Wouldn’t it be great if Easter wasn’t called Easter? If everyone knew it as Resurrection Sunday instead?
But they don’t.
Our church uses both terms. But, as you can see in the artwork above, Easter is our church’s go-to term, not Resurrection Sunday. Especially when we invite people to join us.
Some ministers believe it’s outright wrong, even unchristian, to use the word Easter at all. If your church doesn’t use the word Easter, I’m not arguing that you should.
But before you criticize us for it, I hope you’ll hear me out.
Here are five reasons we call it Easter:
1. Resurrection Sunday Is Insider Lingo
Years ago, I asked a neighbor if he’d like to attend our church for Resurrection Sunday.
His response? “Uh… doesn’t your church celebrate Easter?”
I tried to explain to him that Resurrection Sunday is Easter Sunday. That the word Easter has pagan roots. That Resurrection Sunday is a more theologically correct term.
He wasn’t buying it. A church that didn’t celebrate Easter seemed like a cult to him and he wanted no part of that. No matter what we called it. Or why.
No, I don’t take my theological cues from nonbelievers. But this wasn’t about theology. It was about a language barrier.
2. Easter Is An Open Door
Easter Sunday is the biggest day of the year for most churches. (But not all. Click here to read Overcoming The Small Church Easter Sunday Blues.)
More unchurched people go to church on Easter than any other Sunday of the year. It’s also when they’re more likely to make real commitments to Jesus than any other day.
Why would I close that door by using a term I have to interpret?
3. Using The Word Won’t Tempt Anyone To Worship Pagan Gods
The primary argument against using the term Easter to celebrate the risen Christ is that the word may have pagan roots. (Or it may not. More on that in Point 4).
But calling it Easter doesn’t mean my church is worshiping the Anglo-Saxon goddess Ēostre any more than calling it Resurrection Sunday means we’re worshiping the pagan Sun God. We’re also not worshiping the Norse god Frigg on Good Friday.
While we’re at it, no one thinks we’re compromising with paganism when we use the terms January and March, which were named after the Roman gods Janus and Mars. We also accept the names of the planets without worshiping the Roman gods they were named after.
4. Easter May Not Be Pagan After All
The origin of the word Easter is obscure. It’s commonly believed to have pagan roots, but many scholars are making some strong arguments that this may not be so. Anthony McRoy in his ChristiantyToday.com article, Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?, claims there’s plenty of reason to doubt what has come to be considered common knowledge.
In another well-researched paper, Why We Should not Passover Easter, Nick Sayers claims that root of the word Easter is Tyndale’s translation of the word Passover. In fact, according to Sayers, the ongoing turmoil over Easter’s supposed Babylonian etymology may all be based on some sloppy scholarship by Alexander Hislop, a 19th century anti-Catholic conspiracy theorist who “boldly claimed Easter was pagan, but offered little proof.”
5. People Matter More than Terminology
A while ago, I watched as a friendly Facebook conversation among pastors turned into a theological battle. All because one pastor insisted that any church using the term Easter was compromising with paganism.
After watching the back-and-forth battle escalate, I clicked on the instigator’s name to read his Facebook page. On it, he describes his church as “one of the few churches that actually preaches the cross.” So maybe we should be more worried about pride than paganism.
How many people have turned away from the church and the message of the resurrection, not because they reject Jesus, but because they can’t see him clearly through the fog of churches and ministers claiming a false moral superiority while causing divisiveness over petty issues?
If you prefer Resurrection Sunday, that’s great. Keep using it. But don’t condemn churches that call it Easter.
Celebrate Jesus and his resurrection this Sunday and every day. And work alongside others who celebrate it with you – no matter what they call it.
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