In 1960, some young people from Liverpool (UK) teamed up to form what has been described as “the most influential band of all-time”.
The Beatles, comprising George Harrison, John Lenon, Paul McCartney and Ring Starr, was a rock group that shook the Merseyside and eventually the whole world. The phenomenon of getting hooked onto the Beatles became to be known as the ‘Beatlemannia’. In the 1960s, ‘Beatlemania’ literally spread like fire in a dry African Savanna.
In March of 1966, a featurist for the Standard Evening newspaper, Maureen Cleave, wrote a series titled ‘How does a Beatle live’ in which one Beatle at a time was interviewed and featured. When it was the turn of Lenon, he made a statement which did not draw much reaction initially, but when it was published in America, it attracted a host of angry reactions. In short, Lenon claimed that the Beatles had become more famous than Jesus.
Cleave quoted Lenon as saying: “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.”
Lenon was murdered in 1980 by an American born again Christian, Mark David Chapman, who had been incensed by Lenon’s remark about the Beatles being more famous than Jesus. Yes, even born again Christians are sometimes capable of committing heinous acts when provoked.
Has Lenon been proved right today, 53 years later? My take is that, on the contrary, he has been proved wrong, very wrong. Most (probably all) of my readers will have heard of Jesus, but only a handful know about the Beatles or John Lenon.
I recently visited Israel and I was overwhelmed by the number of people that literally pour into that country on account of Jesus. I do not think half as many people go to Liverpool or to other British cities to pay homage to the Beatles. Jesus is big business for Israel. Even the territory under Palestinian authority benefits immensely from tourists that come to see the holy sites associated with Jesus.
The birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, is in the West Bank, which is under the Patestinian authority. The numbers of people that flock there to visit the holy site is mind-boggling. When we visited, we had to stand on a queue for close to three hours to get to the part of the church where Jesus is believed to have been born. Everyday thousands of people visit these holy places because of the attraction they feel towards Jesus. It is even more remarkable when you consider that Jesus lived more than 2 000 years ago. Your guess is good as mine whether people will remember Lenon or the Beatles 2 000 years from now.
Theology aside, Jesus became popular because he was a man of the people. He always sided with the common man, the ordinary folk. One of His most powerful statements was: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. The ordinary man was always at His heart. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the main character was the ordinary, usually despised, Samaritan man.
Jesus always stood against corruption. One of the most corrupt offices during His time was that of the High Priest. Apart from demanding all manner of animals from people to be presented as sacrifices, they also had a system which let the blood from the slaughtered animals flow through narrow ducts down to the Kidron Valley below where it was collected, dried and sold to the people as fertiliser.
The whole Temple institution had been converted to money-making apparatus. Jesus was so infuriated by this that He once overturned the tables in the Temple, to the chagrin of the authorities, but the ordinary people liked His courageous act. Many times Jesus was at loggerheads with the authorities because He held ordinary people above systems and laws. Although the law forbade Him to help people on the Sabbath Day, He nevertheless did because of the importance He attached to people. As a result, He became very popular indeed and still is even now.
I would urge my readers to search within the history of pop music to check if anybody in the industry, including John Lenon, has gotten close to Jesus in terms of popularity. They should also search within their communities for opportunities to endear themselves to ordinary people and create a lasting impact.