John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine,” which pines for a Marxist utopia devoid of property and religion, lyrically promotes the “ill-founded belief” that “religion is the cause of wars,” when the devastatingly brutal wars of the 20th century were “largely inspired by secularist” and “openly anti-Christian ideologies,” says Catholic Bishop Mark Davies in his scheduled Christmas Day sermon.
Bishop Davies oversees the Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury in Birmingham, England. This 2014 Christmas marks the 100th anniversary of a Christmas “truce” during World War I when British and German soldiers, after an appeal by then-Pope Benedict XV, ceased fighting for a day and actually exchanged greetings and gifts and played soccer on the battlefield.
“Why did this happen?” says Bishop Davies in his homily, as reported in the Catholic Herald. “What could have drawn enemies from their entrenched positions to greet each other as friends?”
“[I]t was surely a light which first shone with the birth of a child born in Bethlehem, a Savior given to all humanity who turns our minds to thoughts of peace,” says the bishop.
“The events of Christmas 1914 give the lie to the lazily repeated assertion that ‘religion is the cause of wars,” says Bishop Davies. “John Lennon would give voice to this ill-founded belief in the lyrics of his song ‘Imagine.’”
“This becomes a heart-chilling vision in which Lennon imagines a world with no hope of heaven and no fear of hell,” says the bishop, “And he adds, ‘no religion too.’ Only then, he suggests will ‘all the people’ be ‘living life in peace.’”
The bishop continued, “Yet the fact is, the wars of the century past, bringing with them atrocities and destruction on a scale never seen before, were largely inspired by secularist and, indeed, openly anti-Christian ideologies. In reality, it is human sin which lies at the root cause of war.”
To steer clear of that evil, war, we must strive to stay focused on Christ who came to “save us from our sins,” and to seek “no ambition except to do good,” says the bishop.
He then goes on to lament that, ironically, the cultural levers of power are doing the opposite and repeating the errors of the past by pushing Christ out of the public square and, ultimately, trying to force Christ out of people’s consciousness.
“In Britain today, we are told two-thirds of schools now substitute a ‘winter celebration’ for the Nativity Story; civil servants, it is reported, are advised not to use the word ‘Christmas’ to avoid giving offence; and most civic authorities limit themselves to voicing merely ‘Seasonal Greetings,’” says Bishop Davies.
“How much we need to be reminded on this Christmas Night 2014, that the greatest message for peace and the cohesion of society is being lost amongst us!” says the bishop.
Without that truth, that message, what will call people to even momentarily drop their divisions and recognize the “eternal value and dignity” of each other? he says.
That message, which traveled through the hills of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago and echoed through the trenches of the Great War is needed now, as it was then, and always will be.