(Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)
Christians celebrate Easter to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but can believers also embrace fluffy bunnies and decorated eggs also associated with the holiday without taking away from the Gospel message?
"The commercialization and secularization of Easter speaks to a culture committed to extrapolating faith from the public sphere," the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told The Christian Post. "Easter is not about a bunny. Easter is about the lamb; crucified and resurrected. Although I have no problem in activities that engage children and provide space for conversations regarding Easter, the most transformative week in history, the Passion week and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ cannot be sacrificed on the altar of cultural expediency."
While churches across the world celebrate the holiday, the name "Easter" is not biblical as it is derived from Eastre, an Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess of Spring. According to the Daily Journal, Eastre had a rabbit as a companion which explains the incorporation of Easter bunnies and egg hunts during Easter Sunday celebrations.
Roger Sing Oldham of the Southern Baptist Convention said Christians have mixed feelings about the secular traditions popularly associated with Easter.
"Devout followers of Christ are divided on whether it is appropriate to have Easter egg hunts. Many host such events, seeing them as opportunities to meet individuals in their communities," commented Oldham, member of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. "From these contacts, their hope and prayer is that some will hear and respond to the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ."
He added, "Others view such secular events as unbecoming to the gospel of Christ and do not participate in these kinds of activities. In both cases, however, the central truth of the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the core message Christian churches preach and teach during this season and throughout the year."
Dr. Quentin P Kinnison, assistant professor of Contemporary Christian Ministries at Fresno Pacific University, said in an interview with CP last year, that secular symbols such as bunnies and eggs were oftentimes used by Christian missionaries when evangelizing to others who did not have knowledge of Christianity.
"The use of eggs in particular has been used to identify the essence of life and the resurrection of Christ. By using these known symbols within the culture, Christian missionaries find ways to connect and communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cultures unfamiliar with the biblical stories and narratives," said Kinnison.
However, he also noted that the practice of using such items for Easter should be done without compromising the message behind the holiday.
"What becomes problematic is when we lose the meaning of the symbols and they take on new or different cultural values that are antithetical to the Gospel," said Kinnison.