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Shunning the Bunny in New York

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

From member station WNYC, Fred Mogul reports.

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FRED MOGUL: Sets are going up for production that will tell the holiday story for an audience of 5,000, with dancing, singing and acting. But this won't exactly be an Easter pageant. At the CCC, they don't use the E-word. Pastor A.R. Bernard makes a point of calling it Resurrection Sunday.

BERNARD: Resurrection is about new birth. It's about life. But what has happened, especially in our American-Western culture, is that people engage in the celebration of the bunny, and the eggs, and the Easter parade, the Easter bonnet. And without any regard to the resurrection of Christ.

MOGUL: He says the distinction, though, is about more than just semantics. It's about standing up for a bona fide, flesh and bones resurrection, not just a mythic metaphoric rite of spring.

BERNARD: I mean, between the Da Vinci Code, and now we're questioning whether Judas was really, you know, the bad guy. Or did he conspire with Jesus, you know, I think it's very, very important that we make clear statements as to our faith. And that is that there is a literal resurrection.

MOGUL: Resurrection Sunday is not new at Bernard's influential mega-church. But editor Tim Morgan of Christianity Today says the repackaging of Easter is a small but growing trend. Evangelicals, he says, are always trying something new.

TIM MORGAN: Christian leaders are seeking to be as transparent as they can when they're saying you come to our church, no mumbo-jumbo, we actually are going to practice what we preach.

MOGUL: At Thessalonia Baptist Church in the Bronx, worshippers have been whipping themselves into shape with services every night of Holy Week. Afterward, Lisa Malone says Easter is a one-day holiday. But Resurrection Sunday is a way of always keeping her spiritual mission in mind. The medical secretary and mother of seven says the message she wants to send her kids is different than the one she grew up with.

LISA MALONE: You have grandparents, or aunts, or uncles, you know, slip them some candy or what have you. But the main idea is to get them to recognize who Jesus is and their relationship with Him. The resurrection means new life to us. Not new bunnies.

MOGUL: Others say the two aren't mutually exclusive. Morgan, the magazine editor, agrees Resurrection Sunday could help Christians focus on spiritual salvation. But he knows there would be an insurrection in his house if his kids didn't get to go to the Easter egg hunt.

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MOGUL: For NPR News, I'm Fred Mogul in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.