Hearing, they hear not

Had a great time at the Gordon College conference today and enjoyed several papers, but since this is a U2 blog I'll comment briefly on only the one dealing with the band. Using John 8:47, Jim Farrell started with a quick background making sure we were all aware of how U2's work evidenced a "Christian imagination set against a Biblical landscape, sometimes articulated with subtlety" but difficult to miss for any Biblically literate listener. He then moved on to cite a whole list of recent articles that didn't deal with the work's Christian content at all, as well as some that acknowledged but mocked it.

But the main thrust was to demonstrate how the media define the band in terms of alternative, more culturally acceptable narratives in order to airbrush out all theological specificity ( because they either dislike it, or are just incapable of seeing it). Three common airbrushed readings of U2 he mentioned were
  • as representing a broadly secularized, so-called "spiritual but not religious," generically uplifting inspiration, "idealism" or "transcendence" with no actual content
  • as representing a highly successful capitalist project, people with business acumen, stars, "celebs" (positively or negatively)
  • as representing a passion for politics, embodying the rock 'n' roll challenge of the status quo by being "socially conscious".
It was amusing then to hear some longer excerpts from the media, such as the intro of the band from a recent 60 Minutes feature and an AP article on Bono's National Prayer Breakfast speech, and note how they rushed to promote these alternative narratives and "distort, suppress, and occlude" all Christian specificity. The paper concluded with an apt citation from Bono citing one risk of U2's use of Christian material: "We recognize the power of the media to manipulate those signs." Indeed.

I said to Jim after that I'd enjoy seeing a similar rhetorical analysis of the religious press' treatment of the band, since I'm guessing one would find some already-existing narratives in the minds of many Christian writers into which U2 is made to fit as well.

No comments: