Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vatican forgives John Lennon for Jesus remark

In a March 1966 interview with Maureen Cleave of the London Evening Standard, John Lennon was quoted as saying, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with 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."

A teen mag in the US reprinted the quote in July and all hell broke loose. Southern radio stations banned the Beatles' records, albums were burned, the KKK protested their concerts, flowers stopped growing, the earth stopped spinning. Well, the last two things aren't true, but you wouldn't know it from some peoples reactions.

Now, 42 years later, the Vatican has forgiven John, saying that the "more popular than Jesus" remark was "a boast by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll."

They have a point. On the other hand, at the time, the Beatles probably were more popular than Jesus with the kids. You're just not allowed to say it, I guess. Which led to Lennon's retraction/apology:
John: "If I had said television is more popular than Jesus, I might have got 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?"

John: "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 apologize?"

John: "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 apologize 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 apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."

Check out the Beatles Number 9 blog for the full text of the original 1966 article.

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