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Pornography in the Schools? Bob Dylan Saw It Coming



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Maybe Bob Dylan is a prophet after all. On stage in Omaha back on Jan. 25, 1980, Dylan, in the midst of fierce controversy over having become a Christian, said, “Years ago they…said I was a prophet. I used to say, ‘No, I’m not a prophet.’ They’d say: ‘Yes you are, you’re a prophet.’ I said, ‘No, it’s not me.’ They used to say: ‘You sure are a prophet.’ They used to convince me I was a prophet. Now I come out and say Jesus Christ is the answer. They say, ‘Bob Dylan’s no prophet.’ They just can’t handle it.” But some contemporary resonances in a couple of those Christian songs suggest that the old folkie was on to something.

Dylan’s three explicitly Christian albums, Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980), and Shot of Love (1981) were derided by critics at the time. Rock music critics then and now are generally secular Leftists and dope-smoking hippies with scant regard for religious fervor, and even today these albums are considered minor parts of the Nobel laureate’s canon. But Slow Train Coming contains some striking passages — not passages that were striking in 1979, but passages that are striking in 2023.

Consider, for example, “When You Gonna Wake Up?” This song became a particular object of Leftist ire with its suggestion that Dylan had not only become a Christian, but a right-wing one at that: “Counterfeit philosophies have polluted all of your thoughts / Karl Marx has got you by the throat, Henry Kissinger’s got you tied up in knots.” Well, yeah, that’s right, Bob, and even more so in 2023 than in 1979. Kissinger makes Old Joe Biden look as if he is in the bloom of youth; he’s 99 years old and still pontificating on foreign policy, with his realpolitik perspective firmly ensconced in the State Department.

The same song contains this uncanny foreshadowing of the age of Fauci and Birx: “You got innocent men in jail, your insane asylums are filled / You got unrighteous doctors dealing drugs that’ll never cure your ills.” Yeah, and banning the drugs that would actually cure your ills.

“When You Gonna Wake Up?” also contains this line: “Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools / You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules.” Now here, you gotta wonder. Adulterers in churches? We had those in 1979. Jimmy Swaggart’s prostitution scandal was still nine years off when Slow Train Coming came out, but no one who heard the album thought Dylan was way off base about that.

The “pornography in the schools” line, however, was another thing altogether. In 1979, the idea that there would be pornography in the schools, other than a girlie magazine snuck in by some unruly boy, was beyond inconceivable. Fast forward 44 years, however, and we have the husband of the homosexual secretary of Transportation furious that a state authority is actually acting to remove pornography from the schools.

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