It was one of the most infamous statements an entertainer has ever made—and the comment is still talked about 44 years later.
During an interview with the London Evening Standard, one of the Beatles, John Lennon, was talking about Christianity. “It will vanish and shrink . . . I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now.”
Although Lennon made it clear he was talking only about his native England—a point that may have been lost as the story spread--the comment outraged many Americans.
But as Robert Hart reminds us in Touchstone magazine, the comment went “practically unnoticed” in Europe and England; they were neither upset nor surprised. Why? Because Lennon was simply expressing what they already knew to be true: Christianity had already begun its long European decline. In England at the time, the Beatles really were “more popular than the Lord himself among youth.” So says Hart.
If you think about it, Lennon’s comment really should not have been so shocking. The scriptures warn us that many things will be more popular than Jesus. As the Apostle John warns us, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”
As Hart notes, the apostle’s words explain the “almost hidden orthodoxy we can derive from” Lennon’s words, “long assumed to have been blasphemous or boastful.” In reality, Hart writes, “they were diagnostic.”
More than 40 years after Lennon’s comment, Imagine how Americans would react if a similar statement were made today about the United States? Would the church Twist and Shout with outrage? Or would we sadly see it as an accurate observation? The truth is, Christianity has declined in America, as well. And along with it has come a substantial rise in hostility towards all things Christian.
What are we to do about it? First, we should Slow Down and ask ourselves what is more popular than Jesus in our own lives. Video games? Television? Shopping? Sports?
Second, as Hart notes, we should look to the lessons of places like Africa and Asia, where the church is growing stronger under great persecution. And we should ask ourselves if the shrinking of the church in America is entirely a bad thing. After all, as Hart writes, people used to go to church simply because that’s what respectable people did. They don’t do that so much today—which means that those who do attend are more deeply committed. That’s a good thing.
What we need to do is strengthen that commitment and Help them understand the fundamentals of the faith, which I outline in my book, The Faith, Given Once For All. Too many of our kids think that “All You Need Is Love” is the essence of Christianity. And after they learn the fundamentals, we need to drill into them an understanding of worldview, Eight Days a Week, if we have to, and how everything in our culture—including popular music—contains worldview messages.
And then we need to send them out into the world—including the world of music-loving youth. It Won’t Be Long before they start a godly Revolution.