My Facebook feed would likely be filled with a headline like this:
After His Extensive Study of Religion You’ll Never Believe What John Lennon Said About Jesus.
And then we’d all click on the link and it’d tell us that Lennon said, “Jesus is all right”. Many Christians would share this article and we’d celebrate that somewhere along the way John Lennon had accepted Jesus. Then when people started wondering about some of his other comments we’d read a host of articles telling the objectors not to be so judgmental and that maybe Lennon’s Christianity isn’t quite the same as ours, but at least he is one of us.
Of course it wouldn’t matter that the larger context for Lennon’s quote is the one that actually got him in a bit of trouble in 1966:
“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will 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 got himself into a mess of trouble when this quote came to the US in August of 1966. His statements were viewed as sacrilegious. The Bible Belt was in an uproar and the Vatican publicly denounced Lennon’s comments. Lennon attempted to explain that he wasn’t trying to dis on Jesus, he was simply saying that religion had been in steep decline, especially in the UK. The Beatles, in many ways, really were more popular than Jesus.
The difference between the church in 1966 and the church today is telling. If Reddit and Facebook had existed in 1966 I imagine the headlines after an interview with Chris Pratt would have read:
Half-Drunken Actor Displays Vulgarity and Talks About Smoking Weed
Though a bit disingenuous that headline would have been fairly accurate. In this piece, Chris Pratt dropped the “F-bomb” several times, admitted to being half-drunk in doing the interview, and talked about characters he played having smoked a bunch of weed. And yet my Facebook feed was recently filled with Christians celebrating Chris Pratt as a godly role model for men everywhere to follow (Like here and here)
I have to confess, I do like Chris Pratt. And I’m not even intending here to question the validity of his faith. It’s not really a concern of mine. He isn’t in my church, I don’t know his heart, but I’d be more than happy to be his friend if he lived near me. I’m attempting to make a much larger point than Chris Pratt.
What Chris Pratt said about his faith was about as ambiguous as what John Lennon has said in various places. But there has been a radical shift in our culture and in the church in the past 50 years. Somewhere along the way we over-reacted to our against culture stance and decided to pursue popularity with culture. Now we’ll quickly put Chris Pratt on a pedestal of Christian manhood because it gives us street cred.
But this is foolishness. D.A. Carson is correct:
This is a point that our generation cannot afford to ignore. Why is it that we constantly parade Christian athletes, media personalities, and pop singers? Why should we think that their opinions or their experiences of grace are of any more significance than those of any other believer? When we tell outsiders about people in our church, do we instantly think of the despised and the lowly who have become Christians, or do we love to impress people with the importance of the men and women who have become Christians?” D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p.29
It is true, Christians won’t win the culture war by force or by politics. But it is also true that we won’t win the culture war by out-cooling unbelievers. We’ll win the culture war—if there even is one—when King Jesus returns and roots out of his world all sin and unbelief and replaces it with passionate worshippers. We don’t need celebrities to usher in the kingdom. What Jesus has done in your life is just as powerful as what he may or may not have done in the life of some A-list celebrity. You don’t need a rock star to validate your testimony. Jesus is enough!