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When one thinks of religion, rock ‘n’ roll music usually does not come to mind. However, Bruce Springsteen’s music forces some to rethink this very notion. At 5 p.m. April 14 in Wingate 202, the Departments of Religion, Anthropology and Music co-sponsored a discussion titled “Religion and Bruce Springsteen.”
Wake Forest alumna Linda Randall and author of Finding Grace in the Concert Hall led the discussion. Randall received her Master’s degree in Religion and Culture and is now a professor at the Empire State College. Her book began as her major thesis after her adviser told her to follow her passions.
Randall was first introduced to Springsteen in 1975 when she was 24-years-old, but did not see him again until 1999. Randall went to her fourth Springsteen concert alone, and it was the first time she had attended any event alone. She wanted to see if the feelings she first experienced upon viewing Springsteen live could be reproduced. “What I felt was not a rock ‘n’ roll concert,” she said. “I felt like all my sins in life were forgiven.”
To date, and just over the course of nine years, Randall has seen 70 shows and has traveled to Northern Ireland, Australia, Italy, France, New Zealand and many other countries.
Randall has seen the way people are connected with each other and she has observed the calls and responses between Springsteen and his audience, and has been left continually amazed. Initially, Randall was sure not to confuse her emotions for contagious enthusiasm and said, “I’ve never been a joiner. I don’t join clubs or organizations, but still when I was at the show, I felt that I was a part of something.”
All of Springsteen’s songs have a thread of redemption and hope and Randall finds his honesty and sincerity very appealing. The topics of his songs also include justice, friendship and honesty. “He believes what he writes and he writes what he believes,” she said. After “coming to Bruce,” Randall started to surf the Internet and found an entire community of Bruce fans who were both welcoming and tolerant of other people’s opinions.
Fans often refer to themselves as the Springsteen Nation or the Church of Bruce.
Randall spoke of a time when she solicited money for a food bank and within 20 minutes, she received $3,000 from the online community of Bruce fans, who completely trusted her with the belief that she was a fan and therefore would never deceive them.
Randall found that these fans do not look to Springsteen as a god. Rather, listening to his music provides them with a religious experience.
Though Springsteen usually does not disclose information about his philanthropic efforts, Randall said that Springsteen has made many contributions to the Kristen Anna Carr Fund, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the City of Hope, the Second Harvest Food Bank, amongst many other organizations.
According to Randall, Bruce Springsteen is the closest thing many people have to religion.
The church is no longer the sole medium to supply religious fervence nor is it the sole medium through which people experience spirituality.
Randall adds that for many, organized religion no longer provides inspiration and enlightenment, however, music has provided such fulfillment.
Chris D’Auria, Wake Forest fellow of the Catholic Campus Ministry responded to the event.
“I always find it interesting when elements of religion are discovered in secular sources,” D’Auria said.
“After hearing the lecture, I would love to experience this firsthand, sooner rather than later.”