U2 Dismantles Bomb with Love

This article is only fair, and offers no particularly new insights on HTDAAB, but since it comes from a major spirituality website, I suppose I should link it.


One person, one voice, one hope, and other things that begin with "one"

Word is the ONE Campaign has a video that will premiere tonight during the Oscars: "ONE Word for the ONE Campaign." I think ONE's list of founders is pretty impressive: Bread for the World, CARE, DATA, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Plan USA, Save the Children US, World Concern, and World Vision.

Also, they're now selling ONE wristbands.


"Cafe Style" U2

The folks at Ascension Balham Hill wrote me to ask that I invite anyone in the London area to FAITH, DOUBT AND ROCK 'N' ROLL: the musical and spiritual journey of U2, featuring a U2 cover band and words from Sam Hargreaves, on 6th March at 6.30pm. Consider it done.


ONce more with feeling

Religion News Service picks up, and Christianity Today reprints, the story about Calvin College's class last month on U2 which I wrote about here.


The least of these

Here's Bono in yesterday's New York Times commenting on Bush's trip to Europe. He depicts aid to Africa as something these arguing continents can agree on, and must agree on, and as part of that he makes this comment about European reaction to American pieties: [Bush needs to] clear up some confusion about America's basic beliefs. Americans are overtly devout. And yet Europeans, who inhabit a more secular world, give more per capita than Americans to what the Bible calls "the least of these" - the world's poor. The United States is in 22nd place, last in the class of donor nations. (Add private philanthropy and it's up to 15th.) Europeans see the discrepancy, and they smell hypocrisy.

Bono is, of course, European, so he would know how they think. But I can back it up: I was doing some extended visiting with many Christians, all of whom would have called themselves evangelical, in more than one non-English-speaking country on the continent around election season last year. I read a poll in the major French evangelical magazine in which about 70% of their readership answered "Do you believe that Bush is sincere in his profession of Christian faith?" no. I participated (and not of my own initiative) in multiple conversations about this topic in evangelical churches, Bible studies, and in the backs of vans, and they all had the same consensus: No one whose policies treat the needy (and/or the environment) the way Bush's do could possibly be a disciple of Christ.

Please hear me that I'm not trying to have a conversation about this topic here. Please. This blog has both Republican and Democratic readers, and the Americans here will understand clearly how Bush's Christianity, for a very large group of American believers, looks self-evident and typical. (Even Bono goes on to show that he understands that many Americans think about these issues quite differently then Europeans.) So I very much do not want to see a comment thread start on the premise "But I love Bush!" or "I don't!" I'm posting this just because I found it very interesting that Bono chooses to attack on that point: Do you Americans know being last in foreign aid makes your faith look ridiculous to us over here? And even to those who on every other point share Bush's evangelical Christian commitments?

Here's DATA's response to the 2006 US budget request, while we're at it.


Art that faces outward

Faithasawayoflife, whose author Christian Scharen is "currently teaching a series of classes on the theological voice of the rock band U2," makes some comparisons between U2 and Christo's installation "The Gates" in Central Park.


The Gospel According to ? - Books & Culture

I'd flagged this to blog about nearly a month ago, and then forgot: A typically insightful book review essay by Andy Crouch on the joys and perils of trying to find the Gospel in pop culture. I particularly like his points that being able to place the symbolism of a pop-cultural product in its wider context is vital, and that just because a text is authentically spiritually rich (as U2's work is, though he spares U2 books from critique in his essay), that does not guarantee that the people reading/writing about that text will be theologically seasoned enough to give it its due.
Excerpt: But our games and our stories grope toward something beyond themselves, and in that sense they indicate the gospel by a kind of negative space, by the shape of their yearning. And this, it seems to me, is the reason to watch The Simpsons or ESPN - not so much to find the truth, but to find the space where the truth might fit. And to remind ourselves - as the best of these books do - that wherever we look in culture, that gospel-shaped space is there.


Social principles

I was pleased to hear recently from a lay leader at Colonial Hills UMC in San Antonio TX who has been teaching an adult education course using the curriculum on U2 spiritual themes in the back of Get Up Off Your Knees. He tells me his pastor visited the class recently just in time for "One Tree Hill," and after getting a little more educated about U2, asked this lay leader to make her a compilation of U2 songs she could use in another class on social justice - specifically the "social principles," a phrase Methodists will recognize. (From announcement of the class: Two of the passions of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, were personal holiness and social action. Hopefully, both of these passions can still be found in most United Methodists.)
So here's Don Buelter's tracklist of U2 songs to use when teaching Christian social justice. Anyone have any additions or comments?
Sunday Bloody Sunday
North and South of the River
Peace on Earth
Walk On
Where the Streets Have No Name
In God's Country
Crumbs from Your Table
Mothers of the Disappeared
Miracle Drug
One Step Closer
When I Look at the World
If God will Send His Angels
Drowning Man
When Love Comes to Town


As one commenter wrote: Gotta love what words can do when writers are honest and true.

Somewhat, but not totally off-topic: Anyone who's remotely interested in analysis of the culture that sustains Christian rock that is Christian (to borrow from Switchfoot) not just by faith but by genre, should really read this article in GQ by John Sullivan. (I owe a hat tip to GetReligion's post for pointing me to it.) He attends the massive Creation Festival and turns in a thorough treatment full of interesting, often funny detail; for those of you who are only in it for this, there are two different sentences of U2 content.

But honestly, this is a marvelous piece. There are some wonderful, sharp sentences: I'd assumed that my days at Creation would be fairly lonely and end with my ritual murder.

However, the thing that makes the piece extraordinary, and deeply moving I suspect to anyone who doesn't just bring too much bias to the topic to muster any sympathy for evangelicals at all, is the way Sullivan writes about his own past. For he was a believer once, back in the 80s, and lost his faith. He writes powerfully of his own disillusionment, but even more so of his engagement, which began at a small and fervent Bible study group:
[I was] powerfully stirred on a level that didn't depend on my naivete. The sheer passionate engagement of it caught my imagination: Nobody had told me there were Christians like this. They went at the Bible with grad-seminar intensity, week after week. Mole was their leader (short for Moloch; he had started the whole thing, back in the '70s). He had a wiry, dark beard and a pair of nail-gun cobalt eyes. My Russian-novel fantasies of underground gatherings - shared subversive fervor - were flattered and, it seemed, embodied. Here was counterculture, without sad hippie trappings.

Sullivan has that haunted tone, that lingering wound of longing in nearly everyone of intellect and substance who has ever been in a group like this; I always associate it with Jacob limping because of his hip.
My problem is not that I dream I'm in hell or that Mole is at the window. It isn't that I feel psychologically harmed. It isn't even that I feel like a sucker for having bought it all. It's that I love Jesus Christ. "The latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose." I can barely write that.... Why should He vex me? Why is His ghost not friendlier? Why can't I just be a good Enlightenment child and see in His life a sustaining example of what we can be, as a species? Because once you've known Him as God, it's hard to find comfort in the man. The sheer sensation of life that comes with a total, all-pervading notion of being - the pulse of consequence one projects onto even the humblest things - the pull of that won't slacken. And one has doubts about one's doubts.

For those of you who have good imaginations, I think there might be a little more U2 content in this piece that is apparent at first.


The songs are in your eyes

A blog that kindly links us,...looking to the Light, reflects on "Miracle Drug," asking if Bono "is singing it from different perspectives." (Maybe more than half of U2 songs - wild guess off the cuff - have more than one voice, more than one perspective in them; but it seems an especially safe bet here, since it's The Edge that sings the reply to the prayer "God I need your help tonight.") A couple of the lyrics' Bible allusions are also linked for you in the post. I'd guess that "time will disappear" is a looser one, as well; not so much a quote as the kind of idea that's wandering around Revelation 21, say.

Incidentally, I just checked back at the Shack Community and their "Miracle Drug" sermon, which looks to be about AIDS and compassion, using Matthew, James, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, and more, is up as well.


I Lent

It didn't hit me until a few verses into the Gospel, but...
Here's hoping everyone from a lectionary-based church had a fruitful worship time this morning at what for the next few years I'll probably be thinking of as Just Give Me What I Want And No One Gets Hurt Sunday.


If U2 were a multiple-choice question, the answer would be "all of the above."

I haven't written an induction speech myself to enter in the current @U2 @10 contest and won't have time to, but even though it's off topic for U2 Sermons, this deserves a link: "My Fan Year" inducts U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Cathedrals and Alleyways: A Spiritual Commentary on U2's Most Personal Album

Thanks to the folks at the Shack Community at USC, who are having a series on HTDAAB, for giving me a heads up about it. I have had a chance to give only the briefest skim to the sermon on "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" that is posted currently, but you can see text (and in future hear audio) week by week as their gathering of house churches works through some of the tracks on the album. Here is press coverage of the series, where you can see what you think of some of the comments made.



By the way, a footnote to yesterday's post: as long as we're in Genesis 3, everybody did get the "Fast Cars" narrator's comparion of his lot to the fate of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, right? "My garden's overgrown, I go out on my belly crawling..."


...and no one heard a word - how to dismantle an atomic bomb

I'm belatedly linking these comments from singer/songwriter Jeshua C. Erickson on HTDAAB principally because of his U2 Bible reference suggestion in "Yahweh" - I've been assuming it's John 16:21 that's alluded to, but maybe it's simply the curse at the Fall in Gen 3:16. Not that the two are mutually exclusive.


I said I wasn't going to talk about it, but it's such a scandal I will anyway.

Raewynne, co-editor of Get Up Off Your Knees, posted in the comments below that she wasn't able to get tickets for any of the shows in her area of the country. Yeah. OK, I think I'll just comment that U2log are covering the presale debacle well, and a great history piece of what U2.com promoted and then failed to make good on is up at @u2. It's nice that there's apparently some accomodation for those who couldn't use their codes, but what about all those of us who used them to buy the awful and overpriced seats that were our only options?
And meanwhile, a search on "U2 ticket" on Ebay right now brings up 3890 items, the first few with prices of $1450, $1499, $2100, many of them GA or great loge seats....