4th of March, 1966. John Lennon said this:
Christianity will go… It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.
The results? Well, no reasoned counterarguments, not much commenting on the vein of “Er, John, I happen to disagree —“, but sheer mindless outrage, heaps of burning Beatles records on Bible Belt streets, much hand-wringing (“Evil hurtful words!”) and even a couple of Klansmen nailin’, burnin’ and outwise destroyin’ an effigy of the band an’ nailin’ their records to a cross. Mayhaps the cross was also burnt; I don’t know.
And now, just a few days ago, what I consider the greatest mis-reaction of all. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, while praising Lennon/Beatles, calls these words “the bragging of a young man wrestling with unexpected success”.
Curious bragging when Lennon’s eventual apology was that he was “just saying it as a fact” and didn’t mean to offend anyone!
Not that I am a Catholic or a fan of Lennon (for I cite disgust for one, and sheer ignorance for the latter), but my first reaction to this Roman news was one of immediate “go know thyself” indignation.
Sure, Jesus had lots of fans, some of whom even attended the “concert” every Sunday and “listened to the record” on their knees next to the bed every evening. “More popular than Jesus” was, by what I know, an overstatement even in the highest height of Beatlemania if you talk of the masses, but the old carpenter of Nazareth (well, except that quite probably he wasn’t a carpenter and wasn’t from Nazareth) wasn’t as much a media figure as Lennon and the Beatles were.
And while I don’t agree with Lennon about Jesus having been “all right”, I think he was otherwise quite right when he said that even the worship of that man would with time cease. Maybe quite soon, in a couple of centuries or so. (In my opinion the man we call Jesus, if he ever existed, has disappeared so far to the mists of made-up legend and sectarian fiction that there’s no hope of ever knowing what kind of a spittle-flecked prophet of doom ever stalked the streets of Jerusalem, and how he died and where he was buried.)
There used to be a god called Zeus, a great god with many believers. Now you have to go to a museum to see his statues. There used to be a god called Odin, a great god of thunder, and a terrible god of rain, giver of rainbows, called Tlaloc; now they’re just fodder for fiction and figures in books.
One day, Christianity will go, too.
And that’s alright, because I much rather have the rock of Lennon than the bloody fiction of the Rock of Ages. As said, I don’t know much about John Lennon, but words like those above and words like those in Imagine make me think he was a good man.
So go know thyself, Vatican, in the full Biblical sense of the word “know”.