Aging rock star Bruce Springsteen sings the theology of resurrection in his latest album, ``The Rising.'' Spawned by the violence of Sept. 11, the music calls for healing and offers hope.

Such ideas are normally the preserve of preachers. Much of the church's leadership, however, has been either distracted or has spewed venom in response to the Sept. 11 tragedy.

They offered little to soothe the angst felt almost universally after the catastrophes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on that Pennsylvania farmland.

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church have been distracted, if not consumed, by its scandal of sexual misconduct and administrative malfeasance.

Prominent Protestant leaders have behaved disgracefully. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson suggested that the collapse of the World Trade Center and the death of more than 2,800 people was God's judgement on what they consider to be America's lax sexual mores.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, inadequate heir to the remarkable ministry of his father, Billy Graham, has offered recrimination and accusation in place of reconciliation and hope.

Graham labeled Islam "a very evil and wicked religion" last fall, exposing his ignorance and prejudice. He claims that Islam's holy book preaches violence - as if, in places, the Bible did not.

This month, Graham scolded Muslims for not apologizing sufficiently for the September attacks. So much for Graham's healing words.

Springsteen, on the other hand, sings of prayer, resurrection and new life. The Boss is an unlikely candidate for sainthood in most religious traditions. Still, ``The Rising'' is a profound faith statement regarding Sept. 11 that no religious group has equalled.

More than a half million copies of the work have been sold since its release at the end of July.

The language of redemption, set to the tempo of rock and roll, is Springsteen's gift to those who suffer pain, anger and despair at the state of the world after 9/11.

He acknowledges the anguish that threatens to overwhelm us but never appeals to vengeance or hatred as a remedy. His song, ``My City of Ruins,'' resounds with hope.

``I pray for strength, Lord,'' he sings. The chorus shouts, ``Come on rise up! Come on rise up!''

Resurrection is understood.

``I help people hold onto their humanity . . . ,'' said the musician in a recent New York Times article.

Thank God, someone is doing the church's job.

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