Bob Dylan stretched out his hand and reached for a cigarette from a half-empty pack on the table. "It would have been easier", he sighed "If I had become, or a Buddhist, or a Scientologist or if I had gone to Sing Sing"
I asked him if many of his friends had forsaken him.
"Ne REAL friends?" Dylan responded tellingly, blowing cigarette smoke away from my face, in the tiny hotel room in Dayton, Ohio, where we talked as his tour was cutting across America's Bible belt and winding it's way back to Los Angeles, Dylan's home of nine years.
"At every point in my life I've had to make decisions for what I believed in. Sometimes I've ended up hurting people that I've loved. Other times I've ended up loving people that I never thought I would."
"You ask me about myself" Dylan said at the end of an intensive session of questioning, "but I'm becoming less and less defined as Christ becomes more and more defined".
"Christianity", he explained, "is not Christ and Christ is not Christianity. Christianity is making Christ the Lord of your life. You're talking about your life now, you're not talking about just part of it, you're not talking about a certain hour every day. You're talking about making Christ the Lord and the Master of your life, the KIng of your life. And you're also talking about Christ, the resurrected Christ, you're not talking about some dead man who had a bunch of good ideas and was nailed to a tree. Who died with those ideas. You're talking about a resurrected Christ who is Lord of your life. We're talking about that type of Christianity".
"It's HIM through YOU. 'He's alive', Paul said, 'I've been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ who liveth in me'. See Christ is not some kind of figure down the road. We serve the living God, not dead monuments, dead ideas, dead philosophies. If he had been a dead God, you'd be carrying around a corpse inside you".
Dylan speaks of having constant dialogue with Christ, of surrendering his life to God's will much in the same way as Joan of Arc or St Francis of Assisi would have done. It is, he says, the only thing that matters. When you ask about his band, he replies "I think Jim Keltner and Tim Drummond are the best rhythm section that God ever invented".
His view on American politics is, "God will stay with America as long as America stays with God. A lot of people maybe even the President, maybe a lot of senators, you hear them speak and they'll speak of the attributes of God. But none of them are speaking about being a disciple of Christ".
"There's a different between knowing who Christ is and being a disciple of Christ and recognizing Christ as a personality and being of God. I'm more aware of that than anything and it dictates my very being. So I wouldn't have much to offer anybody who wants to know about politics or history or or art or any of that. I've always been pretty extreme in all them areas anyway".
Whether on or off the road Dylan worships whenever he can at the Assembly of God, a fundamentalist, pentecostal, evangelical l denomination that believe in the literal Bible and speaking in tongues. He came to Christ through a revelation, a personal experience with Jesus.
"Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt it. I felt it all over me. I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up".
"Being born again is a hard thing. You ever seen a mother give birth to a child? Well it's painful. We don't like to lose those old attitudes and hang-ups".
"Conversion takes time because you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. You have to learn to drink milk before you can eat meat. You're re-born, but like a baby. A baby doesn't know anything about this world ant that's what it's like when you're re-born. You're a stranger. You have to learn all over again. God will show you what you need to know".
"I guess He's always been calling me", Dylan said gently. "Of course, how would I have ever known that? That it was Jesus calling me. I always thought it was some voice that would be more identifiable. But Christ is calling everybody; we just turn him off. We just don't want to hear. We think he's gonna make our lives miserable, you know what I mean. We think he's gonna make us do things we don't want to do. Or keep us from doing things we want to do".
"But God's got his own purpose and time for everything. He knew when I would respond to His call".
This washe first proper interview with Bob Dylan after his conversion and it was printed in the New Zealand newspaper The Dominion, August 2,1980.
Reprinted in Occasionally #5.