I was brand new to the Dylan world when I heard, and then read, that he had become a Christian. There were all kinds of rumors, some of them turned out to be true. But when I first heard "Slow Train Coming" I was more than a believer.
Do not get me wrong. I was a Christian before I knew Bob Dylan. But when I learned that my music hero was now among the faithful, lights went on, bells rang, angels sang. My hero and I had something in common. Rolling Stone said that he was not singing any of his old songs in concert. He was performing only Christian music. It seemed extreme to me, but when I went to my first Dylan concert during my Junior year of high school, I saw it for myself. Bob Dylan was a Christian.
After releasing a couple more Christian albums, "Saved" and "Shot of Love," the Christian music seemed to stop coming from Dylan. Many in the church and the Contemporary Christian Music scene seemed to think that Dylan had lost his faith. He occasionally would sing a Christian number in concert, but for the most part he returned to secular music. Christian critics believed that he had somehow backslidden, or lost his faith. We probably will not truly know in this lifetime.
However, there was not a corresponding outcry when Amy Grant began recording secular music. There have been grumbles, but very few condemnations when other "Christian music celebrities" have fallen into sin. And yet, Bob Dylan is not allowed to sing "I Shall be Released" without being called into question.
- Bob Dylan may have forsaken Christian music and the Christian lifestyle, but it is more likely that the music from about 1978-1982 was one of his phases, much like his country music phase of the late 1960s.
- Bob Dylan may have never become a Christian. He may have been experimenting with the newly lucrative Christian market. His Christian-phase could have been a publicity stunt.
- Bob Dylan may have forsaken Christianity and his Christian commitment. He may have turned back on Christ and embraced his old life and lifestyle.
Whatever else is true, we know that
- Dylan has never fit into any particular category for very long. He doesn't fit anywhere very well and he is constantly changing and growing.
- Artistically, Dylan has never completely left anything. He is a product of all his phases and stages, including the Christian one.
- Dylan remains one of our most "spiritual" musicians.
Whatever his faith may be today, his music is still worth considering. It is still provocative.