A new movie, which focuses on The Beatles singer-songwriter John Lennon and was produced by evangelist Ray Comfort, has been hailed by some as inspiring, though at least one review of the film says Comfort has used the murder of the musician "to push Christian propaganda."
Alex Moore, editor-in-chief of Death and Taxes, says the movie "Genius" is anything but, and claims it twists Lennon's words to promote the same religion he was critical of.
"This video, which spends 30 minutes moralizing on the 'sins' of everyday people, exploited the anniversary of John's murder with a disingenuous PR campaign to trick people into watching the kind of religious propaganda Lennon denounced," wrote Moore toward the end of his review. "I almost feel bad having given it this many words and I don't recommend you watch the video."
A brief biography of Lennon's life is shared at the beginning of the film, explaining how as a boy he wound up attending Anglican Sunday school and singing in the church choir. It later mentions a letter he allegedly wrote to a Christian ministry in the 1970s, in which he said he had converted to Christianity after being moved by the NBC broadcast of the movie, "Jesus of Nazareth."
Comfort says Lennon's alleged conversion didn't last, however, because he was motivated to follow Christ by his search for happiness rather than the realization he needed to repent of his sins. The evangelist says many people in churches today have had similar motivations for their interest in the Christian faith, and may not actually be saved.
"Our churches are filled with people that are strangers to genuine repentance, because they've never had the law applied to their conscience," says Comfort. "Those commandments haven't shown them how exceedingly sinful sin is. They've never seen their own sin in its true light, and never fully repented and trusted in Christ."
The film uses Lennon's murderer, Mark David Chapman, who reportedly said he had "a deep relationship with Christ" even after the murder and claimed to be a Christian since age 16, as an example of someone who says he has faith but doesn't appear to have repented of his sins. It then goes on to a number of street interviews, in which Comfort challenges people on their views of what it means to be "good" according to the Bible and what it takes to make it into heaven.
Moore says Comfort took some of Lennon's quotes out of context in the film, including one in which the singer said: "I don't believe in the evolution of fish to monkeys to men." Moore quotes more of that passage from a 1980 Playboy interview with Lennon, in which the singer also says the belief that the world is only 4,000 years old is "irrational garbage." Moore also suggests the letter written by Lennon about his conversion to the Christian faith may be a myth, as the ministry that received it now says it is lost.
But despite the editor's description of the film as a "Christian propaganda vessel," Ken Mansfield, the man appointed by The Beatles to be the U.S. manager of Apple Records, said in a recent statement that the film shows "the real John Lennon." Comfort also says the film is fair.
"We made it our aim to clearly and objectively show both sides of the coin, highlighting the opposing perspectives on the controversial statement," he said, referring specifically to the film's handling of Lennon's famous "we're more popular than Jesus" statement.
The group that would eventually become The Beatles was started by Lennon in 1957, and they have since sold over 2.3 billion albums, the film states. "Genius" is based on Comfort's book, The Beatles, God and The Bible.