I think it is worthwhile to examine George Harrison’s thoughts about God, ethics and the afterlife. This might seem like a trivial investigation into pop culture, but I think it illustrates much of what passes for religious thought in the populace of our day. Whether or not the Beatles and Harrison are responsible for the ‘theology’ of our day, or whether they were just riding the wave (as John Lennon said) I will leave for others to decide. I do think that Harrison’s theologizing stands in sharp contrast to what God has revealed to us in Scripture and also that Harrison’s version of Hare Krishna is much more amenable to our way of life.
Harrison as a Born-Again Krishna Devotee
Harrison was born into a Roman Catholic household. His portrayal of Christianity seems to be stiff and stereotypical, not corresponding to what he might have discovered if he had studied the riches of the faith. Harrison’s advocacy for chanting in a Hare Krishna temple contrasted the experience with his Christian background in the Catholic Church. He said:
But part of Krishna consciousness is trying to tune in all the senses of all the people: to experience God through all the senses, not just by experiencing Him on Sunday, through your knees by kneeling on some hard wooden kneeler in the church. But if you visit a temple, you can see pictures of God, you can see the Deity form of the Lord, and you can just hear Him by listening to yourself and others say the mantra. It’s just a way of realizing that all the senses can be applied toward perceiving God, and it makes it that much more appealing, seeing the pictures, hearing the mantra,smelling the incense, flowers, and so on. That’s the nice thing about your movement. It incorporates everything–chanting, dancing, philosophy, and prasadam.
Let’s consider Harrison’s thoughts: first, he contrasts experiencing God through all the senses vs. just experiencing him on Sunday on your knees on a kneeler. Coming from a former Catholic, this strikes me as particularly puzzling. Catholic churches use incense, statues, pictures, rosaries and the ritual action of the liturgy as means to experience God. Harrison goes on to mention pictures, incense and movement as part of the appeal of Hare Krishna! You would think he was coming from some sort of harsh background that forbid pictures in worship, but he wasn’t. The only conclusion I draw is that he was very poorly catechized in the faith of his birth.
The only practice he mentions that I can see being absent from Catholicism is dancing (in worship). And I’m sure that there was a sense in the 60’s that Christianity was dead and formal whereas the new religions were full of life and light. That is the sense I get from reading anyway. 1950’s Protestantism and Catholicism don’t strike me as particularly exciting. They seem to have lost the excitement of the Christian story in the fervor of the modern Atomic Age. This is a generalization of course. Currently, on the other side of the massive revolution that occurred in church music and experience it is hard to imagine the contrast in formality and dress that the Krishna movement (or the Jesus People for that matter) presented to someone in 1968. So maybe the more uninhibited nature of Krishna worship impressed people like Harrison, but his characterizations of the Church are not accurate.
[To be continued]
I thought I should record this on the internet since I spent some time finding it. The fanfare/intro to the U2 song, “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for your Crashed Car” (on Zooropa) is from a song called “Le Rocher Sur La Volga.” The version U2 used was from a record called Lenin’s Favourite Songs. Other versions are our there. You’re welcome internet.
These days when you think about the charismatic movement, you often think about worship style. And to be honest, in most “charismatic” churches that I’ve been to recently there is no sign of the gifts being active. Granted, I don’t go to a lot of in-your-face charismatic churches, but this is my impression of most [on-paper] charismatic churches like the Vineyard, Calvary Chapel and Sovereign Grace.
What many high-church or Baptist folks mean when they decry charismatic churches is simply ‘happy-clappy’ worship. So from within the charismatic churches and without, the identification of a ‘charismatic’ church is via its style of worship music. But this seems utterly wrong. For one thing, this style of soft-rock worship music now dominates almost every church, from Missouri Synod Lutherans to Southern Baptist mega-churches to Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.
The 1st century Church wasn’t worshiping with guitars and drum-kits, and yet they had regular outpourings of the Holy Spirit. You can trace the presence of the gifts throughout Church history on and off through the ages. None of these time periods used our style of worship music either (obviously). So there is no causal relationship between the charismatic gifts and singing Hillsong music in church.
I don’t know of any churches today that have Gregorian chant and speaking in tongues. Generally, the more outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit that you see, the wilder the music is. But I can’t see any objective Biblical reason for this to be necessary.