Thursday, January 11, 2007

John Lennon's Born-Again Phase

John Lennon's Born-Again Phase
"Can He love me?" the former Beatle asked Oral Roberts. "I want out of hell."
An excerpt from The Gospel According to the Beatles by Steve Turner at Christianity Today

The most extraordinary turnabouts in John's life took place in 1977 A television addict for many years (it was his way of looking at the world since he could no longer walk around anonymously), he enjoyed watching some of America's best-known evangelists—Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, and Oral Roberts. In 1972 he had written a desperate letter to Roberts confessing his dependence on drugs and his fear of facing up to "the problems of life." He expressed regret that he had said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus and enclosed a gift for the Oral Roberts University. After quoting the line "money can't buy me love" from "Can't Buy Me Love" he said, "It's true. 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."
Roberts sent him a copy of his book Miracle of Seed Faith and several letters explaining basic Christian beliefs.
correspondence and his exposure to TV evangelism didn't appear to have any effect until he suddenly announced to close friends in the spring of 1977 that he'd become a born-again Christian. He had been particularly moved by the U.S. television premiere of Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth, starring Robert Powell as Jesus, which NBC showed in two three-hour segments on Palm Sunday, April 3, 1977. A week later, on Easter day, he took Yoko and Sean to a local church service.
Over the following months he baffled those close to him by constantly praising "the Lord," writing Christian songs with titles like "Talking with Jesus" and "Amen" (the Lord's Prayer set to music), and trying to convert nonbelievers. He also called the prayer line of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson's program. The change in his life perturbed Yoko, who tried to talk him out of it. She reminded him of what he'd said about his vulnerability to strong religious leaders because of his emotionally deprived background. She knew that if the press found out about it they would have a field day with another John and Jesus story. John became antagonistic toward her, blaming her for practicing the dark arts and telling her that she couldn't see the truth because her eyes had been blinded by Satan.
Those close to the couple sensed that the real reason she was concerned was that it threatened her control over John's life. If he became a follower of Jesus he would no longer depend on her and the occultists. During long, passionate arguments she attacked the key points of his fledgling faith. They met with a couple of Norwegian missionaries whom Yoko questioned fiercely about the divinity of Christ, knowing that this was the teaching that John had always found the most difficult to accept. Their answers didn't satisfy her, and John began to waver in his commitment.
In an unpublished song, "You Saved My Soul," he spoke about "nearly falling" for a TV preacher while feeling "lonely and scared" in a Tokyo hotel. This must have referred to a trip to Japan at the end of May when he stayed at the Okura Hotel for over two months while Yoko visited relatives. Feeling isolated because of the language barrier, he locked himself away in his room for long stretches of time. At night he suffered terrifying nightmares. According to John Green, who makes no mention of the born-again period in his book, John told him, "I'd lie in bed all day [in Tokyo], not talk, not eat, and just withdraw. And a funny thing happened. I began to see all these different parts of me. I felt like a hollow temple filled with many spirits, each one passing through me, each inhabiting me for a little time and then leaving to be replaced by another."

Whatever happened in Tokyo, it marked the end of his personal interest in Jesus. "You Saved My Soul" said that he "nearly" fell for the TV preacher, but that Yoko "saved me from that suicide." So the salvation of the title refers to being saved from God, not by God. Yoko had again become the captain of his soul, the mistress of his destiny. Yet his life didn't improve. He sank into a depression, concerned that his creativity had deserted him and that he had no real purpose in life. The only real joy he experienced came from spending time with his son, Sean.
His life was out of his control. He worried about his health and his eyesight, about making the right investments with his money, about his personal safety. The only way out, as far as he could see, was to pay for the services of people who claimed to see into the future. But then, which ones could he trust? If the advice of the tarot card reader contradicted that of the astrologer, which should he follow? Instead of the freedom he wanted when he broke away from the Beatles, he was now completely enslaved. He couldn't travel anywhere without advice from a directionalist, do deals with anyone without knowing their star sign, or make plans for the future without consulting the I Ching.

By the time Frederic Seaman became John's personal assistant in February 1979, John's main interest was reading books on religion, psychic phenomena, the occult, death, history, archeology, and anthropology. Specific books Seaman can remember him asking for included Rebel in the Soul: An Ancient Egyptian Dialogue Between a Man and His Destiny, by Bika Reed; Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, by Margot Adler; and Practical Occultism, by (Madame) H. P Blavatsky. He also listened to a thousand dollars' worth of taped lectures by Alan Watts.
Vacationing in Florida in the spring, he again watched Jesus of Nazareth on its by now regular Easter showing, but his reaction was completely different from the one he had had two years before. He kept joking that they should just get on with it and fast-forward to the crucifixion. Seaman, who was present with John's sons, Sean and Julian, recalled, "John began working himself up into a tirade against Christianity, saying that it had virtually destroyed what was left of pagan culture and spirituality in Europe-a great loss to civilization." He then announced that he was now a "born again pagan."

Excerpted from The Gospel According to the Beatles by Steve Turner, published by Westminster John Knox Press, 2006. Used with permission

There you have it, John Lennon, an almost born again Christian, but influenced to be a born again pagan. And how many people are there just like John? And how many are there influencing people to go this way?

Last night in Bible Study we were talking about how in Acts the gospel was spread across all kinds of boundaries. We talked about what kind of boundaries today we needed to cross with the Gospel. It was hard to think of them. But one of them talked aobut the boundary that is there between us and young people, and that we were not doing what we needed to do to reach them, and that we needed to try to do different things. Well then the older people got to talking about how hard it is to do different things, and to make changes. We may not be doing them yet but the door is open by this discussion to get there. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit and obedient people that the gospel was taken to people everywhere.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Abi,
Thanks for sharing John Lennon's flirtation with Christianity. I never knew these things about him, and have always been a great fan of his music. Now I see some of the deeper thoughts behind what he wrote and sang.
Thanks for sharing.
Marty

zorra said...

Is that right! I have NEVER heard any of this before. Fascinating but so tragic.
It reminds me of the parable of the sower, about the seed that fell on rocky soil and among thorns.
I need to get this book.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I've never heard that before. I guess I'll be buying that book soon...

Anonymous said...

i'm like everyone else- i've not heard that story before. how interesting!! thanks abi.

Kievas said...

I'd never heard that about John's life, either. It's too bad it turned out the way it did--he had a lot of talent.

John said...

That's a fascinating story.