Many in this audience remember the Beatles and their rock ‘n’ roll group saying they were “more popular than Jesus.” Some of you, I suspect, also remember the Saturday Evening Post article (July 1964) on the Beatles which contained the following: “It’s incredible, absolutely incredible,” said Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor. “Here are these four boys from Liverpool. They’re rude, they’re profane, they’re vulgar, and they’ve taken over the world. It’s as if they founded a new religion. They’re completely anti-Christ. I mean, I’m anti-Christ as well, but they’re so anti-Christ that they shock me, which isn’t an easy thing.”
Now forty years later, John Lennon and the Beatles are back in the headlines. ABC News and reporter Jonathan Karl featured on September 5, 2006 an exclusive interview with Yoko Ono entitled “Yoko Ono on John Lennon and the FBI” in which Yoko Ono hypes an upcoming film “The U.S. vs. John Lennon.” According to ABC News “Yoko Ono cooperated with the filmmakers, opening her archives of rarely seen footage of the couple’s fight for peace.” One thing that brought us together, says Yoko Ono, “was the fact that both of us were rebels in so many ways.” The film portrays Lennon’s fight to stay in the United States after involving himself in pro-Communist activities and demonstrations (the FBI file on Lennon consisted of 300 pages of text). It will be interesting to see if the film mention’s Lennon’s pro-Communist song “Working Class Hero” which he dedicated to the Communist revolution.
The release of Steve Turner’s interesting and authoritative work The Gospel According to the Beatles (Westminster John Knox Press, 2006) has also brought the Beatles back into the news. Turner, a poet and journalist for over thirty years, has written a number of books on popular music icons such as Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, and U2, including an earlier work titled, A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatle Song (2005). He also wrote the poem “Creed” which Tim LaHaye and I reprinted in our work Mind Siege: The Battle for Truth. Now, in his latest effort, Turner offers an in-depth look at the world of the Beatles, especially their lifestyle as preached and promoted in the lyrics of their songs and their music.
Of particular interest to our readers is Turner’s acknowledgment of your humble and obedient servant. In the first chapter he notes, “David Noebel [was] one of the earliest opponents of Beatles music. Noebel started Summit Ministries in 1962, and it was through his work with teenagers in this capacity that he became interested in the effects of rock ‘n’ roll.” (223) Elsewhere he states “The most high-profile Christian critic of the Beatles was a thirty-year old youth pastor, David Noebel, the author of Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles (1965) and Rhythm, Riots and Revolution (1966) . . . His thesis was that rock ‘n’ roll sapped the moral fiber of the young, unwittingly achieving the goals of the revolutionary left” (23).
Turner could have mentioned my 1969 work, The Beatles: A Study in Drugs, Sex, and Revolution as well as The Legacy of John Lennon: Charming or Harming a Generation?, published in 1982.
Later, Turner quotes me directly on this point, “The Beatles in particular have a special significance to the disrupters of society for their promotion of drugs, avant-garde sex and atheism. The revolution, though sometimes veiled, is fundamentally against Christianity and Christianity’s moral concepts. Karl Marx sought to dethrone God before he set out to destroy capitalism” (23).
Turner’s careful research more than verifies my early observations of the Beatles’ harmful and negative influence upon millions of naive young people and validates how these pied-pipers from Liverpool lead tens of thousands straight into the drug culture and sexual revolution. Indeed, Lennon’s gospel was a gospel of freedom without God, moral boundaries or adult responsibility. His mantra of “give peace a chance” was merely a cloak to cover his drug-drenched lifestyle, promiscuity (free love) and Marxist/socialist revolution.
Since I have been criticized over these many years for my observations regarding the Beatles I will merely summarize Turner’s research on this most influential rock group. Readers can make up their own minds on whether “Beatlemania” was, and is, a positive or negative influence. The following material comes directly from Steve Turner, The Gospel According to the Beatles (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), and his book is highly recommended for those interested in the subject of rock ‘n’ roll in general and the Beatles in particular . . .
- “As John [Lennon] said in 1968, ‘I’ve changed a lot of people’s heads.’ There can be no doubt that, particularly from 1966 onward, they were looked to for guidance, and their songs were analyzed in much the same way as theologians analyze the Bible or literary critics analyze Shakespeare” (1).
- “By the time they [the Beatles] released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band . . . the Beatles were aware that their work was being received as more than light entertainment” (2).
- “It would be wrong to assume that this gospel came only through the lyrics of the songs. . . It also came through the sound of the music, the spaces between the words, and their entire way of life” (2).
- “Millions of young people smoked pot, dropped acid, investigated Eastern religions, and marched for peace in Vietnam as a result of things the Beatles did and said” (9).
- “While touring Britain in October 1964 he [Paul] admitted to Playboy, ‘None of us believe in God.’ John clarified the group’s position: ‘We’re not quite sure what we are, but I know that we’re more agnostic than atheistic'” (15).
- “Occasionally… [John] thought, ‘Oh, I must be Christ.’ His boyhood friend Pete Shotton told of a meeting John called in May 1968 to tell Paul, George, and Ringo that he was Jesus Christ reincarnated” (17–18).
- “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about 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” (20).
- “Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t glorify God. You can’t drink out of God’s cup and the devil’s cup at the same time. I was one of the pioneers of that music, one of the builders. I know what the blocks are made of because I built them . . . I figure that rock ‘n’ roll is devastating to the mind. It is not from God. The lyrics don’t talk about Jesus. The beat hypnotizes you” (Little Richard, Dallas Times Herald, October 29, 1978, 14A).
- The Beatles traveled to Hamburg, Germany in August 1960. St. Pauli, the area where the Beatles played their concerts “was one of the most notoriously liberal districts in Europe. . . Every extreme form of human behavior was tolerated and, in most cases, celebrated” (70). “St. Pauli was an enclosed society where all bourgeois values and Christian principles were discarded, and it was made easy to yield to every previously unfulfilled desire . . . visiting the sleazy bars, befriending transvestites, and taking part in group sex, often with off-duty hookers” (71).
- “To John in his stoned state this sound [music played backwards] sounded beautiful, and the next day he asked Martin to add a section of reversed vocals to the end of the song. The eerie, distorted sound was unlike anything that had been heard on a pop single before. ‘That one was the gift of God,’ he said in 1980 . . . actually the god of marijuana” (105).
- “It was the love that [John] felt when smoking. This was the first song “From Me to You” that he had composed with Paul under the influence, and they decorated the lyric sheet in bright colors to reflex the drug-hazed feeling of the moment” (107).
- “December 16, 1969: Under her [Yoko Ono] influence he investigated Zen and the occult. At the time this picture was taken they were both addicted to heroin”.
- “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the first track recorded for the [Revolver] album, was the most obviously connected to LSD. It consisted of John intoning words adapted from Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience over a collection of randomly spliced tapes, most of them music played backward” (124).
- The Lennon sermon would have portrayed Jesus as “a garlic eating, stinking, little yellow greasy fascist bastard catholic Spaniard” (Lennon, A Spaniard in the Works, Simon and Schuster, 1965, 14).
- Lennon portrays his dad as: (a) “Ye stupid bastard,” (b) “Ye shriveled little clown,” (c) “Yer dirty little ponce,” (d) “The slimy little jew,” (e) “a buddy friend and pal” (Lennon, A Spaniard in the Works, 83–85).
- “Leary, who spent the summer of 1967 tripping to Beatles music, raved about them . . . In his essay ‘Drop Out or Cop Out’ he referred to them as ‘holy men,’ declaring: ‘The rock ‘n’ roll bands are the philosopher-poets of the new religion. Their beat is the pulse of the future. The message from Liverpool is the Newest Testament, chanted by four Evangelists — saints John, Paul, George and Ringo” (127).
- “By 1967 John had taken so much LSD — between 1965 and 1970 he claimed to have taken literally ‘a thousand trips,'” (130).
- “Now [John] was adamantly atheist. Religion in general was a drug (“Working Class Hero”), Krishna was pie in the sky (“I Found Out”), and God was a concept by which we measure our pain (“God”)” (182).
- “Following his bold atheistic statements in “God” and “Imagine” in the early 1970s, John abandoned the spiritual in favor of the political” (185).
- “Mark David Chapman . . . A long-standing Beatles fan . . . thought that John was just a phony . . . Here was a man who urged people to image having no possessions owning Holstein cows, farmland in the Catskills, a boat, a gabled shorefront home surrounded by trees on Long Island, and a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida” (191–92).
- “On December 8, 1980, Mark Chapman . . . lay in wait outside the Dakota building. When John and Yoko returned from a night out, he let them walk past him, took aim with his Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, and fired four shots into John’s body” (193).
- While no Christian condones Chapman’s taking the life of John Lennon the reality is: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).