Few would deny that rock and roller Bruce Springsteen is a national icon. Fans often associate his music with American pastimes, youthful romance -- and the rebellious soul. But some scholars are convinced that there's something deeper to be learned from Springsteen’s four decades of musical success.
Bruce Springsteen performs at the "Stand Up For Heroes" event at Madison Square Garden, Nov. 6, 2013 in New York. (Getty Images/Jemal Countess)
Rutgers University recently announced that it will offer a new course exploring the career and theology of The Boss.
The seminar, titled "Rock and Roll Theology," will explore Springsteen’s entire anthology of lyrics from "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." (1973) to his most recent album "Wrecking Ball" (2012).
Rutgers Today, the school's official news outlet, said the one-credit freshman seminar will be taught by associate professor of Jewish studies and classics, Dr. Azzan Yadin-Israel.
Yadin-Israel, who typically teaches courses on classical Jewish philosophy and the Dead Sea Scrolls, said he hopes the seminar will endow students with skills similar to those acquired through literary analysis, including a "particular way of thinking about texts, an attentive engagement of an author’s work, and an understanding of the broader contexts--political, literary, theological, etc.--that inform a work.”
In an interview with Rutgers Today, the professor of theology described the songs and ideas that inspired this unique course.
"In some songs, Springsteen engages biblical motifs explicitly, as the titles indicate. For example, 'Adam Raised a Cain,' 'Jesus was an Only Son,' 'In the Belly of the Whale' (referring to Jonah). But concepts with biblical resonance appear throughout his works (the Promised Land, redemption, faith), and it’s just a matter of taking the theological overtones seriously," Yadin-Israel said.
In a modern culture of relativity, how will people of faith perceive this latest theological endeavor? Many literature courses discuss the significance of biblical allegory in various works, but does this move to merge pop culture with sacred texts cross the line?
Some may find it comforting that a secular college is introducing biblical theology in a way that appeals to the culturally imbued youth, while others will likely see the course as hermeneutical debauchery. After all, Springsteen isn’t a professing Christian. Though he grew up in a Roman Catholic home, the singer-songwriter does not outwardly ascribe to one set of beliefs.
Yadin-Israel declined an interview request from TheBlaze to discuss his thoughts on the issue.
Bruce Springsteen performs at the "Stand Up for Heroes" event at Madison Square Garden, Nov. 6, 2013, in New York. (AP/John Minchillo/Invision)
Though Springsteen might not characterize himself as a believer, there is no denying that his catalogue of compositions reflect a deep interest in the biblical narrative. Rutgers isn’t the first to approach Springsteen from an academic angle, though its theological approach provides a new twist.
Time magazine reported that the University of Rochester and Princeton University have also offered Springsteen courses in the past. Monmouth University, another Garden State school, has held at least three symposiums on the 64-year-old legend. The latest seminar at Rutgers is just another sign of the support Springsteen has received from his native Garden State.
(H/T: Rutgers Today)