More Popular Than The Pope

In 1966, John Lennon famously stated:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I do not know what will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity… We’re more popular than Jesus now.

At the time the Vatican was pretty peeved with Lennon. But they have decided to make peace with this pop star, who—incidentally—died 28 years ago.

Upon the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ White Album, Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano stated:

The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a ‘boast’ by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll.

The fact remains that 38 years after breaking up, the songs of the Lennon-McCartney brand have shown an extraordinary resistance to the passage of time, becoming a source of inspiration for more than one generation of pop musicians.

Why, after all these years, has the Vatican decided to forgive John?

Perhaps it is that Lennon is no longer a threat. According to Google, web surfers searched for “Jesus” over twice as many times as “The Beatles” in 2008.

However, Google searches aside, Lennon may have been correct about the shrinking of Christianity. A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Politics estimated that while 1-in-3 Americans were raised Catholic, only 1-in-4 still consider themselves Catholic—meaning that nearly 10% of Americans are former Catholics. The Pew Forum described Catholicism as experiencing the greatest net losses of any faith.

Finally, it must be asked: why does the Vatican care? Christianity has never been a popularity contest (Jesus definitely was not a prom king).

Since when has this countercultural tradition become so mainstream?