With God On Our Side – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan / 7:08

Musician: Bob Dylan: vocals, guitar, harmonica

Recording Studio: Columbia Recording Studios / Studio A, New York: August 6 and 7, 1963

The melody of “With God on Our Side” closely resembles that of “The Patriot Game,” a song written by Dominic Behan, a songwriter fighting alongside the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Its title explicitly refers to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Based on St. Paul’s teaching, the lyrics radically questioned American history and, beyond that, all wars of the last century. The message was clear: if you believed the history books, the nations that triumphed were those that supposedly had God on their side. “Oh the history books tell it / They tell it so well / The cavalries charged / The Indians fell / The cavalries charged / The Indians died / Oh the country was young / With God on its side,” Dylan sang.

Surely, Dylan condemned those who claimed divine intervention to justify their murderous missions—who were, at the same time, those who wrote history. Did the Yankees have God on their side when they defeated the Confederates? The songwriter recalled a few facts that obscured the official discourse. The lines “Though they murdered six million / In the ovens they fried / The Germans now too / Have God on their side” let us understand that Germany, twenty years after World War II, was now on the side of freedom, under the benevolent influence of the United States. Then in the second to last verse, Dylan forced the listener to take sides concerning “That Jesus Christ / Was betrayed by a kiss / But I can’t think for you / You’ll have to decide / Whether Judas Iscariot / Had God on his side.” Once again, the criticism stung: it was addressed not so much to religious congregations as to political leaders and opinion makers who carried out wars in the name of God.

Oh my name it ain’t nothin’

My age it means less

The country I come from

Is called the Midwest

I was taught and brought up there

The laws to abide

And that land that I live in

Has God on its side


Oh, the history books tell it

They tell it so well

The cavalries charged

The Indians fell

The cavalries charged

The Indians died

Oh, the country was young

With God on its side


The Spanish-American

War had its day

And the Civil War, too

Was soon laid away

And the names of the heroes

I was made to memorize

With guns in their hands

And God on their side


The First World War, boys

It came and it went

The reason for fighting

I never did get

But I learned to accept it

Accept it with pride

For you don’t count the dead

When God’s on your side


The Second World War

Came to an end

We forgave the Germans

And then we were friends

Though they murdered six million

In the ovens they fried

The Germans now, too

Have God on their side


I’ve learned to hate the Russians

All through my whole life

If another war comes

It’s them we must fight

To hate them and fear them

To run and to hide

And accept it all bravely

With God on my side


But now we got weapons

Of chemical dust

If fire them, we’re forced to

Then fire, them we must

One push of the button

And a shot the world wide

And you never ask questions

When God’s on your side


Through many a dark hour

I’ve been thinkin’ about this

That Jesus Christ was

Betrayed by a kiss

But I can’t think for you

You’ll have to decide

Whether Judas Iscariot

Had God on his side.


So now as I’m leavin’

I’m weary as Hell

The confusion I’m feelin’

Ain’t no tongue can tell

The words fill my head

And fall to the floor

That if God’s on our side

He’ll stop the next war

Source: Bob Dylan: All The Songs

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