Friday, March 4, 1966: 'We're more popular than Jesus now'

In a story written by Maureen Cleave and published in the London Evening Standard, John Lennon of The Beatles says:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first -- rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it ruins it for me.

Lennon's comments attracted little attention until they were reprinted in the September edition of Datebook magazine. (The cover and inside headline used the phrase "I don't know which will go first -- rocknroll or Christianity.") 

The backlash in the United States was swift, beginning with radio station WAQY in Birmingham, Alabama, which in August encouraged listeners to throw away or burn the band's records. Other stations followed suit and stopped playing Beatles songs, while the group was condemned by politicians and religious figures.

-- Jackson, Mississippi, August 1966; photo by Corbis Images

* March 4 summary from The Beatles Bible: @
* July 29 summary from The Beatles Bible: @
* Summary from The Beatles Ultimate Experience: @
* "John Lennon and Jesus, 4 March 1966" (Gordon Thompson, author of "Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out"): @
* " 'Christianity will go' comment stirs up fans" (Ottawa Citizen, August 3, 1966): @
* "John's Gospel" (David Frost, The Spectator, August 12): @
* "Beatle Lennon Apologizes" (The Nashua, N.H., Telegraph, August 12): @
* "Stations No, No Beatles Disks" (Billboard, August 13): @
* "Beatles Running Strong -- With Powerhouse Stations' Blessings" (Billboard, August 20): @
* "Warm Welcome for Beatles in 'Bible Belt' " (Sydney Morning Herald, August 21): @
* "Vatican 'forgives' John Lennon" (Reuters, November 22, 2008): @
* Film clips of controversy: @ 

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