And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:17-19 ESV)
As an exercise a few days ago, I thought about what some possible answers to saint Paul’s “if Christ is not raised” question.
If Jesus isn’t risen what options do we have left? Also, (secondarily) why still go to church?
Imagine some alternatives:
1. We can still believe in YHWY, convert to some form of Judaism and continue to wait for a Messiah while living according to the OT law and communing with God to some degree – from a distance. The shadow of grace is still there. Always was.
Why keep going to church with Judaism? You probably shouldn’t. We’ll just confuse you with a bunch of hope in a false Messiah. To learn about God and how to live like he wants, you are better off studying the Torah at home or at the Jewish center on the other side of town.
2. Next, we could covert to Islam. Work hard to follow God’s (Allah’s) laws, especially those revealed to us through the prophet Mohammed in 610 AD. We can still study Matthew, Mark, and Luke because they are full of good advice from Jesus, who was, after all, a remarkable prophet.
Why keep going to church with Islam? Don’t. You’ll learn a lot more about how God REALLY wants you to live by listening to the teaching at the local Islamic Center. You can also start reading the Koran as it’s going to be much more helpful and prescriptive than what we study all the time in the New Testament.
3. We can continue to acknowledge Jesus as a great teacher and perhaps even prophet of some sort, but follow only a more generic spiritualism – akin to Zen Buddhism. Free yourself from what weights you down. Minimize your desires. Believe in yourself as you already are. Believe “God” loves you, sort of, as he loves all living things.
Keep going to church for Buddhism? Nah, you’ll probably hear too much about Jesus (who isn’t really a savior and whose significance is overblown). You are better off going to the meditation center, or perhaps the Unitarian Universalist church where you can get sort of a “best of” playlist of advice from various world religions and traditions, Christianity included. Why limit yourself?
4. Throw all this stuff out! Jesus was a fraud or mostly an idea invented by later religious leaders grasping for power. Religion is the opiate of the people (Marx). Jesus is potentially a force for good, but he’s largely imaginary. (Oprah, Deepak Chopra, etc.) You just worry about yourself. The cosmos is all there ever was and ever will be (Carl Sagan). Soon, you’ll be dust again, so have some fun (whatever that means to you) while you are here (just about every Black Eye Peas song).
If you really feel like going to church and hanging out with some stupid people, then go ahead. Whatever floats your boat. I’ll do what floats my boat and if I have to lie, steal, and break promises to do it – who cares? I got one life to live before my atoms return to the void. Can anyone talk me into leaving an inheritance? I hope not. I’m enlightened with regards to our meaninglessness. Go me! Also, I wish I had more money.