When Ed Sullivan first saw the Beatles in late 1963, he knew they would be a sensation on his show. What he didn’t know is that the “Fab Four” would compel 50,000 people to request tickets to that episode of the “Ed Sullivan Show” – and the iconic host’s theatre only seated 750!
So many thought of them as gods.
For many years, one of the more fascinating questions about John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr was: What did they think about God and religion? After all, this was the group that thought they were more popular than Jesus, right?
Well, yes and no. That famous story is just one of the nuggets in Ray Comfort’s terrific new book, “The Beatles, God & the Bible.”
Comfort, of Way of the Master fame and evangelism, launched this book series in the spring of 2012 with the compelling “Hitler, God & the Bible.” I hope Comfort is just getting started mining this important line of thought.
For a guy so charmingly aggressive in doing street evangelism, Comfort is surprisingly easy on the Beatles, in the sense that he makes allowances for plenty of nuance. I think it’s his most important contribution with this book, laced as it is with easy to understand concepts and a rich gospel message.
Ray Comfort has outdone himself with this one.
He paints an especially colorful and life-like portrait of John Lennon. Perhaps the most reviled (at least by conservatives, led by, yes, Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover), Lennon is, however, a much more complex character than the cartoon drawn by many of his detractors.
With rich insight and gripping historical detail, Comfort shows that Lennon was not only not a raging atheist, but his seeking for spiritual truth comes across as poignant. This assessment, I think, comes from a man with especially deep discernment into human nature; as he says of Lennon: “I believe that history has given John Lennon a bad rap. Like all of us, he had his many sins, but he wasn’t the hard, satani¬cally driven, proud, anti-Christian, God-hating person many make him out to be.”
Indeed, Lennon revealed in interviews over the years that his relationship with religion was convoluted. He noted once that his local vicar kicked him and his friends out of church for “giggling.” Rather than relate this story with gritted teeth, Lennon displayed some sadness that his early years were full of these kinds of religious experiences.
In shedding light on the cultural background of the Beatles, Comfort explains just where Christianity stood in Great Britain in the 1950s: “The average British teenager was about as interested in British Christianity as a toddler was in studying Shakespeare written in Pig Latin.”
Later on in “The Beatles, God & the Bible,” Comfort takes the opportunity to make a salient point about evangelism and the models modern churches use. He focuses on Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, and calls the troubled man a “false convert.” Evidently, Chapman as a youth was “saved,” but the premise behind the decision – “God has a wonderful plan for your life” – was not sufficient to bring him to a full understanding of Christ and His sacrifice.
Quite honestly, in my smugness about men I’ve never known, I decided before reading “The Beatles, God & the Bible” that the real spiritual rebel of the group was Paul McCartney. I’d always felt the “cute Beatle” was the most cynical and anti-God.
My view is so “Yesterday,” as McCartney sang, especially since the death of his beloved wife, Linda in 1998. He has made statements since that indicate the now 70-year-old music legend is re-thinking his youthful abandonment of religion (note: Linda was decidedly anti-religion, as Comfort points out).
Indeed, all four men showed a surprising facility for thinking about God and their own places in the universe. Sadly, George Harrison appears to have embraced Hinduism before his death in 2001, yet Comfort displays that discernment again when he allows that perhaps the two deceased Beatles were somehow able to come to the truth before death enveloped them.
Even Ringo, always the “cheerful, happy-go-lucky” Beatle, has mellowed with age and, yes, one can hope mightily that he and his surviving bandmate find the Lord.
In his truly singular way, Ray Comfort lets the reader know that his biblical understanding of reality comes from a heart for people: “Our species will go to the ends of the earth and spend billions of dollars to bring the guilty to justice. This is because we are made in the image of God. We have His likeness engraved upon us in that we know right from wrong. Lennon therefore understandably expressed this uniqueness as being ‘God’ in all of us. He said, ‘We’re all God. I’m not a god or the God, but we’re all God and we’re all potentially divine – and potentially evil.”
No, I’m aware that statement won’t square with many believers, but the point I’ve tried to make, and the point Ray Comfort makes with aplomb and grace, is that each human being is precious to God and that our Creator has put in each of us a longing to fill that void – even four, once-unknown young men from Liverpool who now live in human legend.
A video trailer for the book can be seen below:
Media interested in interviewing Ray Comfort about his new book and video on the Beatles can email firstname.lastname@example.org.