Friday, January 02, 2009

The Vatican Forgives John Lennon

In the last few weeks of the Bush regime, expect a series of pardons for Bush cronies who should be locked up for various crimes.

But hey, it's not just Bush. Clinton pushed through more last minute legislation and issued more pardons in the last few weeks of his presidency than most of his predecessors. It just comes with the smarmy territory of politics.

But with all of this happening in the States, a papal 'pardon' happened late last year and was not widely covered in the media.

The Vatican, via its L'Osservatore Romano newsletter finally forgave John Lennon for saying the Beatles were 'bigger than Jesus Christ' in 1966.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Lennon was talking off the record to a friend who also happened to be a reporter and in discussing the youth movement in the 60s, he said, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about 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 '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."

When these words hit America -- especially the Bible Belt states in the south -- it led to Beatles record burnings and bans against their performances. It was also one of the last straws among many that pushed the band to quit touring altogether.

Lennon apologized and said the quote was taken out of context, saying "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."

According to the BBC report of the 'papal pardon' story from late November, "The [Vatican] paper dismissed Lennon's much-criticised remark that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ as a youthful joke. The paper described the remark as 'showing off, bragging by a young English working-class musician who had grown up in the age of Elvis Presley and rock and roll and had enjoyed unexpected success.'"

There are a number of links to others stories and observations here.

Well, since the church preaches forgiveness, I guess it's about time!

Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone!


Sue said...

I remember when I first heard that comment by John Lennon. It was a long time ago and it always left me with a bad impression of him. I had never heard it in context before and I'm glad to have read your article.

However, his statements about Jesus Christ and Christianity were presumptuous and not at all justified. He was young and at the pinnacle of success, but the words could not have come from a person who had given the matter much thought.

Perhaps now he has gained some understanding of it all.

Malcolm said...

Although Lennon may have been presumptuous in saying that Christianity will vanish, he made some good points about Christianity. It's a testament to the Beatles' popularity that they were able to withstand the backlash they received. I doubt if any other recording act would have recovered.

By the way, I discovered your blog via Dr. John's Orders.