Arts & Culture

Church Turns To Lennon For Self-Preservation

In what could have been surprising display of humility, the Catholic Church has posthumously "forgiven" John Lennon for remarks he made in 1966 about The Beatles being "More popular than Jesus," rather than apologizing for demonizing the then-25-year-old musician. There … Read More

By / November 24, 2008

In what could have been surprising display of humility, the Catholic Church has posthumously "forgiven" John Lennon for remarks he made in 1966 about The Beatles being "More popular than Jesus," rather than apologizing for demonizing the then-25-year-old musician. There can be little doubt that the Vatican’s statements were subject to intense scrutiny while being passed from level to level throughout the Church bureaucracy in order to carefully convey an offering of truce without sounding apologetic.

It should be noted, hilariously, that with everyone on the Internet writing responses to this same issue, I couldn’t even find a copy of the original article. It definitely doesn’t help that L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s pseudo-official newspaper, only publishes online select articles in English, with this week’s topics including such scintillating fare as "The Virgin Mary Received the Most Precious Gift of All, Christ, and Offered Him Lovingly to the World," and "Encountering Christ, His Truth and Beauty Impels a Dynamic Witness of Christian Joy."

By placing a fawning retrospective of the Beatles’ 1968 album, The Beatles (better known as the White Album), alongside the aforementioned articles about the Virgin Mary and that Jesus guy, the Church is accurately reflecting the Beatles’ standing in the eyes of most of the public. In the decades since Lennon made his controversial remarks, his influence has only grown stronger. Along with the enormous (and still growing) popularity of the Beatles and their music, Lennon’s legacy has the added ‘benefit’ of his premature death in 1980. For a generation of kids, myself included, John Lennon has never been a person, he’s been a name attributed to the music and ideals that our parents were raised on and instilled in us. He is a philosopher as much as a musician, and his sphere of influence in both fields reaches every continent spans all demographics – In the past year, the Wu-Tang Clan sampled "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and a friend of mine recently mentioned that a gang of black drug dealers in his neighborhood routinely sport Beatles t-shirts, lending to the idea that the Beatles’ music has finally infiltrated the American inner city. No, the Beatles are not literally more popular than Jesus, but they are up there, and serious competition is not something that the church has much experience with in its 2000-year history. What the Church seems to be doing is acting in self-defense. By posthumously making nice with Lennon, they are shifting focus away from the notion that the two parties are oppositional. Shameless as it may be that the Vatican has not apologized for what was obviously an overreaction to Lennon’s comments, they are clearly doing the right thing from a strategic standpoint. With Lennon all but canonized in the eyes of much of the public, it behooves the Church to avoid situations where people may have to choose sides; I’m guessing that as time passes, more people will choose the words of the guy who said "Why in the world are we here?/ Surely not to live in pain and fear," rather than the institution that threatens an eternity of damnation in Hell if certain rules are not dogmatically adhered to.