brokenbonds loosedchains: Two Hearts Beat as One

From the "watching how U2 gets used in people's faith journeys" department, here's a little piece of theological reflection jumping from War to E.T. to Galatians.


Bono and U2 ask God some tough questions

Pretty good "religion and U2" piece in the Toledo Blade today, altho it's seemingly using the old edition of Walk On (not to mention writing as if the band contributed directly to that book). The article does give a full description of what's going on in the COEXIST portion of the U2 show (a scene that has occasioned a lot of comments because of others' misreporting). And it has a wonderful (IMHO) quote from a 2003 interview the author did with Bono, which I'll let you find yourselves.


Most "Spiritual" Songs?

OK, someone asked, and I'm finally getting around to answering: How would I argue with the list of "U2's Most Spiritual Songs"?

I would argue on several fronts. First, the category itself already puts us into a worldview which isn't very Biblical. The Christian life involves not segregating flesh from spirit, but presenting our whole selves to God as a living sacrifice (Rom 12). Thus, there are no non-spiritual U2 songs, and the fact that their work reflects that kind of healthy integration is one of the main secrets of its appeal. "Big Girls Are Best" is a spiritual song just as much as "Yahweh" is.

The category also tends to perpetuate a stereotype that a spiritual song is one which focuses on stating positive and comforting ideas about God or makes a lot of Bible references. No way. Even if we were to retitle the list "U2 songs in which religious issues are central," I'd certainly put "Wake Up Dead Man" and "The First Time" on there before I'd put something as generally uncharacteristic of their overall work as "When Love Comes to Town."

The list completely misses out U2's second or third most religiously-themed album, "Pop," as well as mostly neglecting the social justice vision that has been so central to their catalog in material like "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Pride," "Bullet the Blue Sky," and "Peace on Earth."

One more tangential comment: I was disturbed to see Aung San Suu Kyi cited as representing a "Christian" ideal (in fact, I objected to that concept when the reporter floated it to me, but that didn't get in.) Let's let her have her own religion, please?

I of course have no idea how the list was compiled; perhaps readers were asked to name songs they found personally inspirational or something like that. And sure, the songs on there are uplifting, but Christian spirituality is about a lot more than just getting uplifted.

the priesthood: drugs, worship, and atomic bombs

Also, I just gotta smile a little at this. Hope he has a great show.


Reason is on our side.

For liturgical preachers out there getting to work on your All Saints/All Souls propers, especially if you're preaching in some context where there might be, say, a special Requiem for those who died in the past year, may I heartily recommend a song I don't even like that much, "Miracle Drug," for this line, which fits quite well with talking about things like the Communion of Saints as experienced through the mysterious space-time-continuum-shattering properties of the Eucharist: Love makes nonsense of space and time will disappear.


U2 and faith podcasts

The Rolling Stone Bono interview podcast isn't the only thing people interested in U2 Christian content can listen to. You may remember a Bono: In Conversation quotes series by Andy of Andy & Shona's Blog: Andy was trying out a little podcasting as well, and there's both U2 and Get Up Off Your Knees content in this one (which alludes to a sermon in which Andy used "Wake Up Dead Man") and in the dry run for the series.

Nathan Hart is also podcasting his sermons on the site Sermons From Babylon, and here's one using U2's "Until the End of The World" in dialogue with John 14.


Rolling Stone: "OK, you can have the anointing"

There's a cover story interview with Bono coming out tomorrow, and some excerpts are up. I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing, but you could have knocked me over with a feather when I came to his relaxed evocation of a highly technical (and even more highly debatable) Koine Greek vocabulary distinction beloved of a certain segment of Pentecostalism. No, I'm not kidding: Rolling Stone, meet Logos and Rhema.

[EDIT: FYI there is an ongoing podcast of the interview, the first episode of which is over an hour. Also, I can now add that the whole article is a must-read -- for U2 fans and folks committed to Make Poverty History of course, but anyone interested in the general topics of this blog will enjoy seeing how, as usual, even the "secular" parts of the interview aren't secular at all. Perhaps my new favorite line: "I go out drinking with God."]

"If they have Jesus, why do they need Bono?"

Hat tip to, whom else, Mike at Waving or Drowning? who tells us that "The World" -- a production of BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston -- on Wednesday included an interview with Chip Huber, Dean of Spiritual Life and coordinator of the Zambia Project at Wheaton Academy in West Chicago about how Bono's HIV/AIDS advocacy on the campus of Wheaton College in 2002 motivated him and his younger students. The segment is available online in Windows Media.


The Privilege of Carrying

Hat tip to Seth in a comment below for pointing me to this post using "One" to reflect on doing social justice ministry as a ONE fellow.

Marva Dawn likes us!

How flattered was I to hear from Raewynne, who was at a conference with Marva Dawn recently, that she loves Get Up Off Your Knees and is citing it in a forthcoming work?
/shameless self-promotion off


The Good Book :: October :: 2005

A blogger reflects briefly on the Bible Literacy Project and asks: What will children be missing if their education doesn't give them a knowledge of the Bible as a literary work?

Gotta say, he's on to something: when I observe U2 lyric discussions I often feel a tad like the English lit teacher cited here.


Express-Times package

Two articles as part of a weekend "Christianity and U2" package in preparation for U2's Philadelphia dates in which I'm rather loosely quoted (though I am mortified that the author, who contacted our publisher about speaking to both of us, neglected to mention Raewynne as co-editor of Get Up Off Your Knees), as is Steve Stockman. This one, Higher Notes Higher Calling, is a well-put-together treatment of the history of U2 with some comments on God in their work; this one claims to name the band's Most Spiritual Songs, a list I'd have lots of argument with (but they didn't ask me for anything but comments on a couple of them). Great job by the writer assembling band quotes and information on the material, though. FYI, a similar U2 Christian themes package will be coming out in another press location next month.


Tony Campolo RNS column on Bono and kneeling

Tony Campolo, from whom I've long presumed Bono stole his "more than 2000 Bible verses talk about the poor" line, thinks Bono's actually a pretty humble guy. Includes bonus "car-parking attendant at Greenbelt" story.


8 comments on U2 at Madison Square Garden last night

1) I guess I'll always have the characteristic Boston proprietary attitude to U2, but Madison Square Garden is an amazing venue and beats the Fleet (OK, the Banknorth Garden) hands down as a physical space in which to see this band. WOW.
2) Nice to see Father Abraham has developed some daughters as well as sons in the COEXIST Abrahamic-religions section.
3) Fast Cars! Bono and Edge flamenco! Ask any U2 fan this: "So, did you ever think you would see the Edge flamenco onstage?"
4) Yet another trial balloon for The First Time: "I threw away the key and only grace gave it back to me."
5) I laughed and laughed when the guy who was sitting behind me began top-volume yelling in his gloriously blunt New York manner at people heading down the stairs before the encores: "WHY - ARE - YOU - LEAVING?!! HOW!! CAN!! YOU!! #*$^%ING!!!! LEEAAAVE!!!!??"
6) I've seen Sunday Bloody Sunday so many times it doesn't always have all its power for me, but during it last night Bono pulled a little girl in white onstage, sat down with her on the floor, and made her promise to remember the word COEXIST as she grew up. Not a dry eye in the house. Although God bless that kid, she was probably the only human being there who didn't know that her line was "No More." [Edit: see it and hear the new line at the end here]
7) Very nice to let the sound guy take a bow.
8) Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.


Spera In Deo: Church in Babylon

I asked Nathan Hart, who had U2 tickets for Madison Square Garden, to let us know how his show in NYC this weekend went. Here's his review. He's also got a nice picture of the moment in "Streets" where Bono has been habitually embracing Adam Clayton this tour.
[edit: and Dylan from our book was there too!]

Sorry about reblogger. I'm sure it'll be back up sometime for comments. I've never had one single piece of comment spam with it, which is one reason I'm so wed to keeping it.


"Not Christianity, but Jesus...his values, his feelings, his heart..."

Jacob from Christian blog 4peregrinos.com marvels at having been "smuggled into the presence of God" at U2's concert in Lisbon.


Crumbs From Your Table X 2

Living Theology reflects on the Minneapolis U2 concert. "While it's not meant to be a worship event, per se, or a community of faith engaging in confession and ritual to remember our role as the church..." Thanks to them as well for the link to this site!

Now that I can read Chris' blog again, he also posted about the Minneapolis performance of "Crumbs from Your Table," and the post gives a preview of the section on parables in his forthcoming book. We got "Crumbs" the second night in Boston and I spent most of it calling to mind the faces of everyone I met when I worked for a couple months in Africa earlier this year. Gotta say that it wasn't as moving hearing that song live as it was listening to the MP3 in Africa through tiny laptop speakers.


Perhaps my favorite comment from a recent first-time U2 concertgoer

"You know how in Beautiful Day Bono says 'Take me to that other place'? I never knew, before this concert, that there was another place -- much less that you could get to it. Now I've been there."

U2 Contest Winner

Congratulations to Melinda K. who is the winner of the U2 Sermons 100,000th hit contest and will be taking home a vintage ZooTV shirt. There were fewer than 10 correct answers, all giving slightly different versions of the obviously theologically-motivated change U2 usually make to the lyrics of "People Get Ready" onstage.

The original Mayfield text is more or less
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own.
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner;
There ain't no hiding place from the Kingdom's throne.

U2's doctrinally corrected version is anything along the lines of
There is still room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own.
God have mercy! I'm a hopeless sinner,
But I know there's a hiding place by the Kingdom's throne.

Congratulations Melinda! Also: special hat tip to entrant Nancy P. who noticed that my reference (in the post explaining the contest) to "Grace over Karma" was a hint as to the solution.


U2 book charity update

I was really delighted to hear from Cowley today that The AIDS Support Organization in Uganda, our U2 book's charity, has received about $5600 in the past two years from sales of Get Up Off Your Knees. Adding in some other book-related events that have also benefited TASO, the real total may be nearer $6000.

teach me how to sing

Note to readers-- If you're avoiding tour spoilers this blog will not be safe from here on out.

I'm ususally grateful for the age of the Internet, but I kind of wish I didn't know that we were supposed to have gotten "Original of the Species" last night and that U2 had planned to close not with "'40'" but with "Bad."

One start on what I'm finding interesting: two new endings. One of them was already happening in Europe, and that's "Sunday Bloody Sunday." I couldn't quite tell at first, but I'm now pretty sure the song is regularly closing with "To claim the victory Jesus won, when death itself will be undone, on Sunday Bloody Sunday." Although last night it sounded like "To understand the victory Jesus won when death itself was undone." A nice way of concretizing the reference and linking it more explicitly with the dismantling evil theme.

The other is one of the real shocker additions this tour: the decade-old "The First Time." Off the Zooropa album, from the band's Ecclesiastes phase, it had its world premiere last month. The text has a reverse Trinitarian structure, with the first verse describing the narrator's relationship with the Spirit, the second with the Son, and the last with the Father. A very minor live change that's getting made to the Son verse ("life" instead of "time") allows a new play on the double meaning of the word "spend." But it's the Father verse that interests me. Drawing on the parable of the Prodigal Son, it depicts "my Father" as a "rich man" with "a rich man's cloak" who offers "keys to his kingdom" and a home among "many mansions" with "many rooms" -- but just as we're marveling at this tender generosity, the narrator abruptly declares, "But I left by the back door and I threw away the key."

People who enjoy attacking the band on religious grounds (and who take any artistic creation as baldfaced autobiography) have had a field day condemning this sentence. I've never really understood the objection: the son does after all leave in the parable, U2's musical setting at that moment is ineffably sad, and a faith-filled lovefest resolution would have been way out of place on Zooropa. Besides, the liturgical form for sacramental confession with which I'm most familiar puts words in your mouth that directly echo these lyrics: "Father, you clothed me with the shining garment of Christ's righteousness, and established me among your children in your kingdom. But I have squandered the inheritance of your saints, and have wandered far in a land that is waste." Some of us tell God regularly that we left by the back door, and telling him is considered a prescription for spiritual health.

However, all these years later in a live context, this poignant ending just isn't playing out the same way. Bono is experimenting with the verse to see what can be delivered authentically in the more religiously-assured context of the Vertigo tour. First off, there's a new call-and-response chant: "Love... (Love!) Love... (Love!)" In Chicago, the ending became "Hope I didn't throw away the key" plus a return to the Spirit verse (U2log has a little of it in this post.) And last night, we got "I threw away the key cause only Grace could lead me back to Thee," which almost invites us to redefine the "key" in some sort of Pauline way: whatever it is we do or believe that we selfishly think guarantees us some right to open our own doors into the Father's house. Watch for further developments.


Deadline approaching

One more reminder that tomorrow at midnight is the deadline to enter the ZooTV t-shirt contest.


The Globe review said it all about the crowd interaction from last night, comparing us to the Orpheum in 1983 and forcing anyone who doesn't know them to look up the words "manna" and "acolyte." I'm not ready to say anything about the show yet, so here are three snapshots from the whole experience last night:

1. I'm driving in on my way to circle 128 and park at Braintree, and I've decided that my best pre-U2 listening is a CD of a lecture by Peter Kreeft, a Catholic philosopher, on the "Argument from Desire" for the existence of God. Kreeft is explaining that C. S. Lewis is the clearest framer of this argument, and then he adds that even more, in terms of actually evoking desire for the transcendent as an effort to move people closer to knowing God, Lewis stands alone as the sole great example in the modern era. I start laughing.

2. Before the show I'm having a couple slices of pizza, after a great time hanging out with Matt McGee of @U2 and his son near the GA line. Every screen in the pizza place is playing post-1990 U2 videos, and most people are watching them. Across the aisle from me is a woman waiting for her companion to come back with their order, and her eyes are on the screen as the next video begins. It's "The Fly." She tears up and begins to weep.

3. About halfway through the set, I'm offered this classic example of reverse Bostonian praise, in as heavy a Bahstan accent as you can imagine, by the guy next to me: "So, they suck as usual, right?"


hopeful amphibian: Lentsongs

Mark from hopeful amphibian wrote to say he'd posted about "40" earlier this year in his "lentsongs" series. Sorry I missed it then... and here it is now.

@U2 on October

This week's My Fan Year muses on October.... and plugs our book.