Who Wrote “Imagine” Lennon or Lenin?

Last night on American Idol Josh Ledet sang John Lennon’s classic ballad “Imagine” and Judge Randy Jackson asked him why he chose that song. Josh responded with something about inspiring lyrics. I too was surprised that someone who is very open about their faith and their church background would choose this particular song.

While the lyrics you talk about peace, love, tolerance, charity or anti-materialism all of which could be considered Christian values, the song is actually at its core anti-religious. You don’t have to go very far into the song to see this. After all the opening line is “Imagine there’s no heaven…” I did notice that Josh skip the verse with the line” imagine… no religion too” but he did sing the opening line which proposes that there is no heaven or hell.

It’s always seemed to me that the basic premise of the song was that most of the things that are wrong with this world are attributed both to religion and if we got rid of religion we could have all of that peace and love and brotherhood.

This song makes a good point. How many wars have been fought between Christians and Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jews and Muslims. This despite the fact that all three of those major religions espouse the remaining concepts of this song which are peace, love, brotherhood etc. History shows us even further that even within these major religions Protestants and Catholics have been a war with each other within Christianity for centuries. Sunni and Shiite Muslims are currently killing each other by the hundreds and thousands. At least the Reformed Jews and Orthodox Jews while they might disagree with each other vehemently don’t seem to be at war with one another at least not to the extent that the other intramural religious disagreements have turned to violence.

It’s not so much that religion itself is at fault for the ills of the world. It is religious hypocrisy that is at fault. Like I said before the core beliefs of these religions promote peace and brotherhood. However John Lennon’s lyrics do not denounce hypocrisy… They denounce religion in broad strokes.

There is also an undertone in the song denouncing nationalism and patriotism. Lines like” nothing to kill or die for” hint at nationalism and patriotism as being as guilty as religion in what’s wrong with the world. Again to a certain extent guilty as charged. We are a nation founded on freedom and we take great pride in that and are justified in making military sacrifices to defend freedom. But sometimes it’s our vision of freedom being imposed on others.

 

So anyway I’m always surprised when someone who is outwardly religious and/or patriotic endorses a song like “Imagine”. It is a very beautifully written song with a haunting melody and indeed inspiring lyrics with which I agree about 85% and I’m presuming it’s that similar 85% worth of inspiring lyrics that inspired Josh to choose that song. He did a wonderful job performing it.

But did he really pay attention to everything he was singing? Does he really believe that the world would be better off without religion and without pride in one’s country? My guess is he didn’t. I’ll give Josh an “A+” for performance and “D-” for song choice. If he wanted an inspirational song by a former Beatle that would’ve sent the same mood and shown off his vocal talents to the same degree he should’ve sang “Let It Be”.

3 thoughts on “Who Wrote “Imagine” Lennon or Lenin?

  1. Please go back and re read the lyrics putting yourself in Lennon’s shoes. Lennon was simply saying imagine living in a world where everyone lives together in peace with no boundaries. If everyone had the same religion, lived in the same country, and shared the same posessions (no lower, middle, upper class just equality) there would be no fear of wars etc. and the world could live in peace. However, that is only him being a “dreamer.”

    Consider the circumstances of the time. Lennon wrote this as a song protesting the Viet Nam War, not as a protest against organized religion. Is he not correct on these issues? Would the world be friendlier to each other if Muslims, Catholics, Jewish, Protestants, Atheists, Buddhists, and Agnostics all shared the same viewpoints? If there were no differences between democracies and dictatorships? Damn right it would…

    Funny thing is that I know he is not the only dreamer. My 5 year old daughter made her wish on the first start of the night a week ago. She ended up telling me her wish. You know what it was? She said “daddy, I wish everything were free and we did not have to pay for anything..” Isn’t that the perfect fix for everything, but greed would never allow that to happen.

    • I understand the times and situation in which the song was written. But I have to assume that the words mean what they say. He doesn’t say “one religion”. He doesn’t say “no religious conflict”. He says “no heaven… no hell… no religion”. I stand by my original conclusions. Like I said in the original post, I agree with about 85% of what he says. I’ll go even further and say he’s right in that if there was no religion and no countries it might make for a much more peaceful world. But I would rather have people of faith who are proud of the country in which they live but could learn to get along.

  2. One of the things I’ve always liked about “Let It Be” is the duality of the reference to “Mother Mary.” Yes, Paul’s mother’s name was Mary. But at the same time, Paul was raised Catholic – even though he’s left the faith, he was obviously quite aware of that duality. Mother Mary McCartney: only has meaning for Paul and his brother. Our other “Mother Mary” has the capacity to be universal, if you’ll (sorry) let it be.

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