British superstar John Lennon’s life was abruptly cut short by deranged gunman Mark David Chapman 38 years ago today. On December 8, 1980, Chapman unloaded four rounds into Lennon, killing him in front of the Dakota — the New York City Central Park West apartment building he and his wife Yoko Ono called home.
Fans chose to focus on his musical talent, wit and political activism that continue to reverberate to this day, rather than his violent death by gunfire, though. Crowds gathered today in Central Park, per Ultimate Classic Rock, to pay tribute to the late songwriter in the area known as Strawberry Fields, a section of the New York City Park that’s dedicated to his memory.
Although John Lennon’s contribution to the musical world is gigantic, his introspective manner allowed him speak to generations. In the era of outrage that we live in, he would have fit in perfectly in a world faced with unsavory global issues such as climate change and terrorism. Lennon would never have stayed silent and would have made his outrage about such matters known.
What’s more, John Lennon was a master at stirring up controversy and was excellent at creating a little outrage of his own. Take, for instance, his comments in 1966 about Christianity and the Beatles being more popular Jesus.
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll 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.
Lennon’s words barely caused a stir in the U.K., but Christian communities in the United States were outraged when his statement was republished in the U.S. five months later. Additionally, there were probably a lot of vinyl albums thrown out in the garbage after the anger trickled down to parents in the nuclear families of the era.
For the most part, John Lennon’s prediction about the fall of Christianity is correct. Meanwhile, Americans can credit the decline of churchgoing parishioners to multiple reasons, including societal changes in the 1960’s that Lennon was a big part of. Multiple other factors play into the scores of people “not wanting to go to church anymore,” according to the Huffington Post, including the internet, the emergence of immigrants and minorities, clergy abuse, and more.
After the firestorm about his statement broke in the United States, John Lennon walked back his words saying, “If I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it.” Lennon told fans that he was simply commenting on how people popularized the band.
However, it’s the first part of the statement the “Imagine” singer said that may prove to be truly prophetic. “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right.”
It’s a testament to John Lennon’s legacy that makes us ask such philosophical questions, and makes us ponder what it all really means when you get down to it.