A friend of mine who calls himself an agnostic Christian (another blog, another time) invited me to attend a meeting of local atheists. After the meeting, my friend and I, along with several new acquaintances, walked next door to a restaurant where a lively and friendly discussion ensued. These folks didn’t have to wears t-shirts that said, “Friendly neighborhood atheist.” They lived it.
Peter, a journalist by trade, plunged ahead and said, “The question, ‘Does God exist?’ is no more relevant than the question, ‘Does a fuzzy pink bunny exist?’ Because neither one is verifiable. I can say, ‘God created this glass,’ or I can say, ‘A fuzzy pink bunny created this glass.’ They are both meaningless statements.”
“Unless you die and find yourself standing before a fuzzy pink bunny,” I said.
“Then you better hope he’s really fuzzy,” said Patrick, a borderline atheist by his own admission.
The conversation, even when we disagreed, was friendly and jovial. Since Peter brought up a common objection to the person of Jesus, I will briefly give three reasons why Jesus is different than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny (or any fuzzy pink bunny for that matter).
1. Jesus is in a different category than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
The question of God’s existence is a valid question to ask. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that it’s the most valid question to ask. If it was a meaningless question, Peter the journalist wouldn’t be gathering with a group of other like-minded people who question or oppose belief in an infinite personal God. The gathering we came from proves the validity of the question.
There is a reason that groups of people don’t gather together to affirm their disbelief in Santa Claus (and it has nothing to do with staying on the nice list). It’s just not a question in the same category as the existence of a Creator God, because deep down we all know that the implications of an infinite personal Creator God are vastly different than that of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Just because people rename God “a fuzzy pink bunny” or “the flying spaghetti monster,” we still know who they're really talking about — the God who creates from ex nihilo.
All that to say, Jesus Christ is in a category unto himself. No one is writing books about Santa Claus not being great or wishing an end to the Easter Bunny (along with all other holiday figures), because they are simply not in the same category as a Triune Creator God who took on human flesh and died for our sins.
In short, there is no reasonable comparison between them.
2. Jesus is different than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny because of his historicity.
An unbelieving comedian once remarked to me, “Believing in Jesus is about as rational as believing in Santa Claus.” I found that an incredible statement, considering it is undisputed by even the most skeptical biblical scholars that Jesus Christ actually lived. The Santa Claus we refer to in popular culture is a purely fictional character. The Easter Bunny is childhood fantasy. The issue we all must face is that the Jesus of history is nothing less than the Jesus of the resurrection. There is only one reason that an ancient Jewish carpenter from an inconsequential town in the Middle East became famous and that's it. It wasn't his reported miracles or his memorable teaching (though they played a role), but it was the ongoing reports of his resurrection from day one.
The Apostle Paul, another historical figure, quotes an early Christian creed that even the most skeptical scholars date within three years of the events of the resurrection, which says, “Christ was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures.” This has been the proclamation of Christianity from its inception, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. There is no distance between the historical Jesus and the risen Jesus. That’s the Jesus of history — the one who left an empty tomb.
He just didn’t leave room for the telephone game. That much has been verified, even by enemies of Christianity.
3. No One has Ever Been Martyred for Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
It can be safely said that Santa Claus has disappointed everyone who has ever believed in him. That’s why there is no record of anyone giving up her life rather than recanting her belief in the jolly old fellow. Even if you believe Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is Christian propaganda, it is very effective propaganda, because it’s not just tales about people with a death-wish. It relays accounts of actual people with extreme fortitude in the face of death, all because they simply believed that Jesus Christ is risen.
Without the slightest hint of hyperbole, it can be said that Jesus Christ is the most influential person who ever lived. Billions of people are still claiming that Jesus Christ has deeply transformed their lives. Drunkards stop drinking, drug addicts find freedom and marriages are saved, all claiming thanks to this Jesus of Nazareth. People still give up everything to follow him (see the documentary Mully). It can be verified that Jesus Christ has changed the world. We have proof of this in the historical documents known as the New Testament, documents that still have this uncanny ability to change minds, documents that inspire people to say, "I not only believe Christ is risen. I have met him."
If you think we believe because of wishful thinking or stunted intellects or misaligned politics, you haven't investigated Christianity thoroughly enough.
Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are great if you want help marketing products for a holiday sale.
But if you want real hope for real life, Jesus Christ is still your best bet.