Reflecting on "Cathedral" by Crosby, Stills & Nash

Listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Love so much of their stuff. Their “Long time gone” (1969) defined so much about my life in that era when it was written. Of course, as with so much of the music of that era, the tunes and lyrics were both remarkable, almost classic as soon as they were crafted. But the deeply resonant tunes often cloaked philosophical approaches that would prove destructive to occidental cultural structures. Take “Cathedral,” for example. The drug theme—the mention of “flying” and being high—reminds one of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” (from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). But half-way into the song, there is this—words that echo the attitude of so many in the sixties and that shaped so many in the days following that heady era:

“I’m flying in Winchester cathedral. All religion has to have it’s day Expressions on the face of the Saviour Made me say I can’t stay.”

“Open up the gates of the church and let me out of here! Too many people have lied in the name of Christ For anyone to heed the call. So many people have died in the name of Christ That I can’t believe it all.”

What seemed patent to so many in the sixties, the seeming bankruptcy of western Christianity with its lies and death-dealing, has faded in the forty years between then and now. Why? Because Jesus Christ is greater than his Church. No doubt Christians have lied and dealt death in the name of the Lord of life. But their failures are not to be ascribed to Jesus. And in the light of the fallout of the sixties and the realization that the heroes of that era—Che and John Lennon, Krishna and Herbert Marcuse, Danny the Red and Eldridge Cleaver, Cher and RFK—were but clay, choosing to follow the pure-hearted Jesus is but wisdom.

When this song was penned I too would have said, “Open up the gates of the church and let me out of here!” But five years later, I came to love Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Expressions on his crucified and risen visage made me say, “Here is where I want to stay and nowhere else.”