Sunday, June 25, 2017

Was the defining message of the era just stupid?

Lennon turned his doodle into one of the crown jewels of the Beatles’ entire repertoire, one that stands as a defining message of the era: “All You Need Is Love.”
Fifty years ago today apparently.

It was very much the defining message of the era. It hardly originated with John Lennon though. A year before the song was written a now-deservedly-forgotten writer named Jospeh Fletcher published a book called Situation Ethics whose message was all you need is love to make moral decisions. Fletcher was one of the lesser products of a school of Protestant theology that placed a lot of emphasis on the notion that "God is love".

The message travelled from liberal Protestant theology into the general culture of the time and then was reflected back at people in lyrics that, even by John Lennon standards, are a banal series of non sequiturs. And people ate it up so we can hardly blame John Lennon. The culture was awash in this trite optimism.

My mother told me that she and my father got all of their children out of bed to watch the television broadcast when the song was unveiled. She believed it was an historic occasion. The writers at the Los Angeles Times still do.

In the end it amounted to ...

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