The Beatles’ “Revolution” will receive some theological reflection this Sunday as we finish up our Beatles-themed sermon series. The Vinebranch band will also, of course, perform it, along with “Let It Be.”
“Revolution” was controversial when it was released in 1968. In an era in which many young people believed they could make the world a better place, this song was a wet blanket: “Well, you know, we all want to change the world,” John Lennon sang. But show me the plan first. How do you know your efforts won’t end up making things worse? “If you talk about destruction,” count me out. Also, don’t ask me to support causes whose leaders have “minds that hate”—like Chairman Mao, for instance. Violent means don’t justify supposedly peaceful ends.
Both the song and the Bible share a similar pessimism about human nature. In a published response to a radical student who wrote an “open letter” criticizing Lennon and the song, Lennon wrote:
You say ‘in order to change the world, we’ve got to understand what’s wrong with the world and then destroy it. Ruthlessly.’ You’re obviously on a destruction kick. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it—people. So, do you want to destroy them? Ruthlessly? Until you/we change your/our heads—there’s no chance.[†]
I couldn’t have said it better myself. As the song says, “You better free your mind instead.”
Easier said than done, I guess!
In fact, both “freeing your mind” and creating a world in which love, peace, and justice hold sway—a desire that the Beatles often sang about—is impossible apart from a radical and miraculous intervention from God. But I’ll say more about that this Sunday.
Here’s the White Album version, “Revolution 1.” A more aggressive version was later recorded and released as a single.
† Steve Turner, A Hard Day’s Write (New York: It Books, 2005), 169.