IMAGINE

Forty-three years ago the words of John Lennon’s famous opus greeted us from the speakers of our transistor radios and turntables, vinyl discs spinning at 33 or 45 revolutions per minute, oblivious to their eventual reincarnation on little silver digital platters and magnetic discs whirling at 7200 rpms, or codified on tiny silicone chips. They were, and remain, a plea from a young, idealistic mind, and appeal today to the innocent child in all of us. And they should, like the movies Shrek and Toy Story. They only become dangerous if you believe them.

“Imagine” constructs a (supposed) utopia without heaven or hell, “nothing to kill or die for and no religion….” People living in peace. No possessions, greed or hunger—“a brotherhood of man.” The sentiment comes from a good place, but, like all fairy tales, has a dark side.

By inventing a mythical human nature, it creates a world that, if implemented literally, would destroy the very souls it wants to help. By denigrating religion, it fails to understand the fundamentals of what religion is—a human tool. Just as a gun can be used for good or evil intent, so can religion. In the Middle Ages, Christianity committed atrocities in God’s name, and today the Islamists have hijacked the religion of billions of Muslims and done the same. If the evil that coexists with the nobility in the human spirit just vanished (imagine—it’s easy if you try), then perhaps there would be no need for religion. (No need for faith in God is a larger, more complex issue, however.)

Nothing to kill for may be laudable, but nothing worth dying for … well, that might be a recipe for an empty existence. In Lennon’s utopia there’s no need for countries. In our world, nothing could be farther from the truth. I shudder to think what our planet would be like if the American experiment in freedom, starting to erode at the edges in my lifetime, had failed.

So continue to imagine an existence without greed, without evil, “a brotherhood of man.” But don’t for an instant let your fantasies convince you that we have no need of a strong country—one grounded in principles of human liberty with as fervent a belief in the God that teaches us to “do unto others” as those that want to destroy us believe in a power that tells them to kill anyone who deigns to choose freedom over subjugation.

Don’t be a dreamer.

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