The Grateful Dead
Psalm 111:9 He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever - holy and awesome is his name.
A few weeks back our pastor was explaining his view on Taekwondo to a group of us on a conference call. [I paraphrase.] “Some people feel that all martial arts originate from spiritual elements that aren’t of God. I recognize the danger in a depth of study in anything not of God, but at the same time my principle is basically whether God can redeem it or not.
Originally the Jewish people celebrated Shabbat on Saturday, but the church switched the date of our Sabbath to Sunday to align with a pagan practice. The same is true of the dates and many of the practices around our holidays such as Christmas and Easter. So it’s not that we condone pagan practices, but again the question is, can God redeem them?”
Many of you know my testimony, and that for about a decade I fell far from a relationship with God. There are lots of “pagan practices” that I associate with that era of my life, but attending hippie jam band concerts probably ranks top of mind amongst those. Well when we arrived in Los Angeles and one of our friends invited us to a Grateful Dead show, I balked. The Dead are not just any any hippie jam band, they are the original, quintessential jam band and most born again believers wouldn’t be caught dead (pun intended) miles from one of their shows.
The next day I asked God, as I had done many times before, how I should be thinking about that era of my life. I felt conflicted. People from that world don’t have a relationship with Him in the way that I think about it now. But many of them are amazing, loving people that I maintain friendships with to this day. “Should I go to the show? I was so far from you then. Is going to this thing dangerous? Isn’t it not of you? Am I even helping the enemy?”
But then I heard Him ask me “can I redeem it?”
Well we went to that show and had a great time. I was actually shocked that my wife Elaine enjoyed it as well. I was reminded how Shawn Bolz takes a team of people to go and pray prophetically over people at Burning Man, a festival with a similar hippy audience. And our church friend mentioned to a deadhead friend of hers that I’m a lay preacher he replied “oh really? Can I come to church? I’m around Sunday morning.”
For many years I’ve been so confused on so many levels about why I went through that wilderness, but I feel like there was a real revelation last week. The Grateful Dead is not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy. And deadheads need God’s love just like the rest of us.
Lord, you love is better than life. Your mercy never ends. Thank you for pulling back layer after layer of your plan and your purpose. In your son’s name, Amen.