reader must recognize and not succumb to.

Think of the Bible as a religious trap seeking to ensnare its prey through belief. We can understand and appreciate how tempting this was for the early Jewish believers seeking to escape God’s holy wrath. And how attractive the ancient promises were to those first Gentile Christians. Today, there is no excuse for elevating the Bible to divine status and extolling its teachings as absolutely binding.

Jesus did walk the earth but he did not rise to heaven.

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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