A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

McCartney and the Gospel

I've been reading the Gospel According to the Beatles and it's been interesting. There are some detailed looks at the life philosophy as articulated by the Beatles in interviews and in their song lyrics.

There's a range of side stories and personal interactions that ended up influencing the Beatles and their ways of viewing the world. And the historical and cultural and religious context from which the Beatles emerged is explored, including their upbringing as children.

But there were some disappointments in the book. There was a reliance on the common stock characters of the four men. George as eastern religion fan, John as anarchistic, Paul and Ringo as agnostic. And that ended up affecting the coverage in the book.

John and George dealt with recognizable religious forms so the book spent a large amount of coverage on them, their interests, their biographies, and the music they wrote including their post Beatles career. Paul and Ringo were largely absent from such coverage.

Paul's humanism, the belief that God was another word for good (Liverpool Oratorio), that there's possibilities in human life (C'mon People), that a positive approach will allow us to seize such possibilities (Mamunia), were all largely unexplored in this book.

Apparently the word Mamunia is Arabic for safe haven. Those are the sort of tidbits worth covering as much as discussing Harrison's My Sweet Lord. But the inability to recognize humanism as having that kind of significance doesn't just affect the book but most books.

I'm a theist so most folks wouldn't let me be labeled as a humanist, but there are certain values that the old humanists from the 20s and 30s had, the kind which were evident in post Christian Europe in the 50s when McCartney grew up, that I identify with.

I suspect this kind of humanism shares with the liberal Protestant tradition a number of traits, that the dogmatism of fundamentalism and the new atheism don't share. But here's the challenge. It was from that context that most of the baby boomers fled from.

What I end up connecting with is the very thing that was rebelled against in the 60s as boring, as not spiritually connecting, as not having the answers. Some wanted the true answers, others went for eclectic spiritualities. From mega churches to anything not western.

It raises questions. The sort of humane values of liberal protestantism and religious humanism for most children of the 60s failed to answer basic religious needs. Can those values be upheld in a manner that does so for the next generation? Or are we like Paul's work, not religiously recognizable today?


At 1:31 PM , Anonymous Damien said...

Great post. I'm a big Beatles fan and its nice to imagine they had some vestige of Christian influence, even if it was only by calling God another name for good.

I believe God brings opportunities to spread his love. Sometimes just by being, we witness. Other times, yes, we have to make a stand. The fine line is to make a stand that heals and doesn't annoy.

Liked your blog, I'll be back.

At 8:11 PM , Blogger DavidD said...

Secular positivism does fail, I think. Of course, I think evangelical positivism does, too. Maybe it's for the same reason, that adversity does come, and while you can talk yourself past some adversity, at some point life isn't just about happiness any more. Maybe there are bigger reasons.

I'm sure there are many people who believe what the Beatles believed or even less and go to their house of worship anywhere in the world just to be nice. I don't think it's a gospel. I think it's human nature that generates the appeal for the power of positive thinking. I think God's better than that, though I have wondered about a possible future where God decides just to be anonymous and leave us to a humanistic world. He might have worlds and species that respond to Him better than we do. Gee, that's negative. I'm glad I'm free to be either way.

At 8:51 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

"just to be nice"

I think it worked for the generation of the 1950s in the US and the prewar generation in the UK, but it was not a sufficient motive for the children.

In that sense I think the Gospel is in a much better position to be heard once separated from the norms and pretenses of the given society.

But there were some good values in that context that have been lost, some of which I think can and ought to be reclaimed.

But I'm not sure if folks are interested in religion reclaiming them or rather being as absolute as possible.

Can such liberal values be connected up with religious faith in ways that are spiritually significant for folks? I think the book Christianity for the Rest of Us gives positive news in this area.


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