Blowin’ in the Wind

I am a baby boomer. I was a teenager in the 1960s and in university in the first half of the 1970s. It was the era of the sexual revolution, the youth movement, the civil rights movement, the drug culture, hippies, the peace movement, and massive upheavals in the social, political, and economic realms. The times, they were a changing.

The “prophet” of all of this change was Bob Dylan, a songwriter and singer who inspired a host of other singers and songwriters, as well as political movements.

One of the key songs of the era was “Blowin’ in the Wind” written in 1962 by Bob Dylan and sung by a number of other artists, most notably Peter, Paul and Mary, who were—let’s face it—far better singers than Dylan.

Christians (I included) were puzzled by all of this. They didn’t know what to make of it. On the one hand, we could appreciate some of the ideals of the youth movement—their advocacy of love and peace, their concern for the poor and the weak, their seeking after justice.  And yet, in other ways, the youth movement advocated for a lot of ideas and actions (including drugs and the sexual revolution) that were far from Christian.

I remember a young Christian youth pastor in my area who wrote a response that said Dylan was wrong—the answer was not blowing in the wind but was in Jesus Christ. I think someone else wrote a version of the song that said, “The answer is in the living God.”

I sort of agreed, but I noticed that the youth pastor’s writing and the writing of the alternative version were not nearly as artistic as Dylan’s. Both have been forgotten today, while Dylan’s song endures.

Looking back more than a half-century later, I think that, to some extent, both sets of writers might have been writing about, if not the same thing, at least somewhat similar or related things. After all, Dylan was widely recognized as a secular prophet. His songs are full of biblical imagery. He is a Jew who later espoused Christian faith, although he has remained so enigmatic and reclusive that likely no one is exactly sure what he believes.

“How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky” is a much more profound way of saying, “How long does it take someone who is searching for ultimate truth to finally recognize the reality of God and encounter Him?” It better captures the condition of the seeker, who is not sure what he will see when he looks into things.

As well, the wind is a biblical image for the Holy Spirit of God (John 3:8). So, in a sense, “The answer is blowin’ in the wind” is a more artistic and beautiful and rich and profound way of saying: “The answer is in Jesus.”

Now, make no mistake. I am not saying that Dylan was a Christian when he wrote the song or that he intended it as an expression of Christian faith. Dylan was a seeker rather than a believer in 1962.

Furthermore, the answer to life is not a vague image with no specific meaning. The answer is Jesus. The Biblical Jesus. The Son of the Living God. But, looking back now, I realize that Jesus is far more mysterious and majestic and profound than the two Christian responders (and I) understood. Jesus is the answer, but Jesus is greater and grander than our simple statements. One evidence of that is that, even though Dylan was not aware of it and he certainly didn’t intend it, there is a sense in which Jesus was speaking through Dylan as well as through the youth minister—and through Dylan He was speaking to people that the youth minister, with his simple answers, could not reach. Bob Dylan did not have the answer in the 1960s, but he probably inspired many young people to search for truth and justice. I still find his song inspiring today.

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is www.coggins.ca
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5 Responses to Blowin’ in the Wind

  1. Robert says:

    “The answer is blowing in the wind” sounds a bit like Solomon in Ecclesiastes! Thanks for the post 🙂

    Like

  2. Very insightful. I do believe there was a seeking in those days, and maybe even an openness that I wish we could see today. Good reminder of that song. I can hear it in my head now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. #6 says:

    A nice companion piece is Donovan’s “Try to Catch the Wind” also from the 60s.

    Like

  4. Salem Andero says:

    I lasted long in a sea living in the world.
    I was a really bad person, couldn’t distinguish between the things of God and vice versa, I listened to musics of the world, watched movies of the world and lasted long in the prison of pornography.
    But as I gave my life to Christ.
    I died to the world and became alive in Christ.
    So I heard a message saying that since I’m in Christ, all those things shouldn’t be found in me.
    I must not watch worldly movies, listen to worldly music and other things of the world that are poisonous to my Spirit Man.
    In as much as this piece is sweetly inspiring, all our focus should be on God and all the things about Him in Movies, songs and other things.

    I’ll like to be in contact with you.
    God bless this piece.

    Like

    • jrcoggins says:

      There are things such as pornography that are just evil. Many songs and movies and books teach wrong ideas. But there are other songs, etc. that, while not Christian, contain elements of truth, and these allow us points where we can connect to lost people. Jesus apparently was familiar with the theater, calling the Pharisees “actors” or “hypocrites.” Paul quoted a pagan poet and an inscription to “an unknown god” as ways to introduce the gospel to pagan people. We are to be in the world but not of the world.

      You can read more and an email address at my personal website: http://www.coggins.ca

      Like

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