Raised agnostic as I was, I haven’t had any institution with absolute moral authority in my life. I mean, my parents were pretty powerful for a while there. But they didn’t raise me to believe in absolute authority.
During my childhood, the hypocrisies of Christianity and other religions were highlighted more often than their virtues. And from the age of 14 on, I had huge role models in John, Paul, George & Ringo. I don’t remember Lennon saying the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” when it happened, but I did learn of the moral outrage in the Bible Belt, as the group was banned and their records burned.
Now, all these years later, I read that the Vatican has forgiven the Beatles. Given some of the moral difficulties the Church faces lately, it would be easy to mock their belated change of heart, but I rather like some of the sentiments expressed.
“They may not have been the best example for the youth of the day but they were by no means the worst. Their beautiful melodies changed music and continue to give pleasure.” And “Forty years later the Beatles still astound with their originality and they are a consolation against the continual assault on music lovers by the record industry.”
They even called the Beatles “a precious jewel.” To which I can only say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”
I’ve seen numerous retrospectives on the Beatles, all these years since, and I’m often struck anew by how polished they and their music were. They weren’t perfect (which this agnostic appreciates, in an odd way), but their music was as immaculate as any, and I still miss them. Not the Beatlemania. Not what the media frenzy reflected of our culture through them back at us. But the music and the messages they colored their songs with, how positive they were, and the easy grace they achieved, I miss all of that very much. Do kids these days have bands like that?
It took the Vatican what, 400 years to forgive Galileo and admit he was right about the solar system? So perhaps 40 years to forgive Lennon is an evolution, a progress, of sorts.