Last week I was imagining a world without Christmas. That would mean no Christmas music and no Christmas movies. But a world without Jesus would mean much more to our popular culture.
One of my favourite Broadway musicals is Les Miz. I never read the novel, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and wasn't crazy about the screen adaptation (although, wasn't Anne Hathaway fabulous as Fantine?). I watched the musical three times and everytime, I thought that this novel would be very different had Jesus not been born. Perhaps Victor Hugo never would have written it. If so, there wouldn't be a musical called Les Mis, and the movie would not have been made. None of those wonderful songs would not exist.
Had Jesus not been born, there would be many other songs missing from your playlist:
Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode; Hey Jesus by the Indigo Girls; God is Love by Lenny Kravitz; Forgiven by Alanis Morisette; Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones; One of Us by Joan Osbourne; God or Imagine by John Lennon; I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2; Jesus by Queen. That’s just off the top of my head. (Looking around the Internet I came across this page: "22 Songs that Are Great Despite Being Pro-Jesus." An interesting read.)
Had Jesus never been born, we would also be missing a lot of great (and not so great) films from our video libraries:
There would be no Jesus Christ Super Star, No Godspell, No Jesus of Nazareth, The Passion of the Christ, The Last Temptation, The Nativity Story, The Life of Brian, Ben Hur, The King of Kings, Salome, The Robe, Ben-Hur, The Shadow of Nazareth, Barabbas, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Jesus of Montreal, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Jesus (the mini-series), The Miracle Maker, Young Messiah, Risen or the Son of God. (Incidentally, who's your favourite Jesus in film?)
Had Jesus never been born we'd certainly be missing a whole industry of "Christian" films that have come out in recent years: Full of Grace (The Story of Mary of Nazareth), Miracles From Heaven, God is Not Dead, I'm Not Ashamed, Do You Believe, Faith of Our Fathers, Do You Believe?, Fireproof, Amazing Grace, To Save a Life, Come What May, Soul Surfer, Flywheel, Courageous, The Grace Card, The Drop Box, The Letters, October Baby, Heaven is for Real, Letters to God, The Song, For Greater Glory, Facing the Giants, Old Fashioned and Love Comes Softly, to name a few.
We’d also be missing: The Sound of Music, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, The Hiding Place (the Corrie Ten-Boom Story), Lilies of the Field, The Miracle of the Bells, The Mission, Dead Man Walking, The Singing Nun, Sister Act, Bless the Child, Bonhoeffer - Agent of Grace, The Nun's Story, The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, Romero, Chocolat and Agnes of God.
It's also doubtful that all the angel movies would exist. Think of Angels in the Outfield (1994), Michael (1996), The Preacher's Wife (1996) and City of Angels (1998), to mention a few.
How about: The Age of Innocence (1993) by Martin Scorsese; Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) by Michael Curtiz; The Assisi Underground (1984) by Alexander Ramati; Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987) by Louis Malle; Babette's Feast (1987) by Gabriel Axel; Bachelor Mother (1939) by Garson Kanin; The Bicycle Thief (1947) by Vittorio De Sica; Blue (1992) by Don McKellar; Casablanca (1942) by Michael Curtiz; The Champ (1931)by King Vidor; Chariots of Fire (1981) by Hugh Hudson; El Cid (1961) by Anthony Mann; City Lights (1931) by Charlie Chaplin; A Man Escaped (1956) by Robert Bresson; Diary of a Country Priest (1950) by Robert Bresson; Going My Way (1944) by Leo McCarey; La Grande illusion (1937) by Jean Renoir; The Grapes of Wrath (1940) by John Ford; Groundhog Day (1993) by Harold Ramis; It Happened One Night (1934) by Frank Capra; A Man for All Seasons (1966) by Fred Zinnemann; North by Northwest (1959) by Alfred Hitchcock; On the Waterfront (1954) by Elia Kazan; The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) by Carl Theodor Dreyer; Pickpocket (1959) by Robert Bresson; The Quiet Man (1952) by John Ford; Quiz Show (1994) by Robert Redford; Rome, Open City (1945) by Roberto Rossellini; The Sign of the Cross (1932) by Cecil B. DeMille; The Song of Bernadette (1943) by Henry King; Therese (1986) by Alain Cavalier; 3 Godfathers (1948) by John Ford; You Can't Take It With You (1938) by Frank Capra; Vertigo (1958) by Alfred Hitchcock; Hacksaw Ridge (2016) by Mel Gibson. All these have either references to Christ, Christianity or exist within a Christian world view.
You could even argue that films (and novels) such as Star Wars and Harry Potter would also not exist since, had Jesus not been born, these concepts of salvation-through-love and self-sacrifice are very specific to the Christian world-view.
How about TV shows like Stairway to Heaven, Touched By An Angel and Joan of Arcadia? How about any TV shows that deal with concepts of redemption, salvation, forgiveness or self-sacrifice? They may still exist, but I would argue they'd be considerably different.
Had Jesus never been born, we’d also be missing a lot of books. Other than the fact that the number-one top selling book of all times, The Bible would be missing some books, we’d also be short on many great works of spiritual nourishment and fiction. I’ll let you figure out which books would not exist. Personally, I have a whole bookshelf by my bed, which would be empty.
Had Jesus not been born there would be no sacred music; there would be no Handel's Messiah or Bach Chorales. There would also not be any sacred art; there would be no Sistine Chapel, no Pieta and DaVinci would not have painted the Last Supper. I could probably fill a whole book by just listing all the works of art, music and literature that would be missing had Jesus never been born.
It’s clear that, had Jesus never been born, our world would be much poorer. Can you think of what other songs, films, novels or TV shows would not exist?
Next week I will conclude my imaginary picture of what our cultural world would be like had Jesus not been born.
PS: For a treat - had Jesus not been born, this new Christmas movie would not have been made:
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: email@example.com