After ruminating on the Rumi nature of John Lennon's lyric in "Across the Universe" (as mentioned in a previous post), I began to ponder the paradox of John Lennon himself and his seemingly conflicting views on religion.
After all, three years after Lennon reverentially sang "jai guru deva om" ("thanks to God divine") he wistfully sang: "Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, no religion too."
But on second glance there's no contradiction. Lennon simply did not equate religion with spirituality and could explore the latter without the baggage of the former. Or perhaps more specifically, without the baggage of religious authority. (In fact, shortly after writing "Across the Universe" he wrote "Sexy Sadie" which brilliantly—if harshly—lampooned the Beatles' one-time mentor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.)
I think this also says something about the nature of musicians. As I will explore in a forthcoming book, rock & rollers in particular seem to have a healthy disregard for authority in general. (This is a trait that modern business teams would do well to emulate in a disruptive global economy—as I will elaborate on in a future post.)
This disregard for authority usually extends to the domain of religion as well—which I endorse. I'd like to think we can explore our spirituality independently of religious hierarchies which often try to think and speak on our behalf.
And we can question the "exclusivists" who maintain there is only one correct interpretation of centuries-old religious texts (especially when elements of those texts are of questionable validity to impartial scholars) and question the establishmentarians who characterize those with different perspectives as heretics (or infidels) and seek to punish them for their heterodox beliefs.
(In my own country—the US—people seem unaware that at its founding the national government "disestablished" religion in reaction to 150 years of religious violence—including torture and execution, Christian against Christian—perpetrated by the different colonial governments against those who simply held different religious beliefs.)
As a side note, I've often wondered wouldn't any "God" who displays childish pettiness or jealousy over whether we're paying enough attention to Him/Her deserve disqualification—as an insecure imposter? (This is anthropomorphism at its worst, and a topic for another occasion.)
What I'd really love to see is more independent-minded spiritual leaders and practitioners, especially those who aren't afraid to bring some fun, joy, and life to their spirituality. I've seen the effects of religious worldviews that are joyless, grim, deadly serious—usually because of their proprietary claims on the truth. Where are the Holy Rock & Rollers when we need them? And, especially now, where is Sheik Rattle & Roll?
With such thoughts rattling around in my head ("like a restless wind inside a letter box") I read the results of a major study of religion in America last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
It turns out that nearly half of Americans are now practicing a different faith from the one they were practicing as a child—a new phenomenon in the US—along with a growing trend of those who are "unaffiliated" with any particular denomination.
Looks like a promising sign that folks—at least in this corner of the world—are finally starting to think for themselves. To put an even more American spin on it, perhaps they're simply acting as informed consumers should, in the global marketplace of ideas. To this I say "jai guru deva om."