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American prayer…

January 3, 2008

Beyoncé Knowles & Bono – World Prayer (Live 46664 Concert)

In Get Up Off Your Knees, Eugene Peterson wrote perhaps U2’s strongest endorsement to the Christian Church.  His conclusion was that U2 is indeed a prophetic voice, saying, “God the Holy Spirit has used prophets, biblical and contemporary, to separate people from the lies and illusions to which they’ve become accustomed…prophets train us in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the Gospel, keeping us present to the presence of God.”

“Prophetic voices that challenge the people of God to live ‘in accordance with the scriptures,’ scriptures that are especially vocal about care for the poor, the suffering, and the disreputable have never received cordial treatment from people who use religion to cocoon themselves from reality.”  Eugene Peterson  (his interpretation of why the Church has been slow to embrace U2)

There is something within the evangelical psyche that is naturally suspicious.  For every little group of believers delving into the lyrics of new U2 albums like Bible studies, there is another group who is equally interested in being a judge and jury, obsessed to damn them as definitely not Christians at all.  It is a bizarre pastime and hints at a dark side at the heart of the human psyche but perhaps accentuated in evangelical communities.  It has remnants of the Pharisees’ desire to self-righteously judge, demand conformity, and exclude.  There is a determination to castigate and damn and do it with a fervent glee.  There is a lack of gentleness and grace.  At times there is a frightening viciousness.

Steve Stockman, Walk On:  Spiritual Journey of U2

4 Comments leave one →
  1. pistolpete permalink
    January 3, 2008 6:57 pm

    I’m no U2 expert by any means. I loved their early stuff and there is no doubt that the lyrics to many of their songs have a strong social conscience. My concern primarily is that it seems Bono, as good as his intentions seem, sets out to draw as much attention to himself as to his causes. At the same time, he gets results. Maybe fame is a critical component to success. But somehow I don’t think so.

  2. January 4, 2008 6:11 am

    always enjoy your blog, Brian. This post tempts me to do a missional assesment of “Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story.” Blessings in the new year!

  3. just an apprentice permalink
    January 4, 2008 4:02 pm

    Pistol Pete,
    I am not really a music junkie, but I have observed U2 over the years more from a distance. In recent years, I have observed Bono using the platform that being a rock star affords him to garner support for humanitarian causes. This is commendable.

    Not sure what specifics you have in mind when you say Bono “sets out to draw as much attention to himself.” I recently read the book Walk On: The spiritual journey of U2. I would offer two potential responses to this concern of yours.

    1. Bono is a complex mixture of contradictions. It seems that he is not totally blind to this. He is living the life of a rock star. At times that leads to ego-centric behavior. He at times acts out in the moment in ways that are not as measured and proper for an evangelical sensibility. Yet, he has avoided much of the tabloid soap opera that goes with the rock star lifestyle. He is still married to the bride of his youth. An amazing expression of something deeper guiding his life than meaningless consumption and hedonistic self-indulgence. It is also evident that he is engaging the Biblical narrative in a way that attempts to live out the vision of peace and justice inherent in the way of Jesus. He embraces the prophetic word of Scripture that we have in the O.T. prophets and in the life of Jesus. He is seeking to bring this message to bear on the pressing crises of our world. Compassionate Christianity.

    2. Not having been a collector of U2’s music over the years, I was unaware of some of the twists and turns their music has taken. They have reinvented themselves a number of times. They produced a trilogy of albums in the 1990s (Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop) in which they essentially were making a mockery of themselves–the hollow pursuit of fame and fortune that drives the modern world. At this stage of their musical journey, the band hid behind characters. Stockman says, “Bono was narrating someone else’s story.”

    Stockman writes: “Whether listening to the Pop album, enjoying the Popmart experience, or just watching the Popmart video filmed in Mexico City, there is an overwhelming feeling that the book of Ecclesiastes is being made into a song to live among us. Irish journalist Stuart Baillie evoked that in his review of the album when he described it as ‘watching the world dancing and shagging and shopping and suggesting that it is ultimately joyless.'”

    Pop and Popmart were like the dramatic soundtrack of that teacher’s wanderings. The Old Testament philosopher would have no idea how decadent and ridiculous the trash would have gotten 2,500 years later, but he could have related well to U2’s interaction with it.

    So Bono seeks to uncover the very trash heap he is living in through the medium that is deeply embedded in the trash. He probes for something deeper. He seeks to expose the meaninglessness and emptiness of the spirit of the age. Even in their uncertain relationship with the Church, they have sought to expose an emptiness often contained in religious forms that lacked power. In their music and in their engagement with the world, they have continued to dig deep down somewhere for Jesus in the midst of it all.

    “Christianity had become commercialized on many levels, and Bono may have been turning over the tables of various modern Christian temple courts, but the most obvious victims of his wrath would be his age-old friends, the televangelists.”

  4. just an apprentice permalink
    January 5, 2008 8:54 am

    thanks for your visits. One of my goals in this new year is to get together with you for coffee. Let’s be in touch.

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