Listening to Lennon’s hymn Imagine has always been a spiritual experience for me. It causes me to stop and recommit to my assumptions.
“Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion, too”
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Imagine is the third most important popular song in history. What are the first and second? (Hint: They both involve “Rolling Stone(s).)
I’ve never understood why a person born on one side of a border is different or more entitled than a person living on the other side. I’ve never understood wars of religion; and even though I was a Mormon missionary, I no longer understand proselyting. In fact, I’m a bit of a nonviolent anarchist. I struggle to understand the need for organizations in general. “Imagine” works well as my anthem.
So I was a bit surprised to see the recent widely published op-ed rant by Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin (from Religious News Service):
Lennon was saying: Let’s get rid of nations; let’s get rid of religion; let’s get rid o f the idea that there is something above that is worth dying for, and that might even be worth killing for.
Let’s get rid of the passions that help us transcend ourselves. Maybe that’s why the melody of “Imagine” is so subdued–almost like sleepwalking.
“Imagine” is a dream, and not a very good one.
Salkin likes culture, language and national dreams. He goes on to make the ridiculous statement: “Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot imagined a world without religion. The results were demonic.”
It is easy for Salkin to like borders and countries because he was “born in the USA,” or at least he lives there now. He is a ‘have’ not a ‘have-not.’ His opportunities have been greater than many of those living across the southern border. Salkin is Jewish and can surely understand the tyranny of borders, misplaced nationalism, demonic national dreams, and scapegoating. And Lennon was not advocating for the abolishment of culture and language.
Surely we can understand the tyranny of some aspects of religion. Catholics and Mormons discriminate against women. Conservative Christians want to discriminate against gays. ISIS wants a heavily controlled social environment and a uni-cultural experience that they are willing to enforce with marshal law.
According to Mormon humorist and theologian Robert Kirby, religions have spent millennia encouraging us to treat each other “exactly the way we wouldn’t want to treat ourselves” and to turn ” petty differences into worldwide crises.”
Is it wrong to “imagine” these things evaporating? With institutional religions, you have to take the good with the bad. Lennon was hoping for just the good. You know: “Loving your fellow man.”
As for the Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot crack, this connection is totally inappropriate. What causes Salkin to believe that Lennon is endorsing mass murder? The Rabbi is trying way to hard to dislike Lennon’s hymn. I hope he is playing devil’s advocate.
Imagine is still my anthem.