The Who in concert: False spirituality in some really strange places

I was born at the tail end of the post-WWII “baby boom,” which means that rock and roll music was a big part of my early life. There’s no accounting for taste, but I was more into the breezy California folk-rock/country-rock sound of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash than bands with a harder sound, but I was pretty much aware of all the big groups and the different musical styles.

The rock and rollers of the 60s and 70s certainly had their agendas. For the most part, their message was “peace, love, sex, and partying,” and not always in that particular order. Most rock songs didn’t have any overtly religious themes. Rank hedonism seemed to be the idol of choice. But in the late 60s, some of the big name rockers began to dabble in Eastern mysticism, most notably George Harrison of the Beatles with his heavy involvement with Hare Krishna Hinduism.

I don’t listen to rock music much anymore since I’m an old fuddy duddy now and a lot of the song lyrics are antithetical to Christian belief, but I do like to take a Byrds CD for a spin every now and then.

One of the premier rock and roll bands of the 60s and 70s, The Who, came to Rochester this past Sunday. A good friend asked if I would tag along to the concert. I was never a big fan of The Who, but I thought it would be an interesting experience. So I sat in my collapsible camping chair from 8:30 PM to 11 PM in the cheap-seats grassy section while most of the 15,000 capacity crowd stood for 2.5 hours cheering wildly for The Who, or what’s left of it. Drummer Keith Moon died of a drug overdose in 1978 and bassist, John Entwistle, died of a cocaine-induced heart attack in 2002. So much for the rock and roll lifestyle. Guitarist and songwriter, Pete Townshend, and vocalist, Roger Daltry, carry on The Who legacy.

Halfway into the concert set, my ears picked up the mezmerizing electronic synthesizer intro to one of the Who’s most iconic tunes, “Baba O’Riley” (aka Teenage Wasteland). So there I was, listening along to one of the few Who songs I really liked in the past. But then I picked up on the lyric, “…I don’t need to fight to prove I’m right. I don’t need to be forgiven.” What? I don’t need to be forgiven? What’s that all about?

I wondered about that lyric and ended up doing a little research on Pete Townshend and “Baba O’Riley” the following day. Come to find out, the song was written by Townshend in part as a tribute to Meher Baba (1894-1969), a Zoroastrian-Hindu spiritual master who claimed to be an “avatar,” i.e., God in human form. Townshend has been a devoted follower of false Christ, Baba, since 1967 and several of his songs reference his teachings. Baba taught, as many Eastern mystics do, that there is no such thing as sin as the Bible teaches, but that there is only a journey of several lifetimes (aka reincarnation) to higher wisdom and eventual deification (“God-realization”).

“Dogmas, creeds, and conventional ideas of heaven and hell and of sin are perversions of Truth, and confuse and bewilder the mind. “ – Meher Baba

I don’t care to sit in constant judgement of every single detail of this unbelieving world or to criticize Christians who enjoy a little secular music now and then. I got caught up in that kind of “circle the wagons,” bunker-mentality style of Christianity for eight long years after I first accepted Christ. But there are many God-defying agendas out there. We must be discerning. If you’re sitting in your SUV, singing along to your favorite classic rock radio station, you may just find yourself repeating Townshend’s “I don’t need to be forgiven” or John Lennon’s ode to atheism, “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.” Do we really want to fill our minds with those messages?

For anyone who is curious about Townshend’s connection to false Christ, Meher Baba, see here.

♫ …It was FIFTY years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play… ♫

The 1960s was an interesting period to grow up in as society was in major flux. Throughout the decade, Walter Cronkite reported on civil rights battles, Vietnam, the rising youth culture and drugs, the peace movement, the beginning of the fight for women’s rights, the growing awareness of the environment, the dawn of computer technology, etc. Young people were rapidly losing faith in traditional institutions and were turning elsewhere for answers.

Because of my five older sisters’ love of The Beatles, I constantly heard the group’s music on the family stereo from 1964 until the end of the decade. Every time a new Beatles album came out it would be played over, and over, and over again until we all knew the words of every song by heart.

I recently watched a PBS special on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” released in 1967. The album was a revolutionary recording at the time with its pioneering studio gimmickry. It was the first LP album cover which included the song lyrics and we were all transfixed by “heavy” wisdom of the far-out Beatles.

Jim McGuinn of The Byrds and a Beatles contemporary proclaimed in 1966, “Lord Buckley (comedic hipster) said that the entertainers now are the new clergy.”

Institutional religion appeared as passé and the rock and roll troubadours seemed to have all the answers. “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was the new religion of the young and rock concerts were the new churches. Albums like “Sgt. Pepper” were the new bibles.

John Lennon of the Beatles went even farther that same year when he declared, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I’ll 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 that ruins it for me.”

Lennon was right in some respects. Cultural (c)hristianity, the kind Lennon was familiar with, has all but disappeared in Europe and is declining in the U.S. But the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone continues to go out into the world.

Jim McGuinn changed his first name to Roger in 1967 as part of his initiation into an Eastern religion. But after hitting rock-bottom after years of heavy drug use, McGuinn accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1977.

The Beatles’ partnership was formally dissolved in 1975 after five years of bitter personal and legal acrimony. I guess the lads needed more than love after all. John Lennon was murdered by an insane fan in 1980 and his Beatles-mate, George Harrison, died of lung cancer in 2001.

People are still chasing after something to fill the spiritual vacuum in their soul. Jesus Christ is the ONLY solid Rock, yesterday, today, and forever!

“Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” – Acts 17:21