It happened in the ‘70s, driving in my Camaro, I heard it for the first time, the song that would become iconic not just in the USA but around the world. The song was entitled “Imagine,” a beautiful song, a contagious song, written and sung by John Lennon after he separated from the Beatles.
In the song Lennon invites us to imagine a very different kind of world, no hunger, no wars, no possessions, no borders. Most of us are in agreement with him—up to this point in the song. However, I take exception with these words in the song: “…and no religion too.”
The implied message Lennon is bringing home is this: we would be better off if we got rid of religion completely.
If by religion he meant that religious fervor that puts down anyone that doesn’t think like you, looks like you, then I agree with him. And some would argue that religion is the motivating factor behind many wars. We know that many good and right things can be used for evil in the wrong hands. And just because something is said to be in the name of religion doesn’t make it religious. However, I believe that a person’s true and sincere relationship with his or her God is not only good, but has also contributed greatly in every society through every generation.
We can thank religious organizations for the existence of the many great universities that they have produced. Many great medical professionals, engineers, scientists and leaders of great corporations that have been educated in these centers of learning. I take great pride (without foolish boasting) in the fact that my church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, has an educational system that serves the entire world with schools at every level in every continent.
What can we say about hospitals that have been built by different denominations around the world? Religious organizations who feed the hungry after a famine, help victims after an earthquake. I could go on and on.
On a personal level, my life has been impacted forever by a woman driven by that “Old Time Religion,” my maternal grandmother. Sixty years ago, I would spend days at her humble home out in the backwoods of México. She had no electricity, no running water. She was driven by love for her God.
Although she was in her 80s, many nights I found her kneeling on a concrete floor praying for her family, including yours truly. On Wednesday nights, she would ask me to take her by the hand and go to the little country church where her face would light up those gospel hymns.
Because of the influence of that woman, I have been a pastor in the Seventh Day Adventist Church for the last 20 years. Yes, I disagree with Lennon and, if I might add, give me that ole time religion! If it was good enough for grandma, it’s good enough for me.
Gilbert Garcia is pastor of the Morgan Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), the Gilroy Bilingual SDA, and the Salinas Hispanic SDA Church. He is a member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County. Pastor Garcia can be reached at [email protected]