21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Where have we been? The story of Israel breaks down like this:
Abraham and his family are given the role of being God’s instrument to rescue the world (Gen. 12:1-3).
God grows Abraham to the point that he even prays for an oppressive place like Sodom (Gen. 18:22-33)
Yet, Abraham’s family become enslaved to an empire that refuses to acknowledge God. So, God rescues them but He saves them in order for them to complete their great mission. They were to establish a nation that would bring the whole world to know God, to worship God and to live in peace. This involves making sure that there is food for the poor, justice for all and even a year of debt forgiveness every 7 years known as Jubilee (Exodus 23:10-11; Deut. 15:1-6).
Israel, however, does not complete their mission. Soon after settling in a land that God has given them, they begin to want to adopt the culture of all the other nations. They don’t want to trust God, probably because they can’t control Him, so they establish a monarchy and build a military and even construct their own empire complete with slaves.
Israel still swears they are God’s people because they have Bibles, worship services and abstain from certain practices that other nations engage in.
What does Bob Dylan have to with all of this?
In the ’50s, folk music was viewed by many just as punk would be in the ’70s, that is it was an alternative movement rebelling against the perceived shallow materialism that pervaded middle and upper class America but by the ’60s, folk had become an institution with rigid rules (acoustic instruments only), a set type of dress and a standardized vocabulary.
On July 25, 1965 Bob Dylan walked onto the stage of the Newport Folk Festival with a band who proceeded to plug in electric instruments. It resulted in a near riot. In the movie I’m Not There, the director depicts the scene as if Dylan and his band had reached into their cases, pulled out machine guns and fired into the crowd.
When Israel failed to be the alternative community God wanted it to be and instead became a closed institution, God sentprophets who engaged in “guerrilla sermons” in an attempt to call the people back to their mission. For example, see Isa. 20:3 and Ezekiel 4:12.
Yet, the people didn’t listen, but does that mean the prophets failed?
The story of “Christendom” is one in which the people of God adopt the way of empire but still consider themselves disciples of Jesus because they attend worship, have Bibles and abstain from certain practices that “others engage in”.
The people still pushing Christendom are largely very good people but they are only telling part of the story for following Jesus is much more radical than what you don’t listen to, what you don’t watch, who you don’t vote for or whatever. It is the shocking act of dying to self, picking up a cross and following Jesus into hard, dangerous situations and even unto death. It is an alternative movement not an institution.
Peter Rollins wrote a parable about a state that allowed being a disciple of Jesus and then put a person on trial. The state entered evidence that the person owned worship CDs, journaled daily, had been seen praying and reading a Bible. The person nervously awaits the verdict only to hear the words “not guilty.” The judge announces that the person may be “spiritual” but is not a dangerous, paradigm challenging follower of Jesus as described in Scripture.
If truly following Jesus were outlawed tomorrow then what would the verdict be for you? Are you part of a movement or an institution?