Most fans of Bob Dylan are willing to admit he has a few albums that missed the target. One of those is Knocked Out Loaded released in 1986. It gets panned all over the place. I have not heard all of it. But I do know one song from that album. And ironically, it is one of my favorites.
Brownsville Girl is the one song that critics and fans alike see greatness in. It is a greatness seeking the size of a horizon. Just over 11 minutes long (or short?) it’s a narrative I am almost always trying to get my head around. Mostly this is because it is full of images of the Desert, the Southwest and Dylan standing in line waiting to see Gregory Peck movies. There is plenty of nourishment for the imagination. The sedate verses and a rapturous chorus are forever locked up in my mind’s safe. Like an heirloom, I pull them out and look them over and run my hands along the contours and edges.
There is one line I might actually call my favorite of all his many lines. It is a line he puts in the mouth of this Brownsville Girl,
You always said people don't do what they believe in,
they just do what's most convenient, then they repent.
Cynical? Maybe a little. But lets face it, rings true wouldn’t you say? There is enough of this lived out before all the world for us to say it is true for the great majority.
Liberal, conservative, rich, poor, white, black, young, old, non-Christian and Christian alike are under this indictment. More and more this may be what separates Western Civilization with its enemies. We may scoff at the beliefs of Islamic Militants. We may hate and decry their suicide bombings and their taking of innocent life. But we must acknowledge - what they are doing is a result of what they believe in.
Us? We choose Convenience.
The modern-day Christian, mired in the values of Western Civilization has heard the siren song of convenience and crashes against the craggy rocks of unbelief. Convenience buys us comfort and gadgets. It trades in the currency of a conviction-less culture. Its poison ignored convenience courses through our veins infecting all we cavort with.
Those who confess belief in Christ have so little affection for him their unbelief is conspicuous. The belief is stated, the unbelief is lived out. And it is lived out through tens of thousands of lives shot through with a lust for what is convenient. We are afraid of losing respect, status and a million little 30 second false gospels beamed into our homes. And so we choose what’s most convenient, then we repent.
The repentance of the Brownsville Girl is not repentance at all. This repentance is the “just kidding” after a startling insult. Problem is, real repentance fights against being convenient. A rebel admitting his hatred to the King’s rule and his need for amnesty is never convenient. Admitting the presence of the 400 pound gorilla in the corner vitiates against our sense of convenience. We must now do something…which is real repentance and belief.
Therefore it is real hard to not think of the many Christians throughout the World who are not lulled to sleep by the love songs of the free West. They are martyred. They are ripped from their families. They are ridiculed and they are thrown to the lions, metaphorically speaking and otherwise. When pressed on what they believe, they count the cost and then they “do what they believe in.” Like their King they refuse “whats most convenient” and find themselves “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” – Hebrews 12:2.