Lennon and the Revelator (2 of 2)

Arts and TheologyThis was originally posted on orlandograce.org. This is the second of two posts examining similarities and differences between John Lennon’s Imagine and John the Apostle’s Revelation. Read the first one here.

Last week we looked at John Lennon’s Imagine and John the Apostle’s Revelation, examining the differences in these two works that image the end of history as we know it. This week we move on to where our two Johns overlap.


Grotto of the Apocalypse at Patmos

The Grotto of the Apocalypse at Patmos, surrounding the entrance to the cave where John is believed to have received the visions of Revelation.

Before we just merely use Lennon as a foil for Scripture (which is really just the easy way out) we need to ask what kind of similarities exist between the two. Both are highly religious and theological: Imagine by not naming God, Revelation by naming Him. Though one is a secular utopia and the other is the new heavens and earth, both have in mind a perfect society and they both have a hope for humanity. Both are honest with the present world not fulfilling all our needs, affirming that the world as it is now is lacking something. Both have a teleological thrust: there is an end goal to this thing called life, some kind of movement forward.

Both also have a sense of immediacy, that “now” matters and see their end goal on this earth. Imagine sings “Imagine all the people living for today” and Revelation teaches us that our actions now have eternal consequences. Also, in Revelation 21:2, we see that Jerusalem “comes down,” we don’t fly up to it or use our hope as an excuse to remove ourselves from this present world. In both works, the concept of eternity lures us into living in the present.

What Lennon can teach us
Lennon’s imagination was large and looming, and not just in music. Though faulty and incomplete, he imagined a better world than the one he was in. His imagination was large, but not large enough. But the question for us is this: are our imaginations as large as Lennon’s? We actually have (and supposedly believe) the story of Revelation. Does Lennon—who professed atheism and did not have the grace of believing Revelation to be true—does he put Christians to shame? Are we known for our large and looming imaginations, taking this world that is and reflecting the one that ought to be?

Listening to the song Imagine, the music and lyrics are wed to a feeling of longing. The music itself is not completely comforting, it wants to go somewhere. We, above all people, should be a part of this movement forward, not happy and not comfortable in the broken world that is. But for most of us Christianity is a means to the American dream: everyone is cool, calm and collected, completely happy with how everything is. Being a Christian is a calling to have your heart broken. To ache for others (like Lennon), to see the product of sin upon fellow human beings, to care enough to be broken. This is what taking our cross looks like. Christ was not satisfied while here, He prayed that the heavens and earth would be one (Mt 6:10).

To be a Christian also means to hope in something larger than ourselves. Though it was the wrong object of his faith, Lennon did hope in humanity. And possibly his hope was stronger than many Christians’ hope in the proper object of our faith. To hope for something larger than ourselves is to hope in Christ. It’s not up to us to redeem this world, He is in the process of “making all things new.”

A better imagination
Thankfully, human beings can never totally erase their human-ness. No matter how horrible, there is always humanity to be found. If we believe that Genesis 1 and 2 is true, that everyone is created in the image of God, there must be echoes of the Divine in all people. We just need to love others enough to look.

And surely speaking of the differences between worldviews and ways of living is important, but if we don’t spend time looking and investigating, how can we know these differences to begin with? Christians are already stereotyped as not willing to get involved with people different from them (probably rightly so), and it is easy to live this way. But God calls our minds to grapple with our present world and calls our hearts to be the engine that moves us out of our own lives and into the lives of others.

If we have the longing and hope that Revelation points to, we should be showing others what it looks like to imagine a better world. We should be known to people as dreamers, not as contentious people looking for the faults of the world. Lennon’s imagination was large, but not as large as the potential found in God’s people on His mission called to reflect the world that is to come.

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