- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2022

Will John Lennon, the ex-Beatle famous for imploring fans to “imagine there’s no heaven,” greet fans when they enter the Pearly Gates?

The Rev. Greg Laurie, an evangelist and the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, has faith that it’s a genuine possibility. In “Lennon, Dylan, Alice & Jesus: The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll,” a book being released on Tuesday, Mr. Laurie explores the Christian links many rockers have — and suggests that Lennon, gunned down in December 1980 on a Manhattan sidewalk, might be among the redeemed.

“There’ll be three surprises when we get to heaven,” Mr. Laurie said in an interview last week. “No. 1, some of the people we thought would be there won’t be there. No. 2, some of the people we never thought would be there will be there. And No. 3, we’ll be there.”

He said the Beatle singer and composer could be one of the surprise residents of heaven. The rocker “made a profession of faith in the ‘70s after watching Billy Graham,” the noted evangelist, on television. Mr. Laurie said the man who once boasted The Beatles “were more popular than Jesus,” recorded two Christian songs — ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and ‘Amen’ — “but then he walked away from it,” he added.

But toward the end of Lennon’s life, the singer admonished Sean, his younger son, to pray “before you go to sleep” via a song on the “Double Fantasy” album.

Mr. Laurie said, “One wonders if Lennon turned back to his faith. He was tragically murdered by Mark David Chapman. He was conscious after he was shot. As they were driving him to the hospital. The officer asked him, ‘Do you know who you are?’ And he said, ‘Yes, John Lennon.’”

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If Lennon, “like the thief on the cross, [had] cried out to Jesus” during those “final breaths of his life,” Mr. Laurie asserted, “the Lord would forgive him.”

He added, “What I’m saying is it appears John Lennon had an encounter with Christ. If it was genuine or not, no one can say with certainty, but if he did return to it at the end of his life, we might be surprised to shake the hand of the Beatle when we get to glory.”

What might also surprise some readers is Mr. Laurie’s longtime interest in rock music. He’s widely known for his daily Christian radio broadcasts called “A New Beginning,” and for staging Harvest Crusade meetings that fill sports stadiums in Anaheim, California, and elsewhere.

He said he came to faith in California during the “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s, a time that sparked “a whole genre of music” aimed at Christian audiences: “They were kind of a combination of The Beach Boys meets the Beatles — lush harmonies, well-written songs,” he said, songs that “were talking to the culture about our newfound faith.”

Mr. Laurie recalled, “You know, in the late ‘60s, we would literally pore over the lyrics of the latest Beatles record, trying to find clues as to what the meaning of life was. But the reality is, it was the blind leading the blind and those artists didn’t know any more than we knew. But we thought they might.”

Some secular rock artists, he said, found faith connections and expressed their faith in music. Among the most prominent — and controversial — was folk/rock troubadour and eventual Nobel Literature Prize winner Bob Dylan, born Robert Alan Zimmerman and raised in the Jewish faith. He later embraced Christianity at one point and has also been linked to Orthodox Jewish teachers.

“I know people who know him, who were friends with him when he was actually going to a little Bible school, in a church for a period of time,” Mr. Laurie said. “And they all felt that his interest in Scripture and his relationship with the Lord was genuine.”

He added, “I don’t see any indication after a deep dive into his life with my co-author and researcher Marshall Terrell, that Dylan ever abandoned his Christian faith. He just stopped talking about it publicly.”

One rocker who does speak publicly about his faith is Vincent Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper, the eyeliner-adorned hard rocker who is also the son and grandson of Christian preachers, Mr. Laurie noted.

He said Mr. Cooper told him of an episode where he had lost his family and “was boozing and drunk most of the time” amid heavy-duty drug use.

The singer “called out to God. God heard his prayer. He got clean and sober. He‘s been clean and sober now for 30 years. He was reconciled with his wife. He still tours as Alice Cooper, but now in a way he‘s playing more of a character on stage. He took out the dark parts, the devilish parts, and is trying to talk about how his life has been redeemed and speaks about it quite openly.”

Rock stars, Mr. Laurie said, are “just people. … They’re sensitive, they’re talented. But they’re just human beings like we are.”

He added, “When you’re facing death, it doesn’t matter. No matter how many platinum records you have, or how many houses you have, or how much fame you have, you’re going to leave it all behind you and you’re going to enter eternity alone. So one of the overriding themes of this book is that no one is beyond the reach of God.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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