The original quote was “Christianity will go, it will shrink and vanish – we’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.” What he meant to say was something along the lines of; “the way they (some fans) carry on, it’s like we’re more popular than Jesus Christ.”
The quote came in the middle of an interview he gave to Maureen Cleave of the London Evening Standard months before. It had appeared in print in the UK and no one turned a hair. In the States when a teen mag put the contentious bit “We’re more popular than Jesus” on the front cover the reaction was different.
Beatles records were burnt on public bonfires in Memphis, Alabama, and Oklahoma, Some local radio stations (often encouraged by the Ku Klux Klan) banned their records.
It was because of the reaction (mainly in the conservative south) that Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, made Lennon apologise as they started what was to be their last US tour.