Rev. Dr. Pitman B. Potter Reveals 'The Gospel and the Grateful Dead'
Vancouver, British Columbia
The Rev. Dr. Pitman B. Potter was first introduced to the Grateful Dead in 1969 as a St. Albans student in Washington, DC. From then on, he was hooked. With the help of friends, he devoted himself to learning the Dead's music. Supported by friends, he played guitar in a variety of bands devoted to carrying on the Dead's musical legacy. Through many decades of listening, attending, playing, and reflecting on the music and message of the Grateful Dead, Potter was drawn inescapably to the conclusion that these resonate with the spirit of the Divine.
"The Gospel and the Grateful Dead" examines the linkages between the music and message of the Grateful Dead and the Christian Gospel. It analyzes the ways in which the Dead embodied Christian teachings in their commitment to community, their musicality and lyricism, and their manifestation of grace. The Grateful Dead emerged from the San Francisco "hippie" scene in the late 1960s, and while drawing on the teachings of many spiritual traditions, the band's ethos echoed quite powerfully the wisdom of Christian Scripture. This reflection examines the ways in which the Grateful Dead embodied Christian teachings in areas of community, praise, and service.
The Grateful Dead embodied more than music. They stood for a system of values receptive to divine wisdom and extolled relationships with earthly communities in ways that were unique in both their content and their power and longevity. Their improvisational music emphasized community access and Divine encounter. Their song lyrics conveyed messages about solidarity with the world and reconciliation with the Divine. And the life and work of Jerry Garcia exemplified the call of self-sacrifice for communities and friends, which in Garcia's case extended to sacrifice unto death. The Dead took personal subjectivities to a high level and were able to carry out this project for more than thirty years, largely because of a secure community of supporters and in spite of repeated efforts by economic interests and political authority to silence them.
The Grateful Dead left an enduring legacy, whose power and longevity stem in significant part from the confluence of values between the Gospel and the Grateful Dead.
Through "The Gospel and the Grateful Dead," readers will recognize the presence of the Divine in the music and testimony of the band and will appreciate the implications for Christians and Deadheads alike. These reflections on the Gospel and the Grateful Dead will inspire these and other disparate groups of people to engage more with each other and to build connections of understanding and commitment.
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About the Author
Pitman B. Potter is Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia and holds the HSBC Chair in Asian Research at UBC's Institute of Asian Research. In his academic field of Chinese law and policy studies, he has published many books and well over 100 articles and essays, and provided policy and legal assistance to a wide range of public and private entities engaged with China. Pitman began listening to the Grateful Dead in 1969 and spent much of the next forty years travelling to Dead shows and playing their music with similarly minded friends. He fronts the Grateful Dead cover band Dustcover in Vancouver BC. Pitman completed a Master of Divinity degree at Vancouver School of Theology and is ordained as a Deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada.
The Gospel and the Grateful Dead* by The Rev. Dr. Pitman B. Potter
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
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