In 1966, on the release of The Beatles' White Album, John Lennon remarked that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus."
Christians were miffed. Still are, sadly. I guess forgiveness is just an f-word, hey?
How dare a guru of hedonism, celebrity and moral relativisms compare a musical band to Jesus, right? I mean, is there any room for that kind of acrimony, and pomp? What gas was pressuring Lennon's head to such overexpansion?
On the other hand, what was so threatening about Lennon's remark? Would Jesus just 'poof' and disappear if Lennon was right? Were there no considerations for population density in the time of Jesus versus the world in 1966? That is, if The Beatles were utilizing much better technology to broadcast their catchy little songs to a much more populous world than the verbal ambulations of a single prophet, doesn't it stand to reason that The Beatles were quite probably more popular than Jesus? If world tours are pitted against littoral orations in Israel 2000+ years ago, wouldn't the likelihood of The Beatles winning a popularity contest start to unfold in their favour?
I would think so.
Nevertheless, 42 years have capered by, and now we're seeing experts deciding on the legitimacy and 'rightness' of Lennon's statement. Bit late isn't it? No matter, though.
Thankfully, the world's most popular Messiah is not only experiencing the passage of those 42 years, but is also outside them. Dialectically, He's already won the popularity contest before it started! But let's just let Jesus have His Christian-imposed handicap in an effort to pat ourselves on the back for a war well-waged against some upstart English rock-band, shall we? May as well enjoy making a collective ass out of ourselves while Lennon sets the record straight by what he meant:
"It's just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ," he explained.
And who can blame him for having this perception? Was youth attendance up in the churches in the 1960's such that youth groups could hope to match the fevered pitch, and bra-flinging hysteria of a Beatles concert? Were teenagers desperately and frantically traveling the world singing Psalms and hymns, and gathering in mega-church after mega-church to take in sermons from knarl-knuckled pastors? Or were they throwing themselves blindly at the next scalper, the next Greyhound, the next cheap plane ticket to the next city on the Beatles' map?
I think the answers are pretty plain. I think that 'experts' have been debating the proverbial angels on the heads of proverbial pins. It's a reality, folks: The Beatles had garnered more popularity than Jesus in 1966.
But so what? Who cares? Enjoy their music. Love Christ. Both are good to do. But only one will sing over you. The Beatles can't top that. They never tried to, either.