More Popular Than Jesus Christ?

More Popular Than Jesus Christ?

This week, the Vatican officially forgave John Lennon for his comment in 1966 to a London newspaper about the Beatles being more famous than Jesus Christ. Recognizing that this was a youthful boast of a young man who had suddenly come into enormous popularity and fame, the Vatican’s newspaper went on to praise the band and their contribution to music and culture.

This was 42 years ago and Christians all over the world reacted with great indignation, having “Beatles burning parties” where albums and Beatles paraphernalia were tossed into the fire in protest. These bonfires were especially popular in the United States, especially in the southern states, where some young evangelist would denounce the band as a “tool of Satan” to encourage their young people to join in the event. I remember watching those bonfires on the nightly news in Houston, Texas, when I was seven years old. And I actually remember, when I was stationed in England in the Air Force, a friend telling me that the Beatles were all demon-possessed. I did not believe it then and I do not believe it today. I was then, and am still, a big Beatles fan.

The real problem with all the hype then is that John Lennon was absolutely correct. Not only were the Beatles more famous, they were also more popular than Jesus Christ. At least the real Jesus Christ. The real Jesus Christ makes demands on people. He is not a “live and let live” type of God. And He is not okay with a lot of the stuff we do because a lot of the stuff we do is called “sin”. John Lennon said, “All you need is love”. Jesus made, and still makes, tougher demands on us. Jesus even defines what constitutes true, sincere love. Loving your neighbor as yourself, getting up in the middle of the night to give our neighbor a loaf of bread, protecting those least able to protect themselves, giving your life away and living a life where “whether you eat, or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Those little things called the Ten Commandments? Jesus kind of meant them. But you say, “Wait a minute. Jesus wasn’t even born then.” Well, if Jesus is called the Son of God (Luke 1:35, 1 Corinthians 1:9), was crucified because he made himself equal with God (John 5:18, Philippians 2:6), and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:3), I guess you could say that Jesus was God incarnate (John 1:1), or God in human flesh. So, Jesus, being God, gave Moses the Ten Commandments. After all, God said in the beginning. “”Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26) He was not speaking in the “royal ” vernacular. Basic theology teaches God in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three are separate, individual personalities. And all three are completely, 100% God.

Notice that they are not called the “Ten Suggestions for a Happy, Healthy Life”, even though if you follow them that will probably be the result. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not overtly desire your neighbor’s stuff. Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Treat you parents with honor and respect. Honor God and the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Not exactly about feelings and happiness, is it?

Jesus not only makes demands on our actions in life, He gets audacious to take it a bit further to make it about our thoughts and motives. Why we do something is equally important as to doing the deed itself. He equates lust with the actual act of adultery. Feelings were not exactly a high priority on what Jesus spoke about. And He never once said, “If you feel like it…”

John Lennon only made it about what we did and felt. He even said “Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people, Living for today”. He said, “All you need is love”. He said, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Those directions are easy to follow. Especially since there are no commands to actually do anything. Live however you like as long as you have good, positive feelings towards those around you.

As Christians, we get our dander up pretty easily about some of the dumbest things. I recall another friend telling me about a time when he was struggling with his relationship with God and he went to his pastor to complain about God. In the conversation, he made some comment about the people in the church, and although his pastor would not defend God’s honor (not that God’s honor ever needs to be defended), he rose up quickly to defend his people’s honor. He thought that was a bit strange.

The Christians in the United States back in 1966 were a large part of the Beatlemania crowd and did not want one part of their society (John Lennon) talking down about another part of their society (Jesus). It’s kind of like family. I can talk about my family, but you better not. They just got their feeling hurt. And they reacted like hurt people rather than look inside and see if what was being said contained at least a particle of truth.


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Tom McLoughlin is a 49-year-old former cargo pilot who has had some rough turns in his life but continues on. He figures that as long as you are above the grass, you must be doing pretty well.