For the last two days I’ve been trying to imagine what our world would be like had Jesus never been born. It’s easy to say that The Church would not exist or that we would have no Pope. There would be no priests, deacons, religious sisters or brothers, nor there would be church buildings. But Christianity has permeated our culture to such degree that it’s really impossible to envision a world that is not influenced by Jesus and his life.
Imagine a singer, Madonna Louise Ciccone. Had Jesus never been born, her parents would not have named her Madonna. In fact, had Jesus not been born, there would be no references to Mary in our culture. There wouldn’t be a song by the Beatles called Let It Be, nor there be other songs such as Virgin Mary by Joan Baez, or Lady Writer by Dire Straits to mention a few.
In fact, the name Mary wouldn't be a popular name. Nor would be Joseph, or Peter, John, or James. Had Jesus never been born, you wouldn’t have any friends named Elizabeth, Madelaine or Veronica. You wouldn't have any friends named Gloria, Christian or Christina. Imagine a Latin America without the thousands of men born on December 25th named Jesús, or anyone named José María, or Marie-Josée. I guess they would still exist but their names would be Quetzalcoatl, Yupanqui or Summer.
Had Jesus never been born, we would still have the Sacred Jewish Scriptures, but would they have any references to a Messiah, a Saviour or a "virgin birth”? I guess it would depend on whether the Jesus-event was still possible in this made-up world. I suppose had Jesus not been born, we could still be waiting for the Messiah.
I can’t proceed without stating that had Jesus not been born some historical events would have been avoided: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch hunts and even anti-Semitism (at least the post-Christian kind). However these guys would still have been around: Caligula, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Castro, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Suharto, Ho Chi Minh, Chiang Kai-shek, Francisco Franco, Reza Pahlawi, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Pol Pot. Would they still have committed all the atrocities they did? Likely, except that none of them could have persecuted, tortured, murdered or disappeared Christians.
What year would it be had Jesus not been born? 2012 CE? Would it be the Hebrew year 5773? Maybe it would be the year 6 billion.
Could you argue that, had Jesus not told his disciples to “go and spread the good news to all creation,” no religion would have spread throughout the world. Would Judaism still be the small monotheistic religion of a few hundred thousands? Would Judaism have survived the destruction of the second temple? Would Islam even exist? What would the Qur’an look like without its Christian references?
Had Jesus not been born there would be 120,000,000 less websites on the Internet. You could argue that since without Christianity the printing press would not have been invented, perhaps our reading habits would be quite different. Would there be libraries full of books? Even our language would be quite different. We wouldn’t say things such as “someone was a good Samaritan”, or “he’s the prodigal son” or the “lost sheep. We would not have teachings that have entered our every-day speech such as “turn the other cheek”, “go the second mile,” “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “carry your cross,” “washing your hands of something” or “love your enemies.”
It’s really not that easy to imagine a world without Jesus – whether people acknowledge Him as the Christ. Sure John Lennon would've never said, "we're more famous than Jesus Christ" and Mel Gibson wouldn't have made $300 million after only two weeks in the theatres, but there would be no great books like The Lord of Rings trilogy or The Chronicles of Narnia and Dan Brown would not have sold 40 million copies of "The DaVinci Code."
More than that, our world would be very lacking. You could argue that there would be no charitable organizations, no public education, no universities* or even the concept of a liberal arts education. You could argue that there would be no hospitals (definitely no publicly-funded ones) and perhaps not even (ironically) no civil rights league. In fact, without Christianity, human beings would probably have no concept of civil rights. Without Christianity we would have no concept of social justice and we wouldn’t have women’s rights. We would also not have a Just War Theory and our concept of Law would be very different. In fact, our idea of equality and human dignity would be quite different. (I’ve even heard it argue that without Christianity there would be no United States of America.)
Without Christianity cannibalism, slavery and infanticide would still exist (I guess infanticide still exists). Had Christianity not spread around the world people would still be offering human sacrifice to the gods.
Without Christianity the lives of many people would have been quite different. Consider Francis Bacon; Charles Darwin; Cecil B. DeMille; T.S. Elliot; Judy Garland; Thomas Jefferson; C.S. Lewis; John Locke; Van Morrison; Georgia O'Keefe; F.D. Roosevelt; Eleonor Roosevelt; Teddy Roosevelt; Alfred Lord Tennyson; George Washington; Oscar Wilde; Tennessee Williams; W.B. Yeats; Charles Dickens; Duke Ellington; Florence Nightingale; John Milton; John Newton; Laurence Olivier; Lewis Carroll; Madeleine L'Engle; Madeline Albright; Natalie Cole; W.H. Auden William Shakespeare; Abraham Lincoln; Jimmy Carter; Alexander I; Nelson Rockefeller; Roy Orbison; Kris Kristofferson; Louis Armstrong; Chuck Berry; Gladys Knight; John Grisham; Gene Roddenberry; Ava Gardner; Kevin Costner; Anne Bancroft; Stephen Baldwin; G.K. Chesterton; Bernardo Bertolucci; Bono; Jim Caviezel; Frank Capra; Nicolas Copernicus; Galileo; Bing Crosby; Marie Curie; Salvador Dali; Leonardo DaVinci; Edgar Degas; Francisco De Goya; Rene Descartes; Albrecht Duher; Federico Fellini; Mel Gibson; Galileo Galilei; Graham Greene; Alec Guiness; Bob Hope; Gene Kelly; Grace Kelly; John F. Kennedy; Guglielmo Marconi; Henri Matisse; Michelangelo; Napoleon; Pablo Picasso; Arnold Schwartzenegger; Martin Sheen; Oscar Wilde; Andy Warhol; Voltaire; Johannes Keppler; Blaise Pascal; Louis Pasteur; Isaac Newton; George Frideric Handel; Antonio Vivaldi; J.S. Bach; Lech Walesa and Georges Lemaitre, all Christian. Even if none of them practiced their faith (and we know many did), it’s impossible to assume that Christianity did not influence their thoughts, their writings, their work and their actions.
What do you think? Can you think of another way that our world would be different had Jesus never been born?
I think that had Jesus never been born, we’d be missing a lot more than trees decorated with lights at this time of the year. Truly, in the words of C.S. Lewis, "without Christ, this world would be always winter, but never Christmas!"
Go now and proclaim the Good News to all creation,
*All but one of the first 123 colleges in colonial USA were Christian institutions. While these universities have lost their Christian identities, it is interesting to read the founding statements of these schools. Harvard, for example, was founded on this statement: "Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternall life, John 17:3?"