are coming up on Easter. It's no wonder that kids are
confused about the meaning of this festival. There's
as little connection between the Easter Bunny and Jesus
as there is between the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs.
Was the Easter Bunny Jesus' pet rabbit? Does the Easter
Bunny lay eggs? What's going on here?
means candy to a kid in the same way that Christmas
means presents. My sister and I always came down on
Easter morning to find two baskets sitting on the dining
room table, green ribbons of fake grass spilling over
the sides. We already knew the contents - jelly beans,
cream-filled chocolate eggs, one huge egg-shaped chunk
of milk chocolate and, inevitably, a chocolate rabbit
wrapped in transparent plastic, just twitching to have
its ears bitten off. The Easter bunny had made his appearance
during the night.
remember when my parents tried to demythologize the
story for us. One day after Easter, when we were both
in early grammar school, my mother sat us down with
a grave expression on her face. It was the look of someone
about to share the news of a death in the family. Solemnly,
she clued us in to the truth about our favorite rabbit.
Soon after, she set out to dispatch that other sacred
icon. Santa, she announced, was as phony as the bunny!
I was thunderstruck. What was there left to believe
in? In a flash of insight, I said, "And I suppose
there is no Tooth Fairy either!" Mother just shook
her head silently.
a moment, I exploded, "You lied to us!" Years
later, my mother confided to me that she had never forgotten
the impact of those words. Our childhood myths had all
been laid to rest, packed carefully away in the closet
of time awaiting the next generation. Life was never
quite as innocent after that, for two reasons: 1. We
took the first step away from the innocence of childhood
and learned that it is possible to survive without having
to believe in magic; 2. We learned that you have to
examine mystical stories before embracing them as literal
descriptions of the real world. In other words, we were
confronted with the difference between magic and metaphor.
we come to a beautiful religious irony. Our parents
told us these stories knowing that they were not true,
in the full awareness that one day they would have to
untell them and admit that they were merely beautiful
mythological traditions. But then their Fathers in the
church told them equally fantastic fairy tales, and
our parents, like trusting children everywhere, accepted
the stories as gospel. And they clung to them with the
same unquestioning faith that children lavish upon Santa.
What stories am I talking about?
turning water into wine. John 2
Jesus walking on water. Matt. 14
Jesus stilling the storm. Matt. 8
Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after four days.
are many other examples, but these four stories will
serve to make our point. We live in a scientific age.
We are sophisticated about the ways in which things
work. We know what physics, rational observation and
common sense tell us. Rabbits do not bring us candy.
Fairies do not stick money under our pillows. Reindeer
do not fly. People do not walk on water or wave their
hands and chase away storm clouds. Corpses are not resuscitated
after four days in the tomb. And even the most talented
alchemists cannot turn water into wine.
do we fail to see the similarity between the Tooth Fairy
turning teeth into cash and Jesus turning water into
wine? Simply because these stories are told in connection
with religion, we suddenly lose our incredulity and
are willing to believe anything. It's clear to the historian
and the objective critic that these stories were added
to the Jesus saga to make it more awe inspiring, to
strengthen his credentials as the Son of God, and to
attract new converts to this miracle worker. When I
was in seminary, I heard another of these stories -
The boy Jesus, helping his carpenter father, once stretched
a length of lumber to make it long enough to fit the
required spot. Many such stories were rejected as obvious
myths, so why, in a supposedly enlightened age, don't
we do the same?
survived learning the truth about the Easter Bunny.
In the same way, we will one day be able to experience
true spirituality without a dependence upon myth. These
Biblical stories will become the strings which, when
pulled on, will unravel the tapestry of mythological
narratives which form the design of religion. That does
not mean that we'll lose our faith in God. It means
that we will come ever closer to the truth about God.
We must learn to believe in a spiritual world grounded
in modern revelation, not ancient credulity.
have to remember the two steps we learned as children
- the need to give up a belief in magic, and the responsibility
to examine everything we are told before embracing it.
God is real, the spirit world is real, encounters with
spirit entities really do happen, we are all spiritual
beings, which means that we are part of each other just
as we are part of God. These realities do not depend
upon magic or religion. They are our birthright. When
religion gives up its mythological past, its assertion
that it is the only way to God, its sexual bigotry,
and admits that it is only one of the many paths to
the God of all people, then we will be free to move
into a new spiritual age.
John W. Sloat 2008