Friday, December 31, 2010

Imagine standing against bigotry

In less than 24 hours, more than 100,000 revelers will be crammed into Midtown Manhattan, waiting for the “ball” to drop above Times Square. If this year matches previous years, the lead up to the final countdown will include John Lennon’s peace anthem, “Imagine.” Lennon described his Billboard #1 hit this way:
'Imagine' is a big hit almost everywhere -- anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic, but because it is sugarcoated it is accepted. Now I understand what you have to do: Put your political message across with a little honey."
So before he gets to describing his socialist nirvana, Lennon first trains his caustic political commentary on the church:
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

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
As a kid I sang along with most of the Beatles songs, but as an adult Christian I hold this song and similar sentiments anathema (in the New Testament sense of the word).

Still, I wonder how many nominal Christians will hear the song tonight — on TV or in person — and ignore this “sugarcoated” attack on their faith and (one would hope) their entire identity. And I often wonder why the Catholic League, Focus on the Family or some other group hasn’t complained about its use in a public setting — to me a more offensive choice than any moment of silence. (Apparently in 2005 the president of the Catholic League did complain in a TV interview about efforts to make Lennon’s prediction a reality.)

Christians here take their faith seriously, so perhaps there’s hope. Conversely, in May 2009 the Liverpool (Church of England) Cathedral allowed the song to be played on its church bells despite complaints that (as Lennon bragged) the song is anti-religious.

Words mean something — in TV ads, radio jingles, hymns, rap music and pop anthems. It seems that Christians have an obligation to consider all the words they come across in life and the culture, particularly when instructing their (and others’) children in how to live out a Christian life.

Update, June 29: According to a former aide, Lennon actually repudiated his former socialist ideals in the final years of his life and strongly: preferred Reagan over Carter:
"I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who's an old-time communist... He enjoyed really provoking my uncle... Maybe he was being provocative... but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

"He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete."

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