Bruce Springsteen's latest album, "Wrecking Ball," is an instant classic, said Word on Fire Blog contributor Father Damian Ference. It's also a window into the Boss's Catholic past, displaying an uncanny familiarity with tenets, themes and traditions of the faith. Read on for a closer look.
An authentic Catholic worldview is one that does not blink, but has both eyes wide open to the fullness of the real world, in all its horror, beauty and mystery. It is a worldview that insists on the following. Mary is both Virgin and Mother, that Jesus is both God and man—without being more of one than the other. Faith and reason are not opposed, but live in harmony. We human beings are both sinners and saved, all at the same time. And death is life. The Catholic worldview holds two contrary positions together because to take one away would be to deny the fullness of the truth. We Catholics have a name for the position that denies the truth of one reality for the sake of the other—we call it heresy.
Bruce Springsteen, a lapsed Catholic with an undeniable Catholic worldview, released a new record earlier this month titled “Wrecking Ball.” Last week he was the keynote speaker at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. At the tail end of his speech, his Catholic imagination took over as he addressed the audience of about two thousand up-and-coming musicians. Here’s what he said:
So rumble, young musicians, rumble. Open your ears and open your hearts. Don't take yourself too seriously, and take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don’t worry. Worry your ass off. Have unclad confidence, but doubt. It keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town—and you suck! It keeps you honest. Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideals alive and well inside of your heart and head at all times. If it doesn't drive you crazy, it will make you strong. And stay hard, stay hungry and stay alive. And when you walk on stage tonight to bring the noise, treat it like it's all we have—and then remember it's only rock 'n' roll.
Springsteen has a seasoned understanding of the Catholic both/and principle. He knows that the only way to really see the world as-it-is is to keep two contradictory truths alive and well inside of your heart and head at all times. (Philosophically speaking, these truths are actually contrary, notcontradictory—but let’s not get picky.) Without this both/and vision, a listener will easily fall into the trap of thinking Springsteen is frustrated, angry and depressed, or that he is commendably filled with faith and hope. The truth about Springsteen, and specifically on his latest album “Wrecking Ball,” is this—he’s both...