New article on U2 via Baudrillard

Deane Galbraith, author of the fascinating "Fallen Angels" paper in Exploring U2, writes to say that he has a publication on U2 included in a new book out on theology and rock music, The Counter-Narratives of Radical Theology and Popular Music: Songs of Fear and Trembling (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.) It's edited by Mike Grimshaw, and the U2 chapter is "Meeting God in the Sound: The Seductive Dimension of U2's Future Hymns." In the article, Dean employs Jean Baudrillard's distinction between the production of meaning and the seductive capacity of texts, in order to "examine the role played by U2’s emphasis on the formal, mystical, and experiential aspects of their music, and how that emphasis coincides with a religious trend which since at least the 1960s can be located throughout the arts, popular music, and—in a perhaps surprising association—charismatic evangelical Christianity." The chapter focuses on No Line On The Horizon and the U2 360 tour, and includes detailed discussions of "White as Snow" and "Unknown Caller." I haven't had a chance to look it over, but I've read enough of Deane's work that I expect it to be good!


Somatica divina

Some of our more academic minded readers may be interested in following the new blog of Tom Beaudoin, associate professor of religion at Fordham University in New York City and formerly part of the team of the now-retired Rock and Theology blog (as well as the bassist for two New York City-area rock bands.)


sermon audio

A reader shares this audio of a sermon using "Invisible” from a church in Texas. I have not had a chance to listen before posting, but I presume it's what it says it is!


not invisible

If you are in or near Ohio, our contributor Steve Stockman has some speaking engagements coming up very soon. Scott Calhoun has the details at @U2.


Everything I wish I didn't know

Happy Vertigo Sunday to those on the western Christian lectionary. I had the chance this weekend to share the desert version of U2's "Vertigo" video with a clergyperson preparing to preach on the desert temptations of Christ, and was intrigued by his reaction to the black substance that pours off the band's backs (while also surrounding and trapping them) for a large portion of that video. He said it reminded him of this famous story from the Desert Fathers:
A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you." So Moses got up and went. He took a basket, filled it with sand, cut a hole at the bottom and carried it on his shoulders. The others came out to meet him and seeing the sand flowing forth said, “What is this, father?”
The Abba replied, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today you have called me here to judge another?” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.


U2 Invisible, reactions

Friend of this blog Tim Neufeld offers some reflections on "Invisible" and its links to previous U2 material on his blog Occasio

I'm also indebted to another friend of this blog and fellow U2 book author Steve Harmon (who blogs at Ecclesial Theology) for the suggestion that the lyric may be "a body in a soul," which is, in Steve's words, "not a bad concise theological anthropology."

Catholic Moral Theology comments on the song's theme of making persons visible, seeing it as justice-related and tying it in with Pope Francis' words against exclusion in Evangelium Gaudium 53.


(Not) Invisible

Happy feast of the Presentation/Candlemas, folks.

I'm more than you know
I'm more than you see here
More than you let me be
I'm more than you know
A body and a soul
You don't see me but you will
I am not invisible
....I am here


It should be ordinary

A  nice piece by friend of this blog Mark Meynell on "Ordinary Love" for redeemingsound. Excerpt:
As the song suggests, [Mandela] showed a love for the other, the different, the opponent, that is unparalleled in the modern world. Which ironically makes it an extraordinary love. But the fact that it should be ordinary seems to be the point.  This is the song’s key refrain: “We can’t reach any higher/fall any further if we can’t feel/deal with ordinary love.”


Farewell to the Rock and Theology blog

Rock and Theology is closing up shop after 5 years, and they have a post up inviting readers to talk about other resources for the kind of material they've been covering.  Thanks for all your good work, R&T guys.


"I've never felt such sympathy with a writer in America before."

"You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see" - Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal 

"I saw You in the curve of the moon" - Bono, "All Because of You"


"The story of Jesus ... here we go again."

This coming Sunday, Dec 1, is the first day of the Christian new year (1 Advent.) In the sidebar to this email of reflections on the Gospel lesson for that day, Get Up Off Your Knees contributor Mike Kinman draws some parallels with the beginning of Advent and the U2 song "New Year's Day."


Fall lower, reach higher

I'm sure we're all watching "Ordinary Love" by now whether we subscribe to U2. com or not. It seems to me cut from the same bolt of cloth as a prior movie song, "Hands that Built America," or --funny, I can't think of the name of the other one right now "Electrical Storm." Anyway, I'm intrigued by the elevator inscribed with what seem to be sections of Dante's Inferno (I've identified Canto 11 which describes the tomb of Pope Anastasius.) What else? The wind imagery is no surprise. Interested by "your heart" on the sleeve that can't be washed away, while the lyrics of the song themselves seem easy to wash away if we are to take the end of the video at face value. The theme of the vital need to "feel" and "deal with" not romantic or special but "ordinary" love, and the idea that it's this kind of love that really requires toughness to hang in with, chimes with some of No Line's ideas; it also makes a provocative counterpart to a film about Mandela, a great hero (someone who we would often want to set apart as extraordinary, capable of the unusual, not like ordinary old us -- but perhaps these are ideas I'm smuggling in with me.)


In related news.....

Rolling Stone reports that Rutgers will be offering a freshman theology course on Bruce Springsteen, headed up by an associate professor of Jewish studies and classics who usually teaches on early rabbinic literature.


Spiritual complaint

Steve Taylor alerts us to a book on lament, Spiritual Complaint, edited by Miriam J. Bier and Tim Bulkeley, to which he's contributed a chapter (co-authored with Liz Boase) that explores live performances by U2 after the Pike River Mining disaster and by Paul Kelly after the Black Saturday Bushfire tragedy. (HT fresno dave on this one)


"Did the choir even exist at this point?"

There's a very interesting interview with Dennis Bell, the conductor of the Gospel version of "I Still Haven't Found" from Rattle and Hum,  up on @U2 today. It includes a great deal of the backstory of how this version came to be, which -- I suppose we should not be surprised -- is a little different than the impression most people have of what happened. Hagiography has a way of smoothing out the rough edges and coming up with a better story.


As the semester starts....

My guess is that pretty much everyone who follows this blog would also be following @U2, but just in case you aren't, this week's "Off the Record" column is worth a look for a link to yet another college course on U2 and theology ("U2 and Theological Mission" with professor Marty Folsom, an offering in the Masters in Theology and Culture program at Northwest University in Washington) as well as an interesting post on Pop, making that Ephesians 5 connection with "Wake Up Dead Man," by a history professor at Montreat College in NC. 


"that it would seek to describe itself"

I discovered by accident the other day that Bono is included as the final chapter (because it's chronological) in the book Finding God: A Treasury of Conversion Stories. The brief section has a simple biography, and then an excerpt from the Michka Assayas book which will likely already be familiar to readers, in which Bono recounts a mystical experience he had while sitting behind a pillar in Dublin's Anglican cathedral on Christmas Eve.


Courting an untamed God

Here is a look at the imagery of "Wild Honey," brought into dialogue with the Puritans, Isaiah, John Eldredge, Augustine, and others who have used courtship language about God.


"They all seem to have the ability to act sensibly"

An interesting interview with Garvin Evans, father of the Edge, by an Italian living in Dublin who got to know him at church ("rigorously Protestant.") Italian on top; scroll down for the English version.


"A palindromic testimony"

Perhaps my favorite paper from the U2 conference in Cleveland this spring was "Transgressing Theology: Locating Jesus in a 'F—ed-Up World'" by Ted Trost. A version of it has now been published on Interference. Highly suggest a read of this fascinating piece on Pop.