Friday, November 26, 2010

Collecting Manna: Theology of the Boss

Bruce Springsteen is a Roman Catholic, but in this recent interview with Rolling Stone, discussing the "vampire schedule" he often keeps while working on records like his recently reissued masterpiece, Darkness on the Edge of Town, the theology of the Boss sounds a lot like Luther's theology of the cross:

I'm an alienated person by nature, always have been, still am to this day. It continues to be an issue in my life, in that I'm always coming from the outside, I'm always operating at a distance, and I'm always trying to overcome my own internal reticence and alienation - which is funny, because I throw myself the opposite way onstage. But the reason I do that is because while the stage and all those people are out there, the abyss is under my heels, and I always feel it back there. I've accepted that just as my nature and it's given me the ability to write a "Rosalita" or "The Rising" or "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" or "Nebraska" or "Straight Time" or "the Ghost of Tom Joad." You can't write those without having had at least a taste of the abyss. It's allowed me to have an emotional breadth and subject matter in my work that is very wide, but then, you also have to live with it [laughs]. (11.25.10 issue, p62).

Luther might put it this way:

One deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and the "back" of God seen through suffering and the cross. The "back" and the visible things of God are opposites of the invisible, namely, human nature, weakness, foolishness. The Apostle in 1 Cor. 1.25 calls them the weakness and folly of it is not sufficient for anyone, and it does no one good to recognize God in God's glory and majesty, unless one recognizes God in the humility and the shame of the cross...This is clear: One who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore one prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and in general, good to evil...God saves no one but sinners, God instructs no one but the foolish and the stupid, God enriches no one but paupers, and God makes alive only the dead; not those who merely imagine themselves to be such but those who really are this kind of people and admit it. (Quoted by Tuomo Mannermaa in Two Kinds of Love: Martin Luther's Religious World. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010, 28, 33)

I think the Reformer would join with me in experiencing the grace hidden in suffering in The Boss' powerful prayer, "My City of Ruins," left off his list above, but in my opinion, not only one of his finest, but one of my favorite songs of all time, with which I bid you good evening:

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