On Easter weekend, President Biden issued a personal commentary to Religion News Service that the White House encourages “all who celebrate Easter” to read. But that invitation excludes a lot of us Americans, 35 percent of whom are not Christian.
Most of us celebrate “Easter” — the natural spring holiday, not necessarily the Christian myth of dead bodies emerging from graves. Easter is not a Christian holiday, even though Biden seems to think it is.
The word Easter is not found in the gospels. It appears only once in the New Testament, and only in the King James Version of Acts 12:4. The original word, which all other versions use, is pascha (Passover). Since the Christian celebration of the resurrection follows the Jewish Passover (the first sabbath after the first full moon after the vernal equinox), and since April was known to the translators as “Easter Month” (named after the spring goddess Oestre), they crudely replaced pascha with the name of a pagan deity. And that is what we are really celebrating — the end of winter and the promise of brighter days.
Biden’s overall Easter message is admirable: There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. However, he equates the light with Jesus: “The light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5). But is fighting the pandemic the true “message of Easter?”
“Let us recommit ourselves to the lessons of Easter,” Biden urges. What are those lessons? According to the New Testament, Easter has nothing to do with improving our natural lives. The bible says we are all depraved sinners who deserve never-ending torture, but if we will humble ourselves before the Lord, we can accept his bloody death on the cross and his miraculous resurrection from the grave as a promise of eternal life in heaven. Fighting a pandemic is irrelevant to all of that. Fighting a pandemic is something all humans can do in this world.
I call Easter a “Christian myth” for good reason. Biden seems to be unaware that the five New Testament reports of the resurrection of Jesus are irreparably contradictory. If you arrange those accounts in the order in which they were written, you can see the footprints of legendary growth, from the simple stories by Paul and Mark to the decades-later extraordinary exaggerations (angels, earthquakes, ascension, etc.) by Matthew, Luke and John. (See my book Godless for details.) The resurrection is not a believable story.
Worse, the entire Christian message fails the test of truth. The god Biden believes in promises to answer prayers, yet those prayers — especially to end the pandemic — are not being answered.
Biden ends his commentary by saying, “For Christians, there is no greater symbol of hope and possibility than Easter — and in this season, it is our responsibility to reflect the light we see by working to ensure a better year ahead.” That is his well-meaning opinion, but why write an op-ed just “for Christians”? Where is his op-ed for the non-Christians, including for the one-fourth of Americans who are not religious? We are all suffering through the pandemic. We are all taking joy in this natural rebirth: spring. Should the president of all of us be using his secular office to send an inside message to his fellow believers that excludes the rest of us? After all, it is the light of science that is reflecting real hope to the world. Biden should be applauding that light, not the false light of faith.