"I Believe in Damnation and Salvation"

Some of you might have seen this quote from Bob Dylan in a recent interview

“I’m not a fan of packaged programs, or news shows, so I don’t watch them. I never watch anything foul smelling or evil. Nothing disgusting; nothing dog ass. I’m a religious person. I read the scriptures a lot, meditate and pray, light candles in church. I believe in damnation and salvation, as well as predestination. The Five Books of Moses, Pauline Epistles, Invocation of the Saints, all of it.”
First, I agree with my friend Mark that "dog ass" has to enter the theological lexicon. :-) 

But I was mostly struck by Flannery O'Connorian tone of Dylan's quote. O'Connor and Dylan share an apocalyptic spiritual vision, painting the world in stark moral contrasts. It's this aesthetic that draws me to their art. Both O'Connor and Dylan play a high stakes poker game. Life and death. Salvation and Damnation. Saints and Sinners. 

As Dylan sang, a hard rain's a-gonna fall. Or as O'Connor wrote once, in what a few years back I took to be the byline of my blog, we trudge into the distance following the bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus, for the Lord created us out of dust, made us blood and nerve and mind, made us to bleed and weep and think, and set us in a world of loss and fire.

That is the deep paradox of my theological vision, a progressive Christian who prefers fire and brimstone tent revivals. I like the Holy Rollers, snake handlers, and prophets of doom, because among them you feel that something is at stake. That's the whole point of the climactic scene (Spoiler alert!) in O'Connor's famous short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find." When the Misfit says about the grandmother, "She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” O'Connor is calling out our lack of existential urgency, and how that lulls us into a spiritual and moral slumber. 

I expect you are appalled. That you don't find any of this imagery inspiring. If you're a deconstructing, ex-evangelical you're feeling triggered. My apologies. You should know I'm not the best companion for progressives, evangelicals, or ex-evangelicals. But I'm not prescribing any of this for you. You do you. For my part, none of this imagery makes me feel afraid, guilty, or judgmental. I makes me feel alive. It wakes me up. It makes me feel that everything I do today matters. Life feels full of adventure, significance, and portent. Today has an edge. My heartbeat is eschatological. My pulse is apocalyptic. 

Maybe I feel this way because I'm well-adjusted. Or maybe because I'm deeply twisted. Who knows? But goodness, I'm loving the ride. And if you're a fan of either Dylan or O'Connor I expect you know what I'm talking about.

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