It's unclear what good it does to have Nobel laureate and real hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, tell the audience, while name-dropping the tour, that the "same people who marched for civil rights are the same people who protest Apartheid in South Africa ... are the same beautiful people when I look around this place tonight in 360°." In all likelihood, we are not the ones who fought against apartheid or for debt relief. Praising us for having done nothing seems counterproductive, even duplicitous, but for me or any concertgoer, it is a hard deal to resist. We pay for a concert ticket, listen to our favorite music, and get lavish moral praise for struggles we never participated in.Most people reading here will immediately object that the article seems to evidence almost complete ignorance of the role political involvement has played year after year in U2's history (claiming that the phone calls to politicians in ZooTV proved the band thought music and politics incompatible, suggesting a new impetus to social justice sprang from a depressed post-Popmart Bono casting about for "side projects" and landing on Jubilee 2000, and describing U2's status as musicians who care about politics as "a phenomenon only the 21st century could have created.")
Now of course that is so indefensible that I presume that the only way such howlers could have appeared in print is that the writer for this undergraduate magazine is, in fact, an undergraduate, who therefore was barely in elementary school when U2 did the Sarajevo uplinks or brought the Mothers on in Chile, and who was not even born when -- oh, insert your favorites of all those 80s political actions here. Remember back before cell phones, when all the then-undergraduates joined Amnesty because of U2? Remember when Bono was name-dropping that same beautiful Bishop 20+ years ago onstage when apartheid was still in force? Anybody?
But. The guy is on to something, I think, and it chimes with one of several reasons I've been hesitant to describe the 360 tour as having succeeded as well as previous tours in being real leitourgia. (I just sent in my essay for possible inclusion in the U2 conference book, so I've been thinking about this again even though the essay doesn't address 360 head on.) Now of course, U2 themselves could actually claim to have been involved in one way or another in that whole series of causes Tutu cites in the show. But - and here is where this article really has a point - the other 79,996 people in the stadium almost certainly were not, and the majority, surely, will not have taken part in activism on even one of them. Rather like this author's, my reaction the first time I heard the Tutu speech was "Stop lying to us."
Of course it won't work to claim that what is new in U2 this tour is the interest in social justice itself, but is it perhaps useful to say that this feel-good, celebratory way of addressing justice/wholeness, as something that's well on the way thanks to us, as another upbeat moment in the night's festivities, is an innovation? (I welcome contrary past examples!) If so, this mode is, I think, not as honest, not as successful and certainly not as liturgical as the way U2 have previously done it, which is to take the audience to a dark place of injustice/sin and then bring them out. Liturgical theologian Aidan Kavanagh writes of how in order to arrive at the Banquet of the Lamb, humans first need to face into a "dark and murderous transaction with reality... because we are a bloody bunch who have made the world a bloody place both for ourselves and for every other creature we have named." There wasn't much darkness in the 360 Tour, and when you don't see your face reflected in an inarguable darkness where we're all implicated, you're perhaps not as likely to transact with reality, and therefore also not as likely to take responsibility afterwards -- not as likely to be forced to make, as Kavanagh puts it, "an adjustment to deep change caused in the assembly by its having been brought to the brink of chaos in the presence of the living God."
I have no reason to think the author of the article is conversant with leitourgia, but had that journey to the brink of chaos occurred, it would be interesting to hear how his critique might have been different.