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Monday, June 13, 2005

Bono and Jesus: The Christian Faith of U2's Lead Singer

I have always been a fan of U2 as a rock band. They've been at this for over 20 years and still put out consistently awesome music. Some of their songs are the greatest rock-n-roll songs ever penned. Can I get an Amen?!

For those of you cave dwellers who don't know, Bono is the name of the charismatic frontman of the Irish musical group. Some days I want to be Bono. And it's not because he's one of the most famous pop culture icons in the world, singing in one of the most talented and successful bands of all time (although I could probably get used to that). And it's not just because I sincerely admire his work on behalf of the poor in Africa. Many celebrities adopt pet social causes, but usually their ignorance does more harm than good (see Laura Ingraham's book "Shut Up and Sing"). But Bono is different. He's the real deal in my book. In my humble opinion, President Bush should try to pull some strings to get Bono put in charge of the U.N. (sorry Kofi).

The main reason I want to be Bono is because he's a good writer. He truly has a way with words (forget for a moment his accidental use of the f-word at the Grammys). Words are my life and my livelihood. I'm a professional communicator. And I strive to express classic timeless truths in fresh attention-grabbing verbiage. If I could say what I want to say with the panache of Bono, I'd be thrilled.

The first time I read some of Bono's prose was when Rolling Stone magazine had a special issue a while back on the 100 greatest rock-n-roll artists. They had current blockbusting stars write articles about other blockbusting stars and Bono wrote the page on Elvis Presley. And Bono's ability to paint a portrait of another man's soul using text is unsurpassed. Let me tell you that I read that whole issue, all 100 articles, and no one came close to Bono's craftsmanship as a writer.

The second time I read Bono's prose was in an issue of Modern Reformation (unfortunately I couldn't find a web link [c'mon Mikey!]) when they published something he'd written about the Psalms. The theme of that particular issue was the role of sorrow in the Christian life and contra contemporary happy-clappy praise music, Bono's article on psalms of lament nailed the truth square on the head. This guy gets it. And frankly, anyone who can get himself published in both Rolling Stone and Modern Reformation must be AWESOME. George W. Bush is someone I'd like to have a beer with (though he doesn't drink) and Bono is someone I'd drink a Guiness with and smoke clove cigarettes.

Every once in a while you hear rumors of Bono's Christian faith, but his many charitable works notwithstanding, I hadn't seen a lot of evidence for this myself. Until today, ten minutes ago, in fact. Jeffrey Overstreet's Blog, Looking Closer Journal, has a terrific excerpt from a newish book of published interviews with the Irish songster. The book is called Bono in Conversation and I've just added it to my already freakishly long must-read list.

I don't vouch for Bono's orthodoxy regarding every article of Christian doctrine. But go to Overstreets blog (HERE) and tell me that Bono's defense of the gospel is not clear, articulate and persuasive. Absolutely fabulous. He and Mel Gibson need to do lunch and I'd give my right pinky to be a fly on that wall.

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Paul Gregory Alms said...


Very interesting post on Bono. My only doubt about his faith is the date of the interview. My sense is that he was very strong in the early part of his career and less so lately. I could be wrong. The amazon info on the book said the interviews were from the late 70's to late 90's.

There was an interesting interview in the Chicago tribune between Greg Kot and Bono, not on religion but on U2's role in rock and their direction and philosophy.

It is here.

As a purely personal preference, I think U2 was best on the first three albums and since I have lost interest.

Preachrboy said...



I too have been a fan of the music, and have heard the rumors of the band's (not just Bono's) Christian faith for many years. Never really looked into it seriously, though.

One of my favorite songs is the one on "Acthung, Baby!" ("The End of the World"?) in which Judas is talking about his relationship with Christ. Very interesting. Also like the song, "One". Some neat themes of forgiveness in there too.

I did purchase, on a friend's recommendation, this book - "Get Up Off Your Knees - Preaching the U2 Catalog". It is a collection of sermons on their music. I still have it, but never got around to reading it. Wanna borrow it?

I paged through it and didn't find much that looked all that Lutheran. Not to mention I found I wasn't as familiar with U2 songs as I thought I was.

Here is the Amazon link:

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Pr. Alms,

You could be on to something. I don't know the actual date of the interview Overstreet cites. However, the stuff he wrote that was printed in "Modern Reformation" is from 1999.

Apparantly, Bono published a psalter (KJV) and wrote an introductory essay. The editors of "Modern Reformation" reprinted some of that in their issue called "The Blue Note." The theme is suffering and they felt Bono's short essay on psalms of lament fit. It does.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Pr. Chryst,

I would love to borrow the U2 book, if that's OK. Maybe you could bring it to the Higher Things conf?

recoveryroad said...

Another rock singer who thinks he has a direct line to God...

Ric Seaberg said...

hi scott, just found your blog and wanted to say what a terrific writer you are yourself. i enjoyed your bono piece and others. yer one hip dude in the pulpit. thanks, ric seaberg

Wendy said...

I just found your blog through Blog Explosion, and I just wanted to say a few things. First, this is a great blog. Second, my husband is a huge U2 fan, and he has always found their lyrics to be very Christian in nature. Keep up the good work!

Rick Krueger said...

Scott, just browsed through this book in the Ann Arbor Borders the other night (remember those days?) Am either gonna borrow it from the library or buy it soon.

The interviews are actually fairly recent; they finish up during the fall of last year, right before the new U2 album (which turned me on to the band again). Didn't see the excerpt you linked to, though. Another reason to grab it ...

Enjoying the blog, BTW!

Josh Schneider said...

Interesting post! I've always loved U2, and think their only bad albums were Zooropa and Pop.

Darrell said...

Hi, I’ve just discovered your blog, and it’ll be in my “frequent reading” list from now on.

Yes, Bono is just about the best lyricist in rock and roll, and great at expressing his ideas. Some of his lyrics should be printed on money! “If you need someone to blame, throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.” “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief, all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief.” I could go on forever.

Here’s a little joke I heard once, I hope it will not seem blasphemous… it does express the degree to which we Bono fans venerate the guy:

Eric Clapton dies and goes to Heaven… an angel takes him in and shows him around. Clapton inquires about a guitarist he sees giving guitar lessons to other angels.

“Oh, that’s Hendrix. He gives guitar lessons on Thursdays,” the angel says.

Later, Clapton asks about a drummer he sees giving percussion lessons to a band of angels. The angel tells him that it’s Keith Moon, and that he gives lessons daily.

When Clapton sees a pianist giving lessons, the angel informs him that it’s Ray Charles.

Later, Clapton sees Bono giving song-writing lessons to the angels. Clapton is shocked and asks the angel “When did Bono die?” The angel replies “Oh, that’s not Bono… that’s God. He likes to pretend he’s Bono.”

Again, I hope it didn’t offend… it tickles me.

And, again, great blog!

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Hey Darrell,
Thanks for the nice words. I just checked out your blogs as well. Good stuff! Keep it up!

Joe said...

Last year Christianity today did a piece on Bono which was pretty insightful regarding his faith.

I say just's in the music can't miss it.

Grace and Peace,

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