Bob Dylan and Religion

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“Christianity isn’t a religion… “It’s a reality.”

My friend of 24 years said that to me during an interesting conversation last month.  And that should be the truth.

Christianity… following Christ… being Christ-like… should be a reality for those who wear the label of Christian.  Yet, in reality, how often do we justify our words, actions, treatment of others… (or hear them justified) by convincing ourselves that “our faith” (or the label of “Christian”) is the reason that we have reacted/responded a certain way?  Judged someone?  Mistreated someone?  How often do we claim to be “defending our faith”… “defending scripture”… “defending God”… when, in reality, we’re defending ourselves?

If your faith is, indeed, a reality – it does not need defending.  If scripture is, indeed, a reality – it does not need defending.  If your God is, indeed, a reality – He, most certainly, does not need defending.  These things… faith, scripture, and God have stood the test of time and do not need your “defense”.  They stand on their own.

In 1979, Bob Dylan publicly professed to have a relationship with Christ.  And in 1979 and early 1980 he wrote several songs that spoke – very clearly – about this relationship.  Songs such as: You Gotta Serve Somebody, Slow Train Coming, and he released a “gospel” album entitled Saved that brought Dylan heat from every direction.  His concerts during this time contained most of his new songs and Dylan, himself, “preaching” between songs, even as his fans cried out for him to play his older – more well-known music. 

In November of 1980, Bob Dylan began a 2-week concert run where he performed his older songs, and some of his newer songs recorded later in 1980.  When asked about why his newer songs were only “remotely religious” in comparison to the others written and recorded in early 1979-1980, Dylan replied: “They’ve evolved.  I’ve made my statement, and I don’t think I could make it any better than in some of those songs.  Once I’ve said what I need to say in a song, thats it.  I don’t want to repeat myself.’  [Dylan] saw no need to repeat himself by continuing to write gospel songs or continuing to preach from the stage; truth is truth, and it stands forever.” From the book Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan  

Dylan saw no need to continue to “defend” his faith, scripture, or his relationship with Christ.  Yet Dylan, like many others who have proclaimed faith in Christ and simply try to live out their understanding of Christ’s character the best way that they know how, is viewed by many who claim to be “Christian” themselves, as someone who saw Christianity as a passing fad and now has no relationship with Christ.  Why?  Because he doesn’t talk about it unless asked…  and doesn’t use every platform that he’s given as “an opportunity to share the gospel”.

When did being a Christian become so narrow-minded a thing?

Because Dylan, again like many others, doesn’t fit into the boxed in definition of how his relationship with Christ began (it wasn’t in a church saying “the sinners prayer”), how his gifts should be used in a way that CLEARLY separates him from the “secular” industry (he still does “secular” concerts/appearances), how he lives out his relationship with Christ (he still attends and supports Jewish functions – his children are raised Jewish.  He doesn’t make “Christian” appearances.  He supports “secular” causes.  He doesn’t “preach” aloud about his faith.  He doesn’t attend a church service regularly), then he is ignored as a Christ-follower by many in “the church” at large.  What a shame.

And all around us are other, not-so-public persons, who don’t fit into someone else’s narrow-minded, “in the box” definition of what a Christian should be.  Yet they live out Christ in their hearts, minds, words, and actions on a daily basis.  They believe fully in Him and His deity.  They want to model His heart and life.  They study Him and His words.  Quietly.  Without boasting.  Without pomp and circumstance.  And with much more success at demonstrating Christ, and reaching the hearts of others, than those who piously and publicly (and loudly) proclaim – from their perches of self-importance and self-righteousness – that they are “Christians” yet treat those unlike them with disrespect, shame, and contempt.

Do you know some “Dylan-esque” persons that say they know Christ yet don’t do what you think they ought?  Someone who professes to have a relationship with Christ but doesn’t fit into your God-box?  Perhaps your box isn’t one given by God Himself, but created by you in order to keep you safe (and defended) in your own mind.  …Perhaps.
Selah.

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