“Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.”
Those words, familiar to many as part of the lyrics to Don Henley’s 1984 hit song, “Boys of Summer”, contain enormous irony. A fan of the Grateful Dead, the ultimate hippie band, is driving a Cadillac, the great symbol of American mainline success. The rebel has grown up and settled down to become “the man.”
It’s an irony that we all tend to share. We all tend to hold lofty ideals in our youthful days of summer. But, the “real world” (as we wrongly call it) erodes the edges of our dreams and rounds us down to be like everyone else.
It’s simply easier to be a fan than it is to be a true follower. That’s not only true of Deadheads, but of Jesus’ fans as well. Crowds flocked to see him “perform” or to listen to him teach. Many liked the miraculous show and probably even sympathized with the ideas, but far fewer actually took his teaching to heart and followed it. When the demands of living like Jesus became too great, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).
Things haven’t changed all that much. It’s still much easier to stick a fish symbol on the back of an SUV than to be “fishers of men.” It is much easier to go to church every Sunday than to go the extra mile to be kind to an enemy. It is far easier to talk about heaven than to put priority on supporting God’s kingdom over paying the earthly mortgage. It is certainly much easier to accept and claim forgiveness than to be forgiving.
Self-identifying as a Christian in America is easy; it’s still the majority thing to do. More difficult is to make the claim be something more than a bumper sticker.
Henley’s wistful longing for the days of summer is also a song of decision. Will he give up on his summer love, or keep it alive? “Those days are gone forever;” he sings, “I should just let them go but- I can see you . . .”
Jesus also calls for decision: “you walked away from your first love. . . Turn back! Recover your dear early love” (Revelation 2:4-5, the Message).
The idealistic summer days of Christianity don’t have to be gone forever.