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The Boss: Worship In The Badlands

Updated on August 4, 2014
The Boss turned sixty on Sept 23, 2009.
The Boss turned sixty on Sept 23, 2009.

Be Glad You're Alive

Bruce Springsteen, a.k.a. The Boss turned sixty in September 2009.

Way back in the spring of 1974, after seeing him perform at Harvard Square Theatre, music critic Jon Landau wrote in Boston’s The Real Paper: “I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.”

Flash forward to the twenty-first century, and Springsteen is an icon and a national treasure. He has a catalog of sad story songs about people living on the fringe that are heart-gripping and saturated with a spirituality that works itself out in the real world.

His characters are tense, tough, and tenderhearted all at the same time. In their search for meaning and direction they struggle to come to terms with lost dreams, broken hearts and damaged relationships.

The Boss often manages to inject faith, hope and love into their lives as he turns sorrowful tales into a commemoration of life. Badlands is a prime example of his portrait of real world spirituality; a sense of worship is palpable in the song but one phrase delivered in a rolling rumble sums up this celebratory spirit: “For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside that it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive…”

Sometimes badlands go on forever...
Sometimes badlands go on forever...

A Heart Hunger

It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.  Some have taken that line as an excuse or license to indulge in every excess, but it is a cry of worship.  Yes, worship; worship in defiance of the badlands.  Earlier in the song he spoke of love, faith and hope in the context of a prayer that’d raise him above the hardness of the circumstances.

At one point or another everyone experiences badlands.  Life hits a rough patch that goes on forever with seemingly endless horizons in every direction; life grinds on and on while an incessant heartache cuts a valley through your soul.  In those bleak badlands worship is seldom our first choice but it is always our best option.

Everyone worships someone or something.  Worship is a heart hunger that expresses itself by focusing our perspective on the transcendent deity who called the universe into existence by saying:  “Let there be light.”  If not channeled in that healthy direction, our ingrained capacity for reverence and adoration will be transferred to a multitude of possible recipients.

Given the stiff-necked and fickle nature of the human race, it is easy to understand why YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME made it to number one on God’s Top Ten List of things for us to grasp.

Ancients worshiped hand-carved statues; moderns worship manmade consumerism, convenience & celebrity.
Ancients worshiped hand-carved statues; moderns worship manmade consumerism, convenience & celebrity.

Idolatry Is Alive & Well

Our inbred need to pay homage to someone or something projects itself down detrimental avenues. We devote ourselves to achieving position and possessions, and then become caught in the idolatrous turnstiles of consumerism.

We elevate autonomy and self-expression, only to surrender our undying allegiance to the false god of convenience.

We glorify individuals, exalting fame and fortune to the point that we willingly chase after the glittery whore of celebrity. There is no question that Consumerism, Convenience and Celebrity are the modern-day equivalents of the ancient Baals and Asherahs.

Idolatry is alive and well, which impairs and distorts our true purpose. We humans are designed for intimacy with our Creator, though more often than not, our minds are far away from that fact.

The racing clock ticks madly on and on, causing many to attempt to contain worship within a one-hour time-frame one day a week. But try as we might, God’s marvelous loving-kindness to us cannot be swept into a single corner of our lives. We regularly need to reevaluate the way we think about God in relationship to how we live our lives.

Celebration & Thanksgiving

To be glad one is alive is to recognize that worship is the offering of everyday life to God. It is not something to be transacted only in a church-house for it cannot be bottled up in liturgy or ritual, however heartfelt or magnificent those may be.

We must make practicing the presence of God our customary individual experience, so that when we come together corporately our voices rise in the joyful enthusiasms of people who are glad to be alive. We ought to cultivate celebration and thanksgiving even in the badlands of our lives and in the mundane aspects of our daily routines; we ought to celebrate and be thankful simply because God is God.

Despite our human-centric arrogance, we cannot possibly create or sustain life from nothingness; we are the creation and our omnipotent heavenly Father is the Creator. Genuine worship continually acknowledges that perspective altering reality; genuine worship is God-honoring and life-changing, filtering down to impact every attitude and activity of our lives.


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    • Ken R. Abell profile image

      Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Cari Jean - Thank you. And no, unfortunately, I haven't made it to the real Badlands of ND & SD. . .yet. The destination is definitely on my travel wish list. Blessings.

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Great hub, Ken! And you're so right that idolatry is alive and well. When I read the Bible and how they worshipped carved images made from wood I always wondered how they could worship such meaningless things over God - but yet we do the same thing today - we put so much above God. Also - have you ever been to the real Badlands in Western ND and SD? It is quite spectacular!