THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…

In the mid-60’s Bob Dylan sang a song which was not only prophetic in its insights at that time of massive cultural shift but continues to be as relevant now. The words are below and you can hear his dulcet tones in this video:

The changing times are nothing short of astounding, for two reasons. One is that we in the West never expected to see in our lifetimes such thinly disguised hatred, cruelty and the normalising of heinous policies coming from ordinary members of society, (although there are enough precedents – see Nazi Germany, the slave trade operating out of Great Britain and the southern states of America, and the Spanish Inquisition to name just a few) to disenchant us of our illusory state of niceness. 

The emergencies of our world are too numerous to write but among the most prominent are the way in which multiple nations refuse to accept refugees – ‘we are full and our economy can’t sustain helping refugees, plus, they’re different to us’ being the most common reason given by the more prosperous countries. An even greater crisis is the blind refusal of governments to acknowledge that the delicate ecology of our planet is being trashed, driving us to the destination of a world we will not recognise. 

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Fear of the ‘other’ causes huge loss of perspective in ordinary, good people. We don’t fail to grasp that, as the poet John Donne so succinctly wrote ‘…any (person’s) death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind… never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’

The other reason the times are astounding, though,and it is unprecedented. The voices now raised against corruption and the normalising of the horrifying, are voices which once would never have been heard, let alone listened to. The BBC recently highlighted 3 of those once irrelevant voices in this article.

What makes our attending to these voices so amazing is twofold… their age (each is in their teens or just barely beyond them) and their gender.

That’s right. They’re all girls. 

The world isn’t used to paying attention to teenage girls. Gosh, it’s only in the last century that society has begun to pay attention to the voices of women. 

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agein’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The voices of Nobel Peace Prize winner from Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai; Swedish climate warrior Greta Thunberg; US gun control activist, Emma Gonzalez unite with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 is the youngest woman to serve in the US Congress; 22 year old Danielle Fong, who has developed a form of compressed air energy storage and in 2011 was called by Forbes One Who May Save The World; Yazidi Human Rights activist Nadia Murad; Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Lebanese-British human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney; Kenyan-Mexican actress and activist Lupita Nyong’o; New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who is taking other national leaders to school; 11 year old Flint resident and the face of the fight for clean water, Mari Copeny; Somali-American Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim woman to take her seat in the US Senate; the late Rachel Held Evans who shook up the religious establishment with the clarity of her insights into the rigid patriarchal control operating in churches; Australian climate change activist Jean Hinchcliffe; the Saudi-Arabian activist  Loujain al-Hathlou now imprisoned by the government; US Presidential candidate Kamala Harris who is shaking the ground under the Senate floor with her forthright questioning of old white men, not to mention Stacy Abrams, Nancy Pelosi…  and the list goes on … and on… and on… bringing together unnamed millions of young people, with many of the marches and activist groups being led by girls and young women. 

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.

Truly the times they are a’changing, and unfortunately, the polarising of opinions regarding right and wrong continues, as it has in every generation. 

Yet, in every generation, prophetic voices ring loud and clear, if we will hear them. Those who prophesy the new season do not conform to what we regard as the norm for prophets. We forget that the whole raison d’etre of the prophet is to bring a clarion call… that the times are a’changing. Jesus repeatedly adjures those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches…

We, especially in Pentecostal circles, are used to being able to identify the prophets by their ‘thus says the Lord’ manner, and words speaking out encouragement and enlargement. But what if God is doing something different? What if He is using the weak things of the world to confound the wise? You may have noticed that’s a habit of His. What if these girls and women, these different kinds of guys who have not succumbed to the ignorance of ‘white, male privilege’ are speaking and writing prophetically to call our attention to the new thing God is doing? 

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Group Think is a problem to every culture, every age, even including the Christian church. It shocks us to think that understanding the new season prophetically is not a domain belonging solely to the Church. Ironically, running counter to the Christian cultural mindset, there are voices beyond the Church warning of the changing times. Uncomfortable as it is to grasp, Joel 2:28 makes it very clear that God intends to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, causing sons and daughters to prophesy. Much as we would like to dissemble, ‘all’ has no other meaning but ‘all’, otherwise He would have said ‘all Christian flesh’. I’m not making a case about salvation here, but about prophetically understanding the signs of the times we live in. 

Get beyond thinking what you’ve always thought, what your people group think, and begin to investigate for yourself. Or, as Dylan sings: 

Your old road is
Rapidly agein’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand

For the times, they are a’changin’. 

Songwriters: Bob Dylan The man himself singing his prophetic song

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Witmark Demo – 1963) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Audiam, Inc

4 thoughts on “THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…”

  1. Absolutely, Nico. The world often sees clearly what the Church struggles to understand, bound as it is in its petty quarrels.

    Like

  2. Well said Bev! It’s interesting in Catholic history, that the strongest prophetic voices were all women.

    Like

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