This mysterious man in search of a cause is an old Jesus Freak, and a great picture of what became of Jesus Freaks, with lessons for us all.
Christianity Today is the voice of worship music (the “Trajectory of Worship”), and Rolling Stone does the secular music, of course, so when Bob Dylan is a big headline at the CT Web, it’s surprising. But Dylan turned 70, so it’s a big deal, even for CT.
Who cares about Dylan anymore? Christians should care because he’s a brother, and in a symbolic way Dylan impacts us all, whether or not we followed his music. To some he is “an enigma wrapped in a mystery,” to quote Churchill, but for Christians he is a lesson in Jesus Revolution.
The Curtain Call
Dylan’s 70th is a milestone for Baby Boomers and even the generations coming in behind them. It shows we Baby Boomers are old and growing irrelevant. Maybe the youngsters knew that already, but it will pop some Baby Boomer balloons. We Boomers never knew a time when America could afford to ignore us. Besides our overwhelming population, Boomers made the best whiners, dissenters, disestablishmentarians, and finally antidisestablishmentarian Yuppies ever to seize American power—and seizing power is why Boomers “boomed” so thunderously over the decades, beginning with drugs, riots, and “sit-ins”. For better or worse, Boomers redefined America, its agenda, finances, morality, and even the face of Christianity.
Now the Boomer Show is headed for its final curtain call, as Dylan’s aging face proves. We did a lousy job of setting up for the next show to be performed by those youngsters. For all our whining and revolutionizing, Baby Boomers mostly devoured the resources of the land and emptied the U.S. Treasury. Our infantile temper-tantrums evolved into a land-grab for personal peace and affluence, which clearly shaped Boomer Christianity and its megachurches, despite the pretense for “seeker-sensitive” facilities. Obviously the sensitive seekers were unimpressed, judging by the precipitous decline in American Christianity. Mostly the megachurches quit trying to evangelize and opted for transfer growth with the Singing Worship Service ritual.
To be fair, some Boomers retained their longhaired, bleeding-heart infantilism, like Brian McLaren, but are they any better off? McLaren says so, while he deprecates evangelicals. He makes some good points, but he’s only produced a stack of books on “Speculative Christianity” and pocketed wads of cash, not unlike the wealthy megachurches he despises. Altogether, we Boomers produced a sorry excuse for Christianity in our day, and the kids are bored with it.
Boomers still have opportunity for an encore performance, and maybe—just maybe—if we drop our silly pretense and revitalize the radical, fruitful faith we once tasted by God’s grace during the Jesus Freak era, then maybe we might leave something useful for our progeny. And here’s where Dylan comes in…
Remember Christian Radicals?
Of all the Boomer whiners, Dylan was the best, with the whiniest voice. Dylan is a survivor, too. The old man croaked like a frog on his last album, but somehow it sounded like classic, whiney Dylan! He keeps getting Grammys, too.
Dylan is much-beloved because his songs celebrated the latest Boomer temper-tantrum (or “cause”), although he always rejected the “prophet’s mantle” everyone put on him. Songs like “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” means “something bad’s gonna happen,” Dylan said. Not much of a prophecy, if you think about it. He was just a songwriter, Dylan said, more like a troubled troubadour caught up in the drugs and tantrums like all the Boomers. Watch “No Direction Home” by the renown Martin Scorsese where the press asks if he will “write more protest songs.”
“All my songs are protest songs, every single one of them,” Dylan said. “That’s all I do is protest.” What a sarcastic prick, for sure, but growing disillusioned with Baby Boomer protests. At an elite, left-wing Washington dinner he gave a speech for an award they gave him, he pointed his finger at them and said, “The only thing I wish is that all you sitting here tonight weren’t here, and all my friends were.”
Then Dylan suddenly became useful and picked up the “prophet’s mantle” when he became a Jesus Freak. His Christian albums were rife with a real prophecy, like in “Slow Train Coming” where he prophesies about our glib dependence on Arab oil.
Suddenly Boomer radicals turned against Dylan and screamed he was “preaching”, even while they begged him to be their preacher! Really, this is true. I saw Dylan in Columbus when he was a Jesus Freak, and he was definitely trying to evangelize with his music. In between songs, he plucked away at the guitar while telling us “the beast is coming with signs and wonders, signs and wonders…” More than a few drunk and drugged pagans stood up and yelled and cussed him out.
With one voice, radicals and musicians denounced Dylan as a coward, a traitor, conformist, and a Jesus Freak! They unleashed McCarthy-era intolerance against Dylan and blackballed him from the musical elite. Listen to “I Believe In You”, where Dylan rats them out. Ironically, his persecutors were the same ones rioting against Nixon and McCarthy-era intolerance!
The Dylan Lesson
Yes, Dylan was a Jesus Freak, and a damn good one at that—better than most. He endured withering criticism and stood strong. That was back when Boomers were serious about Jesus and spread real revolution that actually changed lives for all eternity, unlike the silly antiwar protests their peers were engaged in. The antiwar protesters evolved into hypocrites by starting wars all over the globe once they came to power, of course, while Dylan came out on the winning side of all the Boomer unrest when he became a Jesus Freak.
Dylan tied into a Jesus Freak group out in California that was fairly legalistic, unfortunately, so he got burned out by “the law”, just as Paul promised (see Romans 7). He retreated from a public Jesus Freak profile, but somehow tied into some Messianic Jews. They helped him rediscover his Jewish roots with Messiah Joshua (Christ Jesus). The Jesus message is still there in his music, if you know about it. He stopped trying to evangelize with it because it never worked. Jesus said discipleship and teaching were the tools for a vital revolution, if you check the archives.
Lots of brothers and sisters claim Dylan “lost” his salvation or was never saved, since he doesn’t write Christian music anymore. I’ve never heard him deny Jesus is his Messiah, but if his faith is compromised he’s like most Jesus Freaks who traded a revolution for an institution.
Dylan is a snapshot of the futility of the Christian music industry, and even the Singing Worship Service ritual, which Boomer Christianity embellished. Does anyone in the Christian music industry think their songs will succeed where even Dylan failed at reaching pagans? What Christian group wields more formidable lyrics (or tunes) than Dylan’s Christian music? Dylan had the good sense to quit using music to reach the pagans, because it only made them angry, if anything—a lesson wasted on too many Boomer church leaders today.