Did John Lennon Have A Biblical Hope For the Future?

lennonglee1I have been following the television show on Fox called Glee.  It is an over the top comedy/drama about a high school Glee Club in which a Spanish teacher gathers a racially diverse group of misfits, jocks, cheerleaders, dorks, etc., and he forms a dynamic Glee Club.  Most of the choreography is stellar, the musical/singing talent is top notch, and the dialogue and acting is some of the best for a television comedy right now.  Sue Sylvester is by far my favorite character on the show because she is so…well…perfectly mean in every way.  To sum up the show, if you want to try to stay in touch with what goes on in high school and understand teenagers today, though it is indeed a bit over the top, I highly recommend watching Glee.

And yet the point of this article is not really about Glee.  In one of the most recent episodes, the glee club got to perform with a deaf glee club from another school that signed and spoke the song “Imagine” by John Lennon from the Beatles.  In the conclusion our glee club (which was trying to find its identity the entire episode), was inspired by the courage of the deaf students and spontaneously started to sing the song with them, learning to sign as the song progressed, and it brought them together as a group.

It was indeed a “touching” ending – people represented from every nation getting along and singing with deaf students about hope.  Perhaps without even recognizing why, I think the reason people love Imagine so much is because it somewhat describes a biblical future hope that one day all will be made right.  People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will lay down their weapons instead of fighting and live as one. For the Christian, this is partly what ought to drive what we do and how we live in the now.

Nonetheless, I put touching in quotes in the previous paragraph because I think Imagine sadly falls short of bringing us to any real answers for fixing our broken world.  Lennon’s conclusion is to get rid of religion – to imagine no heaven and hell altogether.  And sadly, he was  “just a dreamer” because that simply will not happen. You cannot hope religion away.  It is not going anywhere.  Statistics show that it is on the rise even in an age of heightened scientific discovery and post-scientific uncertainty. In addition, though this is debated, to get rid of religion will not be a benefit to the world.  While there are countless atrocities committed in the name of God, eliminating religion would take away much of the good and beautiful things that we have seen in the world as a result of religion.

Now lets flip this a little bit. While Lennon’s premise and his conclusions are faulty, not thought through well, and at best naive (though this is not to say that all of Lennon’s philosophical, political, and religious thinking is encapsulated in this song and there is much more to critique about Lennon’s views on these matters), I find it interesting that Imagine was probably more biblical than much of evangelical Christianity’s understanding of future hope. Here is what I mean by that.  The so called Christian understanding of which I speak is seemingly more influenced by Plato than by the New Testament writers – the teaching sounds like this: “the body and the Earth are evil.  I am just passing through this wicked, evil place while my soul inhabits this wicked shell.  This world is not my home and so my mission on Earth is to get out of here and go to heaven and to simply take as many other souls with me as I can before I die.”  This really does not offer much hope to the world now or in the future as it is practically lived out. The main problem with this teaching is that the apostle John does not seem to have this understanding in the book of Revelation nor does Jesus when he prays to his Father, your Kingdom come on EARTH as it is in heaven.  Jesus, John, and Paul (I might add) were looking forward to “a brotherhood of man” as Lennon sings and “people sharing the world” – a new heavens and new earth.

But the Bible teaches that in the new heavens and new Earth there will be religion.  It will be a true religion on the Earth where one day every nation will live “life in peace” and every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord…”and the world will live as one.”  Rev 21:1-4 is the only way that will happen.  The Scriptures and our experience attest to the reality of the destruction man brings upon himself and upon God’s creation. Thus, the kind of future hope of which the Scriptures speak can only be accomplished by Something outside of ourselves.  And this Something has to become one of us – God himself coming to dwell with man wiping away every tear from our eyes, taking away sin and death forever.

Therefore, the answer is not to escape this world as some in evangelical Christianity would advocate, nor is the answer to get rid of religion as Lennon suggests, instead the answer to the world “living as one” (Lennon) is to “get a religion that humbles you and be true to your religion” (Tim Keller).  Christianity is the only religion that truly humbles a person for two reasons: (1) because every other religion says you have to do good to be saved.  Jesus says, you have been saved by grace alone, now do good.  You are not permitted to be arrogant about this because you have done nothing to save yourself. (2) In addition, Christianity is not only about you. It is a religion about the entire cosmos being restored – all of creation, not just individual souls.

As Christians we look forward to when God himself will return to dwell with man to restore all things forever.  With this hope, it is foolish to imagine there is no heaven, rather heaven will be on Earth and God will be the one to make all things right.  This, brothers and sisters, is the only hope for people to rightly “live for today.”  You may call Jesus a dreamer but by the working of his Spirit he did and is rescuing to himself a true brotherhood of man – the Church – working to seek justice, to love mercy, to fight against racism, to take care of widows and orphans, to seek beauty in the arts, too seek integrity and equity in business deals, to be a part NOW of his Kingdom come on Earth as it is in heaven.

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