John Lennon on Jesus: The Untold Story

John Lennon, founding member of The Beatles, was one of the most controversial people in America during the 60s and 70s.

And he still is today.

The Gospel According to the Beatles   - By: Steve Turner

Not too long ago, a fascinating interview with Lennon from 1969 has resurfaced.  The interview was lost for around 30 years and only recently emerged.

No doubt, many of you are aware of this, but in 1966, Lennon put his foot in the gluepot by making a statement published in a magazine wherein he said that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.”

Immediately, a frenzy erupted. Bonfires across the south torching Beatle records ensued.

(If you are reading this and you were part of any of those bonfires, would you please comment. I’d love to ask you about it.)

However, if one looks at the context of the statement, an important question emerges.

Was Lennon saying, “The Beatles are better than Jesus”?

Or was he saying . . .

“The Beatles mean more to many young people than Jesus does.”

If the latter was Lennon’s intention, can this be doubted?

Just look at old Beatle concert clips where millions of young teen fans are screaming out of obsession. The screaming was so loud that The Beatles stopped touring because they couldn’t hear themselves.

Where these particular people more in love with Jesus than with the “Fab Four?”

If this was his meaning, it was an indictment on the poor state of Christianity more than anything else.

Here are Lennon’s own words:

“It’s just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ.  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.”

Nevertheless, that controversial question — which is open for interpretation — isn’t my reason for writing this post.

What the 1969 interview with Lennon reveals is that Lennon was genuinely interested in and fascinated by Jesus.

Certainly, Lennon had a bad taste in his mouth for organized Christianity when he was kicked out of church for giggling as a young boy. But Lennon said in this uncovered interview that his bad feelings were directed toward organized church, not at Jesus.

According to Lennon, it was “Christians” who made him not want to be a part of the church (as we know it). A common sentiment . . . even among many true followers of Jesus.

Lennon says,

“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.”

Yes, that’s a statement by John Lennon.

In his book, The Gospel According to the Beatles, Steve Turner said that there was a time in Lennon’s life where he wanted to really know who Jesus was. (Turner’s book is published by a Christian publisher.)

According to Turner, Lennon would often retreat from his high-profile public life and became a regular watcher of Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson via their television programs.

The Jesus Revival was going on in North America during the early 70s and Lennon’s good friend Bob Dylan became a Christian around that time.

In 1972, Lennon wrote to Oral Roberts, in which he apologized and further explained his statement about being “bigger” than God. Here’s an excerpt from a letter that Lennon wrote to Roberts:

“The point is this, I want happiness. I don’t want to keep on with drugs. Paul told me once, ‘You made fun of me for taking drugs, but you will regret it in the end.’ Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phoney? Can He love me? I want out of hell.”

In turn, Oral Roberts sent Lennon a response giving him a detailed explanation of God’s love for him.

In 1977, Lennon became deeply moved by NBC’s broadcast of the movie Jesus of Nazareth,  even telling his friends that he had become a Christian . . . “born again.”

A week after seeing the film, Lennon attended a church service on Easter Sunday with his wife Yoko Ono and their son Sean.

During the same year, Lennon penned several songs to reflect the experience (“Talking with Jesus” and “Amen”).

According to Turner, Lennon even called The 700 Club for prayer.

The change in John Lennon’s life disturbed his wife (Yoko) who rejected his new faith, and eventually, after months of isolation in Tokyo, John ended up abandoning his faith.

While there is no evidence that Lennon returned to his faith when he was murdered in 1980, no one can be sure what was happening in his heart before he pierced the veil of this life.

Lennon knew the way to salvation, so perhaps in his dying moments he turned his heart to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (Lennon lived several minutes after he was shot in the back four times.)

Only eternity will tell.

See also Bono on Jesus

Order The Gospel According to the Beatles on Amazon

Order The Gospel According to the Beatles on ChristianBooks

Related:

Bono on Jesus

Justin Bieber on Jesus

Alice Cooper on Jesus

Elvis on Jesus

About Frank Viola

See my About page. Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Google+

  • LexCro

    I second Mr. Steinbrueck: PLEASE DO SOMETHING ON ALICE COOPER! Also, don’t forget about Dave Mustane, former guitarist for Metallica and former guitarist/vocalist for Megadeth.

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com/ jeff stewart

    He was definitely torn. He still recorded the profanity-laced “Serve Yourself” after Bob Dylan claimed to follow Christ. That just may be the rigorous part of death to self all followers suffer.

  • http://www.frankviola.net/ Frank Viola

    Thx.

  • Jason Douglas Greene

    Thanks Frank what a great article….

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Thanks for the post, Frank. Interesting stuff. I always assumed that John Lennon was an atheist based on the lyrics to Imagine. It’s fascinating to hear his relationship with Christ was more complex than that.

    You’re on a roll here with Bono and John Lennon. Maybe you can have Alice Cooper on an upcoming podcast. :)

  • http://www.frankviola.net/ Frank Viola

    The book and other interviews go into this, showing the evidence. Remember: This is a short blog post. not a book.

  • Mike Morrell

    What a fascinating glimpse into the life of a Beatle. Thanks for sharing, Frank!

  • ce373

    The Beauty of Christianity is that it is God Seeking After People; religion is people seeking after God!

    Even if John Lennon only Believed upon the Name of the Lord, the Bible says that whosoever shall believe upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved!

    Jhn 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:

    Jhn 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

    1Jo 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

    1Jo 3:24 ¶ And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

    1Jo 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

  • debra elramey

    Frank, of the millions of blogs out there, I’ve practically narrowed my online reading down to one: yours. Because the content here consistently speaks to me. You have a gift for drawing out my own memories of my journey with Christ and his Body.

    For years I ran in charismatic circles, and this post conjured up my zeal for purging my home of all things ‘demonic’, i.e., books and albums and all my hippie paraphernalia. No, I never burned Lennon’s music, but I did ransack my house, starting with the bookcase. A friend of mine had, after all, found the courage to toss in the garbage an autographed copy of one of Mark Twain’s books because it contained some reference to a dragon ;-)

    Then I moved along to the albums… Bob Larson had told us we need less rock music and more of the Rock. And so my mind was set on saying goodbye…

    Goodbye Jimi Hendrix. Goodbye purple haze all in your brain. Goodbye little wing. Goodbye Are You Experienced. Jimi, if only you’d known how a real high feels. Goodbye Axis Bold is Love…

    Goodbye George Harrison. Loved “My Sweet Lord,”
    but would’ve loved it more if you’d sung it to Jesus Christ instead of Hare Krishna.

    Thank you Frank. Oh, what memories you call forth of Lennon and Dylan, and all the others who’ve encountered Christ along the way. I wonder if Dylan is still in the faith.

  • chiefer

    The End of someone’s life show us where his heart is going. I know that you probably would be suspicious of such things but I heard a person who have Angel’s visit and he said that in the last seconds of person’s life God gain more souls to His Kingdom than ever. Maybe Lennon made it. LET IT BE ;)

  • http://www.frankviola.net/ Frank Viola

    Thx. Yes, it’s fascinating.

  • Annette K

    Thank you I’d not heard this before, very interesting.

  • http://www.frankviola.net/ Frank Viola

    Thx. I cover some of that in this post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/revival/

  • LexCro

    Thanks for this, Frank. I heard some bits and pieces of this story some time ago, but I had no corroboration. While the outcome is sad, this is still fascinating. I wish that someone would do/publish more historical research into U.S. Christianity during the 1960′s and 1970′s. While much of the U.S. church was reeling from the social upheaval at the time (and our often not-too-bright responses to it), I’ve heard enough stories like these to think that the Lord was up to more than we think. I would even say that we were on the cusp of some sort of revival, even though it did not take root on a nationwide scale. In any event, thanks for posting this.


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