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U2: blurring the line between the sacred and the profane…

February 7, 2008


Bono, Larry, and The Edge had become involved in the Shalom fellowship.  They were just twenty years old and had discovered their faith amid an enflamed charismatic revival.  Questions of ego and fame and the seemingly trivial pursuit of rock music were beginning to arise.  There seemed to be a wind of change within the Shalom community and its leadership.

In Ireland in the early eighties, there were many fellowship groups like Shalom that had started outside of any accountability of established churches.  One of the trends was to set in place pastoral care that became much too strict and controlling.  The pastor told people what decisions to make in their everyday lives.  Some even had a shepherding system where everyone was designated someone to whom to be accountable.

U2 would have lived with that kind of news and peer pressure filtering through the Irish charismatic fellowships.  It would be wrong to suggest that these are not serious issues that need to be dealt with.  To be a Christian and to find that you are a gifted musician with a contemporary slant brings with it certain questions and responsibilities.  It is a field fraught with temptations in drugs and sex and materialism, and it is an easy place to lose your head with the intoxification of fame or even lose your very soul in trying to gain the world.  It is the place where the members of U2 found themselves around the time of October.

In 1981, U2 could have given in to someone’s prophecy that was based on good intentions of trying to give good Christian advice.  But where would they be now?  What would it have done to their spirits and their souls to be taken away from this avenue of creativity that obviously burned within them?  Who might have they become?  For sure, the rock world would have missed one of the most influential bands of the latter part of the twentieth century.  Imagine a world without The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby.  Imagine no Zoo TV or Popmart tour.  Imagine the biblical imagery and spiritual provocation that would have been  absent from the world’s record stores, pop charts, MTV programming, and music press.

In living ever since in the contradiction that The Edge says they have never resolved, the members of U2 have lived on the edge of a cliff dividing the sacred and the profane.  No one would say they have lived on that thin line between heaven and hell without at times dipping their feet into the fires and getting burned in the process.  But surely they have lived out the balances in as successful a way as most other Christians in the arts.  They have dealt with it better than the ghetto called Christian music.
Steve Stockman, Walk On:  The Spritual Journey of U2

2 Comments leave one →
  1. pistolpete permalink
    February 8, 2008 3:03 pm

    You make a compelling point about U2 living out their faith. Yet, I wouldn’t categorically dismiss all who labor in the “ghettos of Christian music” as you do. Some of the music is very good and, it is beginning to reach an audience of more than just Christians.

  2. just an apprentice permalink
    February 8, 2008 3:47 pm

    I wasn’t trying to dismiss all who labor in Christian music. This entire post is a block quote. So the words “ghettos of Christian music” is the language of Steve Stockman.

    That being said, I am not a big fan of the Contemporary Christian Music scene. I believe there have been some effective ministries and voices within this “ghetto”. I also see a significant amount of Christianity lite–thinly vailed American cultural values dressed up in middle-class American Evangelicalism.

    I also question the whole approach to stratification and appeal to the Christian market.

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