Sunday, March 25, 2012

the "spiritual" side of springsteen...

Ok, it may be a strange journey in some minds to move from pole dancing to prayer (see yesterday's post re: the sultry songs of springsteen), but one of the things I glean from the incarnation is that there is a sacred side to our bodies.  And as Norman Wirzaba discusses over and again in his book, Food and Faith, there must be something unique and holy about the fact that God created us all to eat ~ and enjoy the experience of nourishing our physical bodies.

So in my mind, a healthy sensuality is simply part of a sacred spirituality that brings integrity, grace, humility, humor and hope to the inner and outward life of faith.  And in addition to sultry songs, Springsteen has a ton or spiritual songs, too that include an assortment of prayers, laments, expressions of gratitude as well as celebrations of faith, hope and love.  So, in no particular order ~ except we'll start with the most recent ~ here are some of my favorite Springsteen songs of prayer.

ROCKY GROUND:  I think this is a creative blessing that blends genres as well as archival recordings of Alan Lomax.  It is a call for God's leaders ~ however you understand that word shepherd~ to rise up and make sure to care for the flock spiritually, politically, emotionally, physically and economically.  I particularly like the fact that the Boss stepped into the hip hop arena with confidence and respect ~ using gospel singer Michelle Moore ~ to bring it all home.  "I'm a soldier in the army of the Lord... and there's a new day a'coming."

MY CITY OF RUINS:  written about his home town but morphed into an ode for NYC after the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11th, this song starts with a classic old school R and B groove but becomes a gospel prayer/song pleading for God's mercy and strength.  Of all the spiritual songs of Springsteen, this is one of the most tender and vulnerable ~ especially the version that aired less than a week after the attacks.  I've done this with my bands over the years and it is still as real and vital 10 years running as when he first shared it.

 INTO THE FIRE AND THE RISING:  from the same album ~ The Rising ~ are set in the context of 9/11 ~ but are not confined to that tragedy.  The first creates a chorus of praise to God who inspired the fire fighters ~ and all heroes ~ to turn their faith, hope and love into deeds of action and healing.  Springsteen uses these words periodically ~ faith, hope and love ~ which hail from St. Paul's treatise on sacrificial love in I Corinthians 13.  They provide one of the deep turning points of Badlands and are essential to Into the Fire.

And then there is The Rising ~ a resurrection song if ever there was one ~ that owns the tragedy of death and loss but refuses to see the destruction as the end of the story.  It requires a vision born of faith ~ not idealism or ideology ~ but faith born of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  This is a secular retelling of the Passion Narrative that kicks ass as the layers of sound build to a cathartic crescendo ~ a rock and roll sing a long "la la la" that lets all kinds of people join in a common language and prayer...

IF I SHOULD FALL BEHIND:  Is a primer in community and grace.  I also think it is an object lesson in what St. Paul was talking about when he noted we are a body with distinctive gifts that all work to the glory of the whole when blended with respect and care.  This version tears me a part.  I've done this one, too with various bands and without any explication, people GET how important it is to welcome and weave together the various gifts we each bring to the table.

LAND OF HOPES AND DREAMS:  remakes the old Spiritual "This Train" into a true song of grace.  In fact, Springsteen captures the promise of God's grace better than the old gospel song OR Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" because on THIS train... ALL the broken are welcome.  So are the sinners and wounded and outsiders and all the rest Jesus spoke about in Matthew's gospel when he said, "Whatever you do unto the LEAST of these my sisters and brothers you do unto me."  The second half of this song is a complete celebration of an adult gospel of grace... dig it.

REASON TO BELIEVE:  from the ancient album Nebraska this is one of the best.  It speaks to the insight of the Apostle Paul who says, "now we see as through a glass darkly... later we shall see face to face." Now we act by faith ~ sometimes without a lot of evidence of God's love ~ but we still act faithfully because we trust that someday we shall see face to face.  This is a tough song ~ and he's done it in a lot of ways ~ from bluesy lament to ZZ Top boogie.  But my favorite came from his solo tour where he totally transformed it like this lament from the swamps of New Jersey...

You probably have your own favorites:  these are mine and I hope you like 'em.


Alida Ward said...

Absolutely wonderful picks -- this was a delight to read -- thanks so much!
Alida Ward -- pastor and long-time Springsteen follower

RJ said...

Thanks for your kind words, Alida!

a spirituality of l'arche - part five

NOTE: I thought I would finish this series up earlier this week but on my way to some commitments, as John Lennon used to say, life happened...