What Do You Imagine?

Beatles legend John Lennon shared his dream for humanity in the 1971 song, “Imagine.”  The world which Lennon imagined was one with “no heaven,” “no hell,” “no countries,” “nothing to kill or die for,” and “no religion.”  Lennon was apparently convinced this would be the type of world where peace and true brotherhood would occur and then, “the world will be as one.”
This is a dream that many apparently still share.  “Imagine” was sung almost reverently at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.  As Dr. Rebecca McLaughlin notes, “Despite prescribing an anti-religious pill swallowed by only a tiny fraction of the world, “Imagine” is seen as an anthem of unity across ideological differences.”  Ironically, one of the celebrities in the crowd that evening, was Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.  Those living in that country do not need to “imagine” a world without religion or a belief in heaven and hell because these have been banned in this Communist nation for over seventy years.  Yet, plenty of killing and dying have happened within that country during this time.  The North Korean government has insisted true unity and oneness can only be attained though the forceful elimination of religion and any non-Communist ideology.

Of course, even as John Lennon was writing his song in 1971, there were multiple examples of governments seeking to stamp out religious beliefs and practices in an effort to create a utopian society.   Yet, Lennon was naively or intentionally blind to the horrific atrocities being committed by the officially atheistic regimes in places like the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China.  These governments were zealous in both seeking to eliminate religion and in killing tens of millions for their own people.

Dr. McLaughlin notes that Lennon’s dream expressed in “Imagine” is a stark contrast to a dream shared by another individual a few years earlier.  This man dreamed that “one day in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”  In Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision, peace and brotherhood would come not from the elimination of religion, but from following and fulfilling the teachings of religion, especially of Christianity.  King dreamed that “one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”  (Isaiah 40:4)   Though I am troubled by aspects of both King’s personal life and theological perspective, on this point I think he hit the nail on the head.  The true hope for a distressed and conflicted world is indeed Christianity.

Why? Because “reconciliation” is at the heart of the Christian message.  The Apostle Paul says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) This message of reconciliation includes experiencing God’s grace through trusting in Jesus Christ and then sharing that grace by treating others with respect and love.  Rather than dream of a world without religious beliefs and practices, I choose to imagine a day when “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11) The Bible says that day is surely coming.   “I can only imagine” how wonderful it will be.

Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church
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Dan Erickson