Thursday, March 04, 2010

More Popular Than Jesus

44 years ago today, John Lennon opened his mouth during a magazine interview in England and this is what tumbled out:
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
A few months later, the American magazine Datebook reprinted the quote... and things went a bit nuts. There were record burnings, death threats, and even the KKK got involved. By the way, important safety tip: you can figure out when you've probably gone off the deep end in your reactions when the Ku Klux Klan agrees with you. (You can read more details about it on Wikipedia.)

John offered this half-hearted apology:
Lennon: I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have gotten away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a friend and I used the words "Beatles" as a remote thing, not as what I think - as Beatles, as those other Beatles like other people see us. I just said "they" are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way.

Reporter: Some teenagers have repeated your statements - "I like the Beatles more than Jesus Christ." What do you think about that?

Lennon: Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this.

Reporter: But are you prepared to apologise?

Lennon: I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologise if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry.
So, this morning, my friend, game designer Stephen Glenn, decided to use his Facebook status update to mock the Beatles tune, "All You Need Is Love" - and then I commented about the anniversary... and we were off to the races.

After a bit of conversation, Stephen said something pretty profound:
Let's say, for sake of argument, that at any given time the Beatles *were* more popular than Jesus. In the big False American Idol contest, Jesus comes in third behind money and The Beatles. Why would that even matter to someone who had chosen to dedicate their life to Christ? Are they so insecure and threatened if someone/thing happens to be more "popular" than their guy?
First, ouch. Score one point for the snarky game designer with the Spiel des Jahres nomination under his belt.

Second, duh. I attended seminary for a reason, right? I was forced to respond with:
Biblically, Jesus was a "man of no reputation" (Philippians 2:7) and "despised & rejected by men" (Isaiah 53)... so I must humbly admit that you, Stephen Glenn, are correct.

Dang, I hate it when you're right - and that False American Idol thing is genius... I'm gonna steal that & use it in a sermon.
So, I didn't use it in a sermon - though that may still happen. It became a blog post. (Stephen graciously OK'd my use of this so I didn't have to steal & therefore missed breaking a commandment tonight - thanks, dude!)

Look, if Jesus really was a man of no reputation - a guy who managed to cheese off both the government & the religious leadership - why are we who call ourselves followers of Christ so concerned about polishing his image? Isn't the objective to be more like Him rather than to make the world like Him?

And if that's our goal, our vision, our pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow, why do we waste so much of our time & energy trying to force other people to pay respect to God, like we were some kind of enforcers for a spiritual mob boss or a ministers of protocol to some tinpot dictator? If God doesn't care that much about his Q rating, why should we?

I'll let singer/songwriter
Rick Elias have the last word(s) with his song, "Man of No Reputation":

It was said this man was of no reputation

Yet He could stop the rising storm

With a gesture of His hand

But He chose to use His hands to heal

Hearts of darkness, hearts of stone

Just like mine would be revealed

He was a man of no reputation

And by the wise, considered a fool

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness

In a time when the strongest arms ruled

But this man of no reputation

Loved the weak with relentless affection

And He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were

He was a man of no reputation

It was said this man brought only confusion

That He'd achieve his ends by any means

And the truth that it brings revolution

And for once they were right

The truth set us free

The hearts of the captive were his only concern

And the powerful knew their days were ending

One day soon the gates of heaven will open wide

And the Prince of Peace will come back for His bride

But for now we live on these streets

Forbidding and tough

Where push always comes to shove

And it's said love's never enough

Where a prophet in rags gives hope to a fearful world

No injustice, no heart of darkness

Will keep this voice from being heard

He was a man of no reputation

And by the wise, considered a fool

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness

In a time when the strongest arms ruled

But this man of no reputation

Loves us all with relentless affection

And He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are

To the man of no reputation

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