Were the Beatles a Christian band? Most people would point to John Lennon's public statements about the church, the song "Imagine," and the infamous "bigger than Jesus" quip and raise their eyebrows. But a recently-unearthed interview with Lennon from 1969 suggests that John Lennon and the Beatles weren't as hostile to Christianity as it's been thought. What emerges from the interview is a fascination with the person of Jesus, combined with anger toward perceived church hypocrisy:
Christians around the world had been dismayed by Lennon's boast in an article in London's Evening Standard about the popularity of the Beatles, but the singer says he was misunderstood.
"It's just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ," he says. "Now I wasn't saying that was a good idea, 'cos I'm one of Christ's biggest fans. And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ's message, then that's what we're here to do."
He blames "the hypocrites" for being too "uptight" in reacting to his comments. "If the Beatles get on the side of Christ, which they always were, and let people know that, then maybe the churches won't be full, but there'll be a lot of Christians dancing in the dance halls. Whatever they celebrate, God and Christ, I don't think it matters as long as they're aware of Him and His message."
Lennon's beliefs about Christ (going by the article) seem somewhat muddled, but he was clearly intrigued by Jesus and his message. It's a shame that the stumbling block which kept Lennon from exploring Christianity further seems to have been... the church itself. The two examples he cites (being kicked out of church as a kid for laughing during a service, and being unable to marry in a church because he had divorced) are frustrating, because neither has much to do with the actual Gospel message. They're examples of Christians treating him with a distinct lack of grace, even if the actions were justified.
I know some of you are big Beatles fans. Is this a new insight into Lennon's spirituality? Have you detected a positive attitude toward Jesus in the Beatles' music, and do you think things might have played out differently if Christians had shown more grace to Lennon and friends?