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Should a Christian listen to Bob Dylan?

08 Feb

I recently received an email from a Christian who read a blog I wrote about a Dylan song. He was previously a Dylan fan, but he stopped listening to Dylan after he became a Christian. He felt that his new found faith in Christ was incompatible with Dylan. Here is a portion of his email:

As I wrote in the posting, I stopped listening to Bob Dylan after attending one of his concerts in Melbourne, Australia, when he unfurled a banner with the eye of Horus emblazoned on it – which he uses as part of his logo. Because I am a Christian, I really wrestled with the issue of whether or not I should continue listening to his music, as I was a huge fan of his music and the nature of his lyrics, although there was a disturbing element to many of the songs in his “psychedelic” period. I was also uneasy about his recent allusions to “selling his soul to the Devil” or making a bargain with ?the Devil although he never said anything concrete about Satan. Once I looked up the meaning of his logo on the Internet I felt that he had taken a decisive step to link himself with Satan, and looking at his ambiguous comments in that light, it would appear that he is quite comfortable to joke around with the possibility of being Satanic, something which I fiind quite disturbing! I therefore deleted the hundreds of Dylan songs from my collection which was a very difficult thing to do, and have resolved not to listen to his music until he makes a statement denouncing his logo and any possible ties with Satan. I really would like to listen to his music but can no longer do so in good conscience. I am fully aware that God is the ultimate judge and this issue is ultimately between Bob Dylan and God; however, I wanted to e-mail you because you are a pastor and I thought it would be important to warn you that Bob Dylan may not be all that he seems (and that the spiritual nature of his music may not actually be related to Christianity, at all).

Would be interested to hear what you think,

CT

Here is my response:

CT,

Thanks for the email. I am about fourteen months into my Dylan journey. I have been familiar with Dylan’s gospel albums for years, but I have only recently dove deeper in the Dylan universe. Your questions have got me thinking and reflecting on a Christians’ take on Dylan. The most important question for us Dylan fans who are Christian is whether or not Dylan himself is a fellow believer in Christ. Before I get to that one, let me answer some of your other questions.

You wrote in your email:
I am a Christian and would be very uneasy about promoting Bob Dylan as an artist whose music is suitable for use in the church. In recent times, if anything, he seems to have more of an affinity with Satan…! This is illustrated by —

(a) His use of a satanic emblem, the eye of Horus, as part of his logo.

(b) His seeking to identify with Robert Johnson (the bluesman who according to legend sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for musical ability).

(c) Following on from point (b), Bob Dylan was interviewed by Ed Bradley for ’60 Minutes’ in 2005 and said that he continued to make music in order to hold up his end of a bargain that he made “with the chief commander…on this earth and the world we can’t see”.

Here is my response:

(a) Dylan’s logo
You claim that the eye of Horus is a satanic emblem, when actually it is a Egyptian symbol. You could make the case that it is a pagan symbol and it certainly isn’t a Christian symbol, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it “satanic.” Furthermore, while Dylan’s logo resembles the eye of Horus it isn’t the exact same symbol. Compare the two here:

The use of the eye is not only a pagan symbol, but has been used by Christians. Historically, the eye on top of the pyramid on the back of the one dollar bill has been interpreted as the “eye of providence.” The Latin phrase “Annuit Coeptis” means “He approves our undertakings.” William Barton, the artist appointed by congress to design the symbol originally used the phrase “Deo Favente Perrenis” –meaning “Enduring by the Favor of God.” So the eye could also be a Christian symbol. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t worry too much about symbols anyway. The meanings of symbols change from age to age and culture to culture. Have you noticed that the Scripture makes no clear statement on what are appropriate symbols for the Christian faith?

(b) His identification with Robert Johnson
I don’t know if you can make a case that Dylan is trying to identify with anyone. He refuses to work on “Maggie’s farm” and he refuses to be classified by genre, style, or popular influences. His music reveals an identification with folk, blues, country, and rock. In terms of artists, Dylan identified with Johnny Cash [video] who was a Christian. And if you are going to claim that Dylan sought to be identified with Robert Johnson, you have to also admit that Dylan also admired Blues singer Blind Willie McTell. Blind Willie became a preacher at the end of his life and would only sing spirituals [video].

(c) Dylan’s bargin with the “commander-in-chief.”

Here is the transcript from the end of Dylan’s interview with Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes in 2004. [video]

Bradley: Why do you do it, why are you still out here?

Dylan: Well it goes back to the destiny thing. I made a bargin with it, you know, a long time ago, and I am holding up my end.

Bradley: What was your bargin?

Dylan: To get where I am now.

Bradley: Should I ask who you made the bargin with?

Dylan: (Laughs) With, you know, with the chief…the chief commander.

Bradley: On this earth?

Dylan: In this earth and the world we can’t see.

I don’t see anything here that makes this sound like a deal with the Devil. Dylan initially said he made a deal with “destiny.” The “chief commander” could very well be God. Dylan had a powerful encounter with Jesus in 1979. Dylan refused to become a pious little church boy. He did call Jesus his hero in a 1987 concert in Boston. Before singing his gospel song “In the Garden,” Dylan said, “I’m gonna sing a song about my hero. Everybody’s got their own hero. I don’t know who your hero is, maybe Mel Gibson . . . maybe for some people it’s Michael Jackson . . . or Bruce Springsteen . . . Anyway I don’t care nothing about none of those people. I have my own hero. I’m gonna sing about my hero now.” [video]

So the big question is whether or not Dylan is still a Christian. Every religious, philosophical, and music lover wants to claim Dylan for their own. After reading Restless Pilgrim by Scott Marshall and Maria Ford, I became convinced that Dylan is a believer, but he will always be a mysterious one.

As a pastor, I do not incorporate Dylan into church life too often. I do quote from Dylan in my sermons from time to time, because after all Dylan is a poet. For me personally, my Dylan journey has been a part of my spiritual journey. Dylan has been influential in my thinking about God and life. My encouragement to you is to listen to your conscience. The Holy Spirit will reveal to you if listening to Dylan is acceptable or not. Romans 14:14 says, “Nothing is unclean in itself, but to him who it is a sin, it is a sin.” If your conscience, empower by the Holy Spirit, will not let you listen to Dylan, then don’t. If your conscience doesn’t convict you then I would encourage you to listen Dylan and listen to him as a Christian. Listen to him through the filter of Scripture and Christian tradition.

In listening to Dylan as a Christian, this is a good opportunity to practice Reader Response Criticism, a popular postmodern kind of literary criticism. In reader response, the meaning of literature is created by the reader not the author. I don’t suggest this for Bible reading, but for listening (and reading) Dylan it is perfectly acceptable.

For example, some people hear “Mr. Tambourine Man” and think that Bob is singing to his drug dealer, but for me when I here “Mr. Tambourine Man,” I hear Dylan singing about Jesus. I am not saying that Dylan intended this to be a song about Jesus when he wrote it in 1965, but I hear it that way. And I don’t think Dylan would I have a problem with it. When I hear “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” I hear a call to prayer. And on it goes…

I hope this helps!

Derek

Bonus: I didn’t send this in my email, but here is a transcript of an interview, I heard recently where Dylan talks about God and art.

1981 Dylan Interview with David Herman, London, July 2, 1981

Dylan: Not to say though, that art is valueless. I think art can lead you to God.

Herman: It’s that it’s purpose?

Dylan: I think so. I think that’s everything’s purpose. I mean if it’s not doing that it’s leading you the other way. It’s certainly not leading you nowhere. It’s bringing you somewhere. It’s bringing you that way or this way.

Herman: Well, if it expresses truth and beauty then it’s leading you to God?

Dylan: Yeah? (laughs)

Herman: Well, wouldn’t you say?

Dylan: If it’s expressing truth I’d say it’s leading you to God and beauty also.

Herman: I’ve always thought that those were the only two absolutes that there were.

Dylan: Well, beauty can be very *very* deceiving. It’s not always of God.

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36 Comments

Posted by on February 8, 2008 in Life

 

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36 responses to “Should a Christian listen to Bob Dylan?

  1. Nathan

    February 8, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    The answer – Absolutely!

    I think there is an arbitrary distinction for some time that is not based on the Bible. It is the Holy, the sinful, and the “secular.” I think a lot of people are not seeing these kinds of issues in those categories anymore. Holy…yes. Sinful…of course. But secular? What does that even mean?!

    I think part of this is a mis-understanding of the word “world” in the NT. I could be wrong, but I understand there are three ways this word is used.
    – the created universe, earth, etc.
    – people…each of us.
    – the world systems.

    In the world but not of the world. My kingdom is not of this world. Not so confusing now.

    Does every song from a Christian have to be about God, Jesus or the Bible?! Come on!

    Is it true? Is it good? Is it beautiful?

    Cheers.

     
  2. Nathan

    February 8, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    PS I just posted a song list. Got my favorite Dylan one on there!

    Cheers.

     
  3. pbergs

    February 8, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    My take on the Dylan eye logo is that it is the trinity. The eye is the eye of god (the father) the crown is Jesus(the son)king of king and lord of lords, the diving dove is the holy spirit. So quite the oppisite of this logo being pagan, I see it as a strong statement of the source of Dylans strength and inspiration

     
  4. pbergs

    February 8, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    My take on the Dylan eye logo is that it is the trinity. The eye is the eye of god (the father) the crown is Jesus(the son)king of king and lord of lords, the diving dove is the holy spirit. So quite the oppisite of this logo being pagan, I see it as a strong statement of the source of Dylans strength and inspiration

     
  5. Derek Vreeland

    February 9, 2008 at 5:04 am

    Nathan —

    You got it. The New Testament draws a distinction between the world and the kingdom, but the secular/sacred divide is sheer modernity.

    Music (or art) doesn’t have to have a Christian label on it to have value. Actually, if it has a Christian label it is probably second rate.

    pbergs —

    Great comment! I didn’t notice the the dove coming down. The Trinity of course!

    Derek

     
  6. Singing Bear

    February 10, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Bob very recently included ‘I Believe In You’ in a few concerts. Personally, as a long-time fan, I think Bob is still a man of God. Perhaps he isn’t strictly orthodox in his thinking and he certainly still holds on to a connection with Judaism, but Jesus is still in his heart, IMO. Only a little while back he sang ‘Solid Rock’ in concert. What do you think he means? Some Christians get up-tight about it all because Dylan never toes any party line. Good for him!

     
    • Kat

      July 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Paul, himself, wisely associated with his Jewish roots.
      “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 1 Cor 9:20 And what is wrong with that?

       
  7. Derek Vreeland

    February 10, 2008 at 5:32 am

    singing bear,

    You got it. There is no reason to get uptight if Dylan doesn’t fit into your predefined Christian mold. He still sings a lot of his gospel songs. Here is a youtube video of him singing “I Believe in You” in Melbourne last year. This is one of my favorite Dylan songs…

    Derek

     
  8. Derek Vreeland

    February 10, 2008 at 10:16 am

    singing bear,

    One my thought. You noted that Dylan has remained a connection to Judaism after coming to Christ in 1979. Scott Marshall concludes in his book Restless Pilgrim that Dylan saw Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish promises. For Dylan, following Jesus is a part of being a faithful Jew.

    Derek

     
  9. Singing Bear

    February 11, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Yes…a fulfilling of Jewish Scripture. It seems natural to Dylan, I suppose. I’m not sure what the Jewish folk think of him, though. Last year he attended an Orthodox service (in Atlanta, I think) and even took an active part by reciting some Hebrew and mentioning the names of his Jewish kids. Sorry if these details are a bit vague but I expect you all have all heard of the event I’m referring to.

     
  10. Ed

    February 11, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Romans 14:14 says, “Nothing is unclean in itself, but to him who it is a sin, it is a sin.” If your conscience, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will not let you listen to Dylan, then don’t. This sttement that you made earlierDerek seems to me to have said it all. We,”us” can speculate (or is it judgeing)all we want. The fact remains, OPur Bledded God will one day judge, and in the mean time we shoul respect God’s wishes of Romans 14:14 until that Glorious Day Jesus returns!

     
  11. Ed

    February 11, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Romans 14:14 says, “Nothing is unclean in itself, but to him who it is a sin, it is a sin.” If your conscience, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will not let you listen to Dylan, then don’t. This sttement that you made earlierDerek seems to me to have said it all. We,”us” can speculate (or is it judgeing)all we want. The fact remains, OPur Bledded God will one day judge, and in the mean time we shoul respect God’s wishes of Romans 14:14 until that Glorious Day Jesus returns!

     
  12. Ed

    February 11, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Sorry, I did not proof my comments listed above prior to hitting publish!!

     
  13. Makelelejuas

    February 14, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Hello!

    I’m from Argentina and i maked some Dylan’s covers… do you want to listen? http://www.purevolume.com/renzosinisi

    Your blog is good!

    Greetings!

    If you listen the covers, tell me about them, that will be so useful for me… thanks

     
  14. Jude

    August 8, 2008 at 1:40 am

     
  15. Anonymous

    August 17, 2008 at 4:52 am

    Using images is expressly forbidden in the OT. When the False Prophet arrives, he sets up the Image of the Beast.

    Needless to say, not many people will be able to see though him, but his purpose is definitely to create the New Imperial Empire.

     
  16. Anonymous

    September 9, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    After reading all this comments about Dylan I feel sad to see how most of the famous artist try to keep this kind of rumors about possible implications in the occult into an atmosphere of mystery in order to increase theyr popularity which in fact is true and have prooved to be effective for them.It realy makes me mad to listen a song that I consider it was written with all his heart to the Lord Jesus whom he calls his hero. It’s just disturbing!
    I have always admire musicians for their maturity in writing and making music.

     
  17. Dale G.

    October 17, 2010 at 4:40 am

    Bob is one of America’s great treasures. He is a mystery to all of us who love him and his music. You will never figure him out. He is way way too complex to put into any box that you or I want him to be in. He is vastly unique and has sung great folk, rock, gospel, country, and more. I can understand how someone “blinded by the light” might not want to listen to him. So be it. I would rather be guided by the light than blinded by it. But that’s just me and I am, I admit, basically an atheist who can still see the power and beauty of heavenliness of Bob’s gospel music. As a matter of fact, last time I saw Bob (Seattle, 2009) his first song was his gospel tune called “Gonna Change my way of Thinkin'”. It was fabulous and I loved it!! Anyway, maybe you’ll get something out of this comment from an non-believer. Though probably not. So it goes. So it goes. Peace and joy and light and truth to one and all! (As Bob says in May you stay forever Young: “May you know the light surrounding you/May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift/May you climb a ladder to the stars/May you stay forever young”–by the way a friend of mine sang this at my wedding–beautiful is it not???)

     
    • derekvreeland

      October 17, 2010 at 8:54 am

      Thanks Dale! I have seen the YouTube clip of Bob opening up one of the Seattle shows with Gonna Chang My Way of Thinking. Great song! Bob’s music is beautiful, no doubt about it. One does not need to be religious to see that. Beauty shines bright for all to see. Beauty is one of the reasons I believe in God. Seems like self- obsession keeps us from seeing beauty right in front of us. “Well God is in his heaven and we all want what is his / but power, and greed, and corruptible seed, seems to be all that there is.” – Bob Dylan, “Blind Willie McTell”

       
  18. ian vincent

    November 2, 2010 at 7:52 am

    my thought is that the Spirit of the LORD makes plain the LORD Jesus

    so what spirit would seek to veil and obscure the LORD in dark and hidden
    phrases? that is, to obliquely refer to the LORD using metaphors and little
    hints here and there?

    aren’t we to use plain speech concerning the LORD?

    Dylan knows the cost of doing that, so he doesnt do it.

    if Dylan makes some brief passing comment about Jesus, his Christian fans
    swoon, as if some great event has taken place. ??

    http://ianvincent.wordpress.com/

     
    • derekvreeland

      November 2, 2010 at 8:01 am

      Ian,

      I think you can listen to Dylan much like you listen to the biblical prophets including Jesus himself. These guys spoke in metaphor. Jesus use of the parables was an intentional use of metaphor to obscure the truth of God and his kingdom.

      And I do swoon anytime Dylan makes a Jesus reference, which is why I loved his Christmas album. I can understand if you don’t swoon. My wife is rather annoyed by Dylan. But his music is like strong coffee. It is an acquired taste.

      Grace & Peace,

      Derek

       
      • ian vincent

        November 3, 2010 at 6:29 am

        Derek,

        The New Covenant and the advent of the Holy Spirit is so radically superior to the old. The Holy Spirit is no longer speaking in metaphors about God, though He did in the OT. He now speaks plainly about Jesus.

        I used to be a diehard Dylan fan 30 years ago.

         
  19. Dale G.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Go Bob!!–who is indeed like an old testament prophet or perhaps a Zen master or … egads, both!!

    Released on 9/11 when death rained on New York City and people did die as though coffins really were droppin’ in the streets:

    High Water (for Charlie Patton)

    “High water risin’, six inches ’bove my head
    Coffins droppin’ in the street
    Like balloons made out of lead
    Water pourin’ into Vicksburg, don’t know what I’m goin’ to do
    “Don’t reach out for me,” she said
    “Can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?”
    It’s rough out there
    High water everywhere”

    Now here is a truth: It’s rough out there, high water everywhere!

    Now I believe that we all have an obligation to believe what we believe, but do we really want a God who is so edgy about us listening to Bob Dylan of all people on planet Earth–I mean do we actually want a “hall monitor” God. I really did not like hall monitors when I was just a lad in the public school system in Kansas, U.S.A, Earth. Still don’t like’m. But that’s just me. If the Big Guy upstairs is a God-Monitor I’ll probably be doing some sneaking around again like I did when I was young rather than the mild-mannered 63 year only I now am. But, like I said, that’s just me!

     
  20. ian vincent

    November 3, 2010 at 6:43 am

    a few years back i had a long discussion with a bro in Aus about art. He is a painter, and paints quite good impressionistic works. i had posted something about a masterpiece that was sold for millions, that it was actually worthless. he agreed it wasnt worth millions but he still believed that such has great value. i disagreed. i said , if one day soon its going to burn, and never be remembered for all eternity, how can it have any value?

    ive reconsidered my view. now i would say it has “some” value, not no value. in the same way that Paul said that bodily exercise profits a little. at least there is a little profit in it and not zero.

    i would say they same about Dylan or any other artist. There is a little profit in what they produce, but thats all. Soon it will be gone and never remembered. it would be like placing a great value on a beautiful cloud formation in the sky, and then only minutes later the wind has blown it away. therefore, i want to treat, even the most beautiful artistic works, quite lightly and not take them seriously.

    so, i think there are glimpses of the creator, which He allows for our consideraton, by giving certain artistic gifts to folks, so that people would ponder WHO gives such gifts and WHY He does it. the benefit is only tangible if we know what to look for.

     
  21. Joe Beach

    November 4, 2010 at 5:23 am

    Can we still listen to Dylan? Absolutely. He remains a huge influence in my life (for good) – filling my mind with truth and beauty. Is he still a believer? I assume so. I don’t know him personally – but I have no reason to doubt it. He continues to write true and beautiful songs – some of which are gospel songs (Ring them Bells – 1989) – other times he simply refers to God, Bible, faith, etc. in his songs (“I know the mercy of God must be near…” 1997). Is it possible that he’s a screwed up believer with screwed up theology and lifestyle problems? Sure. My church is full of screwed up believers. In fact, it’s pastored by screwed up believers. Just because you’re a singer/poet/songwriter doesn’t mean you’re any different than the plumber or truck driver in your church that attends on Christmas and Easter – but who just might be a believer. Anyway, God may tell some people to give up Dylan. He may tell others to keep listening to him.

     
  22. Dale G.

    November 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I know people may think that God is telling them that they should not listen to Bob Dylan but people sometimes think that God is telling them all sorts of stuff from “wash your hand 20 times before leaving the house” to “shoot your neighbor” to “love your neighbor” to “don’t listen to the evil one, Bob Dyan”. Surely, realistically and psychologically and spiritually, we have to go beyond believing that our thoughts are always coming from God and begin examining the concept of what would be of genuine spiritual value to hear from God. There is a deeper conversation here, one of greater value I think, than that God’ll tell some people to listen to Dylan and he’ll tell others not to. That just doesn’t help anyone understand what spirituality is all about. Or what God is all about. It is a nice politically safe thing to say but it begs the question, does it not?

     
  23. ian vincent

    June 21, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Gonna change my way of thinking………….

    We’re still waiting, Bob.

    http://ianvincent.wordpress.com/

     
  24. Dale G.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Bob truly genuinely seriously does not care what you want of him or how long you wait or what your expectations are. He is utterly oblivious to your interest in him. Just thought you might want to know. You’re welcome.

     
  25. ian vincent

    June 28, 2011 at 11:44 am

    You mean he really doesn’t care what i think about him? I didn’t know that.

    I do pray for him.

    And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
    (1 John 5:19-21)

    When the knowledge of Jesus comes then our eyes are opened to the true narure of idolatry and so we keep ourselves from idols.

    Bob really needs to have his eyes opened to his idolatry, and likewise, his fans need their eyes opened to their idolatry of him.

    (And all people who have idols and live in idolatry)

    I pray this for Bob, that one day his eyes will be opened, and he will realize that the whole celebrity/star thing is just an illusion before God, and that the whole package he’s bought into, and the bubble he lives in, is just useless – of absolutely no eternal value : What the Bible calls “vanity”.

    And apart from saying some good things about Jesus, the rest of his art is just disposable, in the light of the Kingdom of God : it will be forgoten forever.

    I would love to see him confess one day that the whole celebrity trip and fame package is just a joke, in the light of the glory of Jesus Christ.

    Luke 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.

    http://ianvincent.wordpress.com/

     
  26. ian vincent

    July 1, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Question: Can someone like Bob Dylan use their celebrity for the Kingdom of God?

    ABSOLUTELY! He must! God requires that he does.

    THE WAY A CELEBRITY CAN USE THEIR CELEBRITY STATUS FOR GOD, IS TO RENOUNCE THEIR CELEBRITY, and take up their cross and follow Jesus, just like anyone else.

    They should never allow anyone to relate to them, or treat them like a celebrity ever again.

    And THAT is how they can use their celebrity, by discarding it as the worthless, phony glory that it is.

    In this way Bob could actually help his many fans get over their idolatry of him, and he would no longer be guilty of creating an illusion or mystique that he is someone great or special.

    http://ianvincent.wordpress.com/

     
  27. Dale G.

    July 1, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Ah, let the Bobster be the Bobster. He is fine. He is on his own path. As he says in Ain’t Talkin’ (2006):

    “All my loyal and much-loved companions
    They approve of me and share my code
    I practice a faith that’s been long abandoned
    Ain’t no altars on this long and lonesome road”

    Bob isn’t in the business of doing what you want him to do, nor, really, should anyone else be overly concerned with your so perfectly determined truths. I do wish you well though.

     
  28. Mariah

    February 16, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Bob is a pious Christian. Listen to Slow train Coming and how beautiful and eloquent is lyrics are about Jesus Christ. Listen to the song “I Believe”. I think its heresy to judge him and to say that Christians should not listen to him and that you actually believe he has sold his soul to satan? No offense, brother, but you are not the kind of Christian I can identify with. Take the speck out of your own eye before you start creating planks in others. Thanks and God bless.

     
  29. Dale Goodvin

    February 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Bob was a bit of a fundamentalist Christian in the 80’s but, somehow, he escaped that particular prison just as he escaped the prison of being a “spokesman” for a generation, a druggy surrealistic rock star, a country boy, a prophet, a poet, and on and on. I, an atheist, am most impressed with his courage to utterly turn his back on pop culture when he entered his gospel zone! But Bob never stays in one place for long: he’s back to painting his larger canvas of the spirit again with some highly evolved spiritual synthesis. He is one odd dude!! I very much doubt that he will return to the fundamentalist days again, but who knows. For now he is still the rebel, the resister of convention, on the road doing 100 shows a year, the ultimate song and dance man.

    Here are some lyrics from 2006:

    “Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
    I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages
    I been to St. Herman’s church and I’ve said my religious vows
    I’ve sucked the milk out of a thousand cows

    I got the porkchops, she got the pie
    She ain’t no angel and neither am I
    Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
    I’ll say this, I don’t give a damn about your dreams”

    What has never changed in all of his incarnations over the past 50 years: his Huge Heart, his Massive Talent, and his Compassion for Down-and-Outs of the world.

     
  30. Kat

    July 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Derek: I have to say this is the most sensible article I have read about Dylan & his faith in ages! Thank you for being so very discerning. If only the “Christian” world would stop being so judgmental and shallow, I believe the Holy Spirit could then lead us into amazingly higher places. But most of us are not willing to go, not willing to embrace ABUNDANT LIFE because of our own fears, prejudices, and ultimate lack of faith. Oh Lord increase MY faith!
    Read my Bob article here:
    https://simplelifesecrets.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/bob-dylan-and-and-henry-louis-gates/

     
  31. Kat

    July 15, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Sorry, just one more note. I think that I, too, would stop talking about my Christian beliefs just to pacify the needy, insecure, backbiting, judgmental group who call themselves Christians, yet show no love and lack serious God-given insight. I would also stop talking about my beliefs to the secular magazines and media who turn everything I say into their satanic slanting. ALL of that…fans views/media views is not real life. Dylan does not have to answer to any of you, or change your perception of him to make you think he is a holy man. God, alone, is the judge of who is holy and I think Dylan gets this squarely. If I were him I would focus on my true relationships (family and dear friends and give all of my efforts to them). *Not saying he does or doesn’t, I have no idea*. He plays music because that is what he was called to do. That is his God given talent…(as a Christian I , too, play secular music)…all of it is to the glory of God. But of course I am judged. Oh well, you just can’t please them all. I thank God that HE is the judge and NOT the people in the church. If it were up to Christians, I would be condemned already. Praise you Jesus! Thank you Jesus! You alone are God and I will praise your Greatness forever more!

     
    • Dale Goodvin

      July 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Nice comments. Of course no one knows Dylan’s current take on Christianity, as he, as always, is ultimately a Trickster and should never be taken literally, either via his lyrics or his comments to the media. One thing is sure though: after 2 absolutely born-again fundamentalist Christian albums (Slow Train Coming and Saved), Shot of Love had songs that clearly showed that Bob was slowly but surely moving on. I suppose the finest example was “Lenny Bruce,” a non-Christian arrested many times for what was then considered obscene language–this would clearly have been out of place on the previous two albums.

      “They said that he was sick ’cause he didn’t play by the rules
      He just showed the wise men of his day to be nothing more than fools
      They stamped him and they labeled him like they do with pants and shirts
      He fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts
      Lenny Bruce was bad, he was the brother that you never had”

      Of course Shot of Love also has the great Property of Jesus so it is clear that Dylan has one foot one place and another foot headed to new realms of thinking and of performing, something he has done for the full 50 years of his public life.

      His latest album of new material, Together Through Life, even has the following lyrics:

      “My ship is in the harbor
      And the sails are spread
      Listen to me pretty baby
      Lay your hand upon my head
      Beyond here lies nothin’
      Nothin’ done and nothin’ said”

      “Beyond here lies nothing” certainly doesn’t prove anything about Bob’s religious beliefs–it is, after all, just a song. But it is, nonetheless, a radical departure from his two Born Again albums. One thing, I think, is sure: you cannot put Bob Dylan in a small, self-contained, one-dimensional box because he is too big, too complex, too wily, too cantankerous, to slippery to fit into said box.

      To go only to the albums which literally support one’s current and perhaps static beliefs as some kind of proof of shared beliefs is doing the ever-mysterious Bob Dylan a disservice, whether you are a political radical or conservative or a Fundamentalist Christian or an atheist or agnostic or … etc.

       

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