It may seem odd to say that God speaks through the work of such entertainers as rock musician Bruce Springsteen, television star Bill Cosby and the singer-actress Madonna.
But that it happens is the studied conclusion of a exploratory and versatile Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Andrew Greeley of Chicago.He maintains that they and a procession of other purveyors of "pop" art, including romance novels, westerns, mysteries and comic strips, are frequent channels of divine grace.
"God may indeed be encountered in works of the lively arts which ordinary people enjoy," Greeley says, but "high-culture" critics and church officials generally look down on such output.
Just because it's enjoyable and thus immensely popular, he says, doesn't mean it's not good.
Greeley, scholarly sociologist and also best-selling novelist with 110 books to his credit in both fields, advances his thesis in a new book, "God in Popular Culture," published by Thomas Moore Press of Chicago.
"I suppose the elitists will ridicule the idea of finding God in science fiction, mystery stories, pop singers and comic strips," he said in a telephone interview from his spring semester teaching post at the University of Arizona.
Greeley, 60, details a case for this in a variety of "pop" output and performers - western film actor Clint Eastwood, singer Linda Ronstadt, horror novelist Stephen King, TV's domestic-life comic Bill Cosby and others.
Describing Cosby as "an evangelist," Greeley says he is "the most influential religion teacher in America" through the "paradigms of love" on his TV series about a black family.
Of the singer-actress Madonna with her flamboyant attire and streetwise candor, Greeley says "she demands for young women the right to be what their bodies demand of them - simultaneously virgin and siren."
Greeley says much of Springsteen's rock music is "deeply religious" and asks "serious questions about what life means . . . He is a major religious prophet." His "Tunnel of Love" album may be "more important" than a papal visit.