John Lennon, the ex-Beatle famed for imploring fans “to imagine there is no heaven”, will he greet fans as they enter the Pearly Gates?
Reverend Greg Laurie, evangelist and senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., believes that’s a real possibility. In “Lennon, Dylan, Alice & Jesus: The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll,” a book out Tuesday, Mr. Laurie explores the Christian connections many rockers have – and suggests that Lennon, shot in December 1980 on a Manhattan sidewalk, might be among the redeemed.
“There will be three surprises when we get to paradise,” Mr. Laurie said in an interview last week. “No. 1, some of the people we thought would be there won’t be there. No. 2, some of the people we never thought would be there will be there. And No. 3, we will be there.
He said the Beatles singer and songwriter could be one of paradise’s surprise residents. The rocker “made a profession of faith in the 70s after watching Billy Graham”, the renowned evangelist, on television. Mr Laurie said the man who once boasted the Beatles ‘were more popular than Jesus’, recorded two Christian songs – ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and ‘Amen’ – ‘but then walked away from it’ , he added.
But towards the end of Lennon’s life, the singer urged his youngest son, Sean, to pray “before he goes to sleep” via a song from the album “Double Fantasy.”
Mr Laurie said: “One wonders if Lennon has returned to his faith. He was tragically murdered by Mark David Chapman. He was conscious after being shot. As they drove him to the hospital. The officer asked him, “Do you know who you are?” And he said, ‘Yes, John Lennon.’ »
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If Lennon, “like the thief on the cross, [had] cried out to Jesus” during those “last breaths of his life,” Mr. Laurie said, “the Lord would forgive him.”
He added: “What I’m saying is that it looks like John Lennon has met Christ. Whether it was genuine or not, no one can say for sure, but if it came back to it at the end of its life, we might be surprised to shake hands with the Beatles when we come to fame.
What might also surprise some readers is Mr. Laurie’s lifelong interest in rock music. He is widely known for his daily Christian radio shows called “A New Beginning” and for hosting Harvest Crusade meetings that fill sports stadiums in Anaheim, California, and elsewhere.
He said he came to faith in California during the “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s, a time that sparked “a whole genre of music” aimed at Christian audiences: “They were sort of a combination of The Beach Boys meets the Beatles – lush harmonies, well-written songs,” he said, songs that “spoke to the culture of our new faith.”
Mr. Laurie recalls: “You know, in the late 60s, we were literally poring over the lyrics of the last Beatles record, trying to find clues about the meaning of life. But the reality is that it was blind people guiding blind people and these artists didn’t know any more than we did. But we thought they might.
Some secular rock artists, he said, found religious ties and expressed their faith in the music. Among the most prominent – and controversial – was folk/rock troubadour and future Nobel laureate in literature Bob Dylan, born Robert Alan Zimmerman and raised in the Jewish faith. He later embraced Christianity at some point and was also linked with Orthodox Jewish teachers.
“I know people who know him, who were friends with him when he was actually going to a little Bible school, to a church for a while,” Mr. Laurie said. “And they all felt that his interest in the scriptures and his relationship with the Lord was genuine.”
He added: “I see no indication after a deep dive into his life with my co-author and researcher Marshall Terrell, that Dylan ever gave up his Christian faith. He just stopped talking about it publicly.
One rocker who speaks publicly about his faith is Vincent Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper, the eyeliner-adorned hard rocker who is also the son and grandson of Christian preachers, Laurie noted. .
He said Mr Cooper told him about an episode where he lost his family and was “drinking and drinking most of the time” amid heavy drug use.
The singer “called on God. God heard his prayer. He became clean and sober. He’s been clean and sober for 30 years. He reconciled with his wife. He’s still touring as Alice Cooper, but now, in a way, he’s playing more of a stage character. He’s taken out the dark parts, the evil parts, and tries to talk about how his life has been redeemed and talks about it quite openly.
Rock stars, Mr. Laurie said, are “just people. … They are sensitive, they have talent. But they are just human beings like us.
He added: “When you face death, it doesn’t matter. No matter how many platinum records you have, or how many houses you have, or how much fame you have, you’re going to leave it all behind and go into eternity alone. Thus, one of the central themes of this book is that no one is beyond the reach of God.