The Easter Bunny must die! – fear and loathing at the Guardian

There is an article published by the Guardian Newspaper in London in 2010, written by a certain Heather McDougall, which gets trotted out at this time of year.  It rejoices in the title The Pagan Roots of Easter.

Easter is, of course, the festival of Christ’s death and resurrection.  Malicious or dishonest – but unscholarly – writers all over the internet peddle falsehoods about how it is *really* just a pagan festival in drag, and the rest of us endure the avalanche of rubbish.

The object of such claims is religious, of course.  Those making them do so in order to undermine the truth claims of the Christian religion.  The suggestion is an insinuation of borrowing, and therefore of falsity.

Yet, fairly obviously, the question of when Christ died is a historical question, amenable to standard scholarly methods.  If something happened on a particular date, is it relevant to ask whether something else happened, or was supposed to happen, at some other time on the same date?  But to ask the question is to answer it, and answer it in the negative.

But logic has little to do with this, so the argument is kept as an insinuation.  Few of these nasty individuals know much history, even about their own argument, as otherwise they would know that claims that catholic festivals were merely pagan festivals renamed was a stock argument of 19th century anti-papist invective.

So what does the Guardian – the house magazine of the British Establishment – have to say?

Let’s have a look at a few quotes:

Today, we see a secular culture celebrating the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection.

Do we?  I have never met any normal person “celebrating the spring equinox”.

As for “religious culture” – why can’t the author say “Christians”?  Because it sure as heck isn’t the Muslims doing so!  But the reason, of course, is animosity.

However, early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter.

Unfortunately this vague claim is entirely without evidence, to the best of my knowledge.  And what follows will make anyone with any knowledge of antiquity blush!

The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world.

Yes.  She really suggested that a narrative relying on son/sun is ancient; something about the ancient world.  That the ancients did not speak English she does not, seemingly, know.   Likewise I thought everybody knew that the Southern Cross is only visible south of the equator.

But the core claim – that crucified gods were everywhere in the ancient world – is bunk.

There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too. …

I’m sure every educated reader groaned at this.   Did this woman do NO research at all?

Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome.

It’s hard not to feel contempt here.  No ancient source associates Mithras with 25 December.  No ancient source says that they “celebrated” the spring equinox.  The late Roman state sun god, Sol Invictus, was not “associated” with Mithras.  And the idea that it was the “last great pagan cult” is ridiculous.

In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today’s Vatican Hill. Cybele’s lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection.

But, strangely, no ancient text refers to any such resurrection, except Firmicus Maternus in 350 AD, who also tells us that this was part of a ploy by the cultists to evade the attentions of the police by pretending that Attis was just the corn which dies and rises.  For the cult of Attis was a seedy one indeed.  Attis was not “born of a virgin”, in the sense that the reader is intended to understand; his generation myth is considerably more dodgy than that.

And why, pray, is it “ironic” that a pagan cult should exist on the Vatican hill, the location of a mundus?  The answer, I fear, is that Miss McDougall knows nothing about Roman paganism at all.

There was violent conflict on Vatican Hill in the early days of Christianity between the Jesus worshippers and pagans who quarrelled over whose God was the true, and whose the imitation.

This, of course, is codswallop.  The early Christians were an illegal cult, and hardly in a position to object violently to anything.

What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts. So, eventually Christianity came to an accommodation with the pagan Spring festival.

It is certainly true that Christians in the late 4th century came to an “accomodation” with paganism; if we use the word to mean that they made it illegal and destroyed all its temples and banned all its rituals.  Otherwise the claim is nonsense.

Although we see no celebration of Easter in the New Testament, early church fathers celebrated it, and today many churches are offering “sunrise services” at Easter – an obvious pagan solar celebration.

Easter was indeed celebrated by the “early church fathers” – by people like Polycarp, who knew the apostle John personally, for instance.  But not because it was pagan.  Polycarp was executed precisely for refusing to endorse paganism.

I was amused by the claim that people like myself, who get up for an Easter celebration at dawn, do so because of some “pagan solar” element.  Let me reassure the writer.  We get up because we choose to, to worship Christ at the start of a new day.  We do not do so because of some imaginary “pagan solar” celebration!

The date of Easter is not fixed, but instead is governed by the phases of the moon – how pagan is that?

Is the author utterly ignorant of ancient history?  Christ was crucified on the passover.  The passover date was determined by a lunar calendar.  So the date of Easter is likewise determined by the date of 14 Nisan.

How simple is that?  How easy to verify this with a quick Google search?

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures.

Yet the only reference to “Eostre” is in the Venerable Bede, De ratione temporum.  He makes no mention of bunnies.  The custom is a modern invention.  Again, a few seconds on google would have shown this.

There is a madwoman out there named Acharya S who has industriously circulated falsehoods of this kind.  I’m sure she is hugging herself with glee at being given full play in the house newspaper of the British Establishment.

The sad truth is that the editor of the Guardian doesn’t care.  The point is the narrative.  The narrative is “the Christians to the lion”, as it was in Tertullian’s day.

Let us praise God that, in Britain at least, the Christians have not lost their saltiness, and that the wicked still hate them.


Street preacher arrested on frivolous grounds, held overnight, brought to court in Dundee, Scotland

From time to time in every British town you see sandwichboardmen.  These are often elderly men, often alone or with a tiny group of supporters, preaching in the street.  They received their name from their habit of wearing sandwichboards, adorned with slogans such as “Prepare to meet thy God” and “The wicked shalt burn in hell” or similar biblical verses.  They often belong to fringe denominations.  They’re usually working class.  And they are always ignored by everyone.  It must take quite some determination to preach in the face of such indifference, but they do.  They’re entirely harmless.

A few years ago it would have been inconceivable that the police would start taking down their words, arresting them, listening to informers shrieking accusations or worse, bundling them into police vans and keeping them in the police cells for hours on end.  But so it has happened.

I learn from the web that Tony Miano, an American former policeman, was arrested yesterday while packing up after preaching, on accusations from some poor woman shrieking that “my son is gay” and threatening to call the police.  The Christian Concern website tells the awful story:

Police in Scotland have arrested a Christian street evangelist after a woman complained that he had spoken about sexual sin.

Tony Miano, a US preacher and a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, was arrested yesterday (08 JAN) and remanded in custody to appear before Dundee Sheriff Court at 10:00 today (09 JAN).

He was part of a street preaching team holding a week-long mission in Scotland.

He was the second of the street pastors to address lunchtime shoppers in Dundee High Street. He talked about the nature of sin; about the different sins that Jesus had come to save people from when a woman began to shout at him.  He was preaching about sin in general and when he mentioned sexual sin including adultery, promiscuity and homosexual practice, the woman shouted that her son was gay.

Mr. Miano’s colleague, Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, who was present at the incident explains: “Tony wasn’t focussing just on homosexual practice – it was about all sin. A woman was yelling at him and her friend noticed we were filming the preaching, so she ran up to me and tried to smash my camera.”

He says the first woman then appeared to be calling the police on her mobile just as a council warden came along and said that while we were doing nothing wrong, and had the right to free speech, we should move on.

Mr. Miano finished his preaching in a few minutes and as the street preachers packed up two police officers arrived.  At this point Pastor Williamson says the women shouted that they would get the preachers arrested.

“The female officer saw we had a camera and lunged for it and then the male policeman grabbed it and threw it in the police van,” says Pastor Williamson.

He says the male officer interviewed the women and then immediately arrested Mr. Miano, but did not question him or explain why he was being arrested.

“After Tony was put in the police van I asked why he was being arrested and was told it was for a breach of the peace and for using homophobic language,” says Josh Williamson.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, says the incident raises serious questions about police procedure and understanding of the law in dealing with such incidents.

“This appears to be an overzealous reaction by the police. The incident, adds to the number of arrests of Christian street evangelists for preaching from the Bible. It is indicative of the suppression of the freedom to speak  and live out the words of Jesus Christ in public and present the teachings of the Bible,” says Andrea.

She adds that the Christian Legal Centre is ready to serve anyone who is challenged for expressing their Christian beliefs.

“At the Christian Legal Centre we are committed to helping people to continue to preach the Gospel in our nation.”

Tony Miano was arrested in July last year, in London, for alleged ‘homophobic’ comments. The case was dropped.

He has been remanded in custody to appear before Dundee Sheriff’s Court today (09 JAN) at 10:00.

We need not blame the police.  There can be no doubt that the political establishment has instructed the police to harass and arrest anyone who makes any public criticism of homosexuality, and to treat complaints about this as a priority.

Of course the case must be dismissed.  But Mr. Miano has been given “the process is the punishment” treatment.  The object, clearly, is to intimidate him.

Let us congratulate Tony Miano for his courage in confessing Christ and preaching on this subject, despite the threats of the establishment.

Let us pray, both for the poor woman who informed on him, and the police officers — nearly all decent people — who have been obliged to do this evil, and all involved.

UPDATE: Apparently the court has granted him bail (!) and obliged him to return on 22nd April, in nearly 4 months time.  Very bad.


Christian Union banned at US university

The tide of religious persecution in our universities has reached yet another nadir.  I learn today via Virtue Online here of this news report:

Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts has banned a Christian group from campus because the group requires student leaders to adhere to “basic biblical truths of Christianity.” The decision to ban the group, called the Tufts Christian Fellowship, was made by officials from the university’s student government, specifically the Tufts Community Union Judiciary.

The ban means the group “will lose the right to use the Tufts name in its title or at any activities, schedule events or reserve university space through the Office for Campus Life,” according to the Tufts Daily. Additionally, Tufts Christian Fellowship will be unable to receive money from a pool that students are required to pay into and that is specifically set aside for student groups.

There are various procedural pretexts for this hateful action.  One of the bigots even posted (anonymously) a “justification” in the comments section at Virtue Online, which reveals the real intent:

Had the group dropped the “biblical truths” requirement, and adopted democracy, they could have still chosen leaders who shared their beliefs, albeit with a ballot and not discrimination.

The technique is becoming familiar.

All student societies are open to all students.  Christians are a minority.  Any student may be a member; so naturally the leaders must be believers.  Otherwise a group of hate-filled non-Christians — and clearly we have some here — can gather a mass of drunken unbelievers in the bar, turn up to the vote, and simply take over the society in one go, and vote it into non-existence.

Precisely the same technique was used in the Exeter University persecution in England.  The pretext is “anti-discrimination”, as a means to prevent the Christians on campus from having recognised groups and blocking their access to funds which Christians are obliged to contribute to.

I have written to the PR department for Tufts university to enquire whether the university endorses this action, and if not, what it proposes to do about it, and likewise to the president of the university.  No university should allow vicious attacks on minorities like this.

I have also written a response to the anonymous persecutor on Virtue Online.  It occurred to me, as I wrote that the “Christian groups on campus” not selected for persecution must be gnashing their teeth at being found unworthy.  For persecution is the litmus test of sincerity.  “Not all those who say, ‘Lord, Lord’…” after all, and “They have hated me and they will hate you”.

The Lord has allowed this persecution, I think, to make clear in the eyes of the whole university who is, and is not, Christian.  Which is rather encouraging, isn’t it?  Well worth the inconvenience.

UPDATE: I got a response from a certain Kimberley Thurler at the Tufts University PR department.  But the email, as from the university, was in fact merely the text of a statement on the university chaplaincy site here.  The chaplaincy, then, is the voice of the university and vice versa.  The statement means nothing, unfortunately, except that the university endorsed the persecution and is now trying to deflect the criticism.

Curiously this official university chaplaincy — and therefore the university — has an official religious policy which is officially non-Christian:

The University Chaplaincy upholds the Universalist tradition and commitment to inclusivity.

I could not but be reminded inexpressibly of official Roman religion, when I read those pages.

I find this site reports on it.  A comment links to this article by one of the haters (does not display in IE), a certain Brandon Archambault:

As a Christian and a Tufts student, I am calling for the immediate de-funding of the so-called Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF), a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (IVCF). IVCF continues to promote anti-gay hate speech while acting as the oversight advisory for TCF’s funding, taken from the Student Activities Fee. This is unacceptable.

Last October, I was threatened by an employee of IVCF. They told me to be careful about whom I complained to, because “the last time this happened it cost everyone a lot of money, and we had to get lawyers involved.” (etc)

As IVCF New England Regional Director Chris Nichols told me in Nov. 2011, if a gay person was elected to an exec-board position, refused to resign and IVCF could not otherwise compel them, then “IVCF would not continue its relationship with that chapter.”

Note that this person has apparently been harassing IVCF for almost a year.  In the comments is the following dry response to this hysterical piece of hate:

… they didn’t really threaten you. It appears you have been threatening them (you’ve been leading efforts to defund them for months now), and they just informed you that they intend to do everything within their power to stay on campus. It’s not really a threat to say that lawyers will get involved when you are the reason that the lawyers would have to get involved in the first place.

Isn’t it curious that accusations against the Christians always come from those involved in vice, either personally or commercially?[1]  Why any university worth the name would tolerate the activities of this revolting individual to introduce a censorship is rather hard to imagine.

UPDATE (19th November 2012): An article in the Wall Street Journal online indicates that Tufts has a history of repressing political dissent too.  Which raises the question: why doesn’t some conservative foundation sue the heck out them under US free speech clauses in the constitution?

  1. [1]Tertullian, Apologeticum.

When the political establishment wants to edit the bible

A piece at Dyspepsia Generation, “If only we could edit the bible” drew my attention this morning.  It quotes a Huffington Post article.

I have often wondered–quietly and usually to myself–what would happen if we could edit the Bible.

After all, textbooks get edited and publishers bring out new and improved versions that are more in tune with how things are, instead of how things were.

Wouldn’t it be good if some ecumenical committee could go through the Old Testament and take out all the language about stoning people to death for breaking various rules?

In fact the author would like to see wholesale revision of the bible, to make it “more in tune with how things are”.

But what do we mean by “how things are” in modern America?  Isn’t that an appeal to the climate of the times?  To the values espoused by those who control the media agenda?  Is it not, in fact, the product of a sustained campaign of social manipulation unparalleled in human history?  Indeed it is.

Such a suggestion is a call for the bible to be edited to reflect the wishes of the winners of that civil war, what is sometimes called the “culture wars”.  The winners are the people who wanted fornication in place of chastity, for instance.  It is hard to see that these are people who have any respect for the bible; rather these are people who would seek to use it to impose their own wishes.

All this stirred a memory of William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and his description of the Nazification of the state Lutheran church.  If my memory serves me correctly, a Nazi demanded the abandonment of the Old Testament, with its tales of goat-thieves and cattle herders, and the revision of the New Testament “in accordance with the principles of National Socialism”.  The latter phrase meant that the New Testament should be edited to restore some pretended “original version” in which Jesus was not a Jew, and the church did not have Jewish roots.

Trying to find that quote, I stumbled across the Google Books preview of Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany.  I have read a few pages, and I think that I had better get hold of the book.  It illustrates brilliantly how a state controlled church can be corrupted by a political establishment that holds it in contempt, and the sort of antics that the establishment’s fellow travellers get up to.  If we look past the fact that this is Nazis who want to bash Jews, and replace them with the kind of person who seeks to normalise unnatural vice, we find so many similarities.

And of course the specific cause is unimportant.  It could be any cause.  But the objective is always the same:

Christianity was not to be banned nor the churches outlawed; rather, as the historian Ernst Piper writes, Nazi strategy was to control the churches and lead to “a steadily advancing process of delegitimization and disassociation, of undermining and repression” that would undercut the church’s moral authority and position of respect.[1]

We may look at the demands made today upon churches, with the backing of the state.  At the moment there is the demand to appoint women priests and bishops, to appoint gays to similar positions, to endorse vice of every sort.  In this, do we not see the same process?

Those who make these demands of the church hold the church in contempt.  They laugh as churchmen solemnly attempt to square the circle between the bible and demands made only because they are opposed to the bible.  The fellow-travellers cause chaos as they force their demands through by a mixture of incessant dirty politics, backed by allies controlling the power of appointment, and a constant media atmosphere in their favour; and the establishment enjoys the chaos in an organisation that would otherwise opposite their policies.

Nor should we omit the constant drip-drip of “dirty vicar” stories, and the “church endorses child abuse” stories which somehow never apply the same rules to schools or Boy Scout groups.  The urge to damn the whole organisation by association gives the game away.

You can serve God or the world.  Ultimately all of us must decide which we intend to do.

It is easy, perhaps, to condemn the fellow traveller, if we are not in any way tempted to do the same.  Let us not become proud.  The devil has other temptations lined up for us!

The history of the church is made up of such struggles.  The devil, the author of all this, does not care if any particular struggle is won or lost, so long as Christians are prevented from preaching the gospel.  The worldly and contaminated archbishop is a constant figure in church history.

But he can only matter to us, if we let him.  We must not focus on such things.  Where two or three are gathered together, there is Christ.  He is who we must focus on.

UPDATE: I have found in a snippet part of the quote from Shirer that I recall.

…the Old Testament “with its tales of cattle merchants and pimps” and the revision of the New Testament, with the teaching of Jesus made “to conform entirely with the demands of National Socialism …

The same quote, in a somewhat different form, is referenced to p.237 in a web page, although in what edition is not indicated.  But clearly the author has read the same material that I did:

On November 13, 1933, the day after the German people had overwhelmingly backed Hitler in a national plebiscite, the ‘German Christians’ staged a massive rally in the Sportspalast in Berlin. A Dr. Reinhard Krause, the Berlin district leader of the sect, proposed the abandonment of the Old Testament, ‘with its tales of cattle merchants and pimps’ and the revision of the New Testament with the teaching of Jesus ‘corresponding entirely with the demands of National Socialism.’ Resolutions were drawn up demanding ‘One People, One Reich, One Faith,’ requiring all pastors to take an oath of allegiance to Hitler and insisting that all churches institute the Aryan paragraph and exclude converted Jews…

This latter form is repeated around the web in various places.

  1. [1]Heschel, p.9

The mystery of human nature: the determined evil-doer

A party-political article by Andrew Klavan entitled Shame incidentally gave a splendid picture of one of the key problems of our age (and of every corrupt age):

Over the course of time, I have seen many people ruin and waste their lives. Good people, smart people, talented people who sacrificed the gift of existence to drugs, alcohol, bitterness, self-abuse, fear, and anger. In every case, always, I felt the root cause was unacknowledged shame.

At some point, these people had come to confront — as we all must — their cowardice, their weakness, their dishonesty, or their foolishness. Unable to accept the pain of an honest assessment of their brokenness, they turned their eyes away and practiced denial instead. In an attempt to avoid the agony of their shame indefinitely, they created whole new philosophies of life. If, for instance, they had backed down when they should have stood up, they declared nothing was worth fighting for. If they lied when they should’ve spoken true, they declared truth was an illusion. If they succumbed to desire when they should have resisted, they decided continence was a game for puritans and fools.

In order to feel justified within this new philosophy, they not only had to continue in the bad behavior that shamed them in the first place, they had to condemn any good behavior that held the mirror up to their secret self-disgust. This always involved them in blatant self-contradiction. The person who believed there was no truth would accuse others of lying. The person who said all sexual behavior should be accepted would declare chastity unacceptable. The person who believed tolerance was the highest value would find those who disagreed intolerable.

Ultimately their stratagems of self-deception destroyed their integrity, and their hidden shame festered and ate away…  well, everything; the whole joy of living.

This really does seem to be  a feature of our times.  Who cannot name various bold, determined people, utterly set on doing some mad and evil thing, and equally determined to ensure that no-one may express even the mildest opposition without risk to their reputation, their property, their livelihood or even their liberty?  The reader will be able to give his own examples of this kind of conduct. 

It affects Christians.  Indeed it accounts for the bitter hostility towards Christians and Christianity in the mass media, which conditions the reflexes of most ordinary people.   The author has the current round of Moslem violent protests in mind, and the craven attitude of the media towards them, when he writes:

The people who booed the God of love, now rush to the defense of a hateful Allah. The people who p***** on the Christ of redemption, now bewail the hurt feelings of a damnable Islam.

But there are so many examples one might mention. 

Probably few of us, reading this, have any temptation to this soul-destroying behaviour, because few of us have the power to do so.  But it is an evil, and we need to remember that behind these people is, as ever, a violated conscience.  It is pathetic, therefore, to accept the demands of these people; for they will hold us in contempt for doing so.  They know, and we know, that what they demand is wrong.   We must have the courage to say so, clearly.  They may send us to prison for doing so.  They will deny that is their reason for doing so.  But they will respect us for it.