U2 Biblical references

There's a nice column at @U2 this week on the background of the Drawing Their Fish In The Sand guide to U2 Bible references. I thought I might comment on my own history with this resource since I've never told the story.

It was fall 2001 when I first found Drawing Their Fish In The Sand through a citation in an article by Sarah Hinlicky; at that time I had only recently discovered the existence of the U2 community on the internet. I had never quite approached U2 lyrics from that direction (their "Biblical imagination," to use a buzzword, was obvious, but since I live in a pretty Biblical-allusion-saturated universe myself without needing to cite chapter and verse, the idea of bothering to cite them in U2's case had never come to mind.) The list impressed me quite a bit. However, noticing a few Scripture quotations that were missing ("Only in you I'm complete" from "Gloria" was the absent Pauline clincher), I emailed, in a self-consciously unsectarian tone, to ask if submissions were welcome. Upon receiving a lovely reply from Angela Pancella, I decided "no point going half measures"; I went through all my CDs and jotted down a list of both quotes and clear allusions, then looked up the actual verse references to pair with them. (I've since noticed some I missed: "empty as a vacant lot for any spirit to haunt," for example.)

Before sending the list, I went over it trying to imagine that I was a person who liked U2, but didn't read the Bible and would be unable to conceive of living with its language in my head all day. Which entries might such a person think were just "reading into it" because s/he lacked the background to recognize the connection? Using that criterion I cut, no joke, about a third of what I had, and emailed the rest of the list to Angela. (When they went up they were attributed to "Rev. Beth," which is something no one in the world had ever called me before but comically now keeps turning up as a form of address among U2 fans.)

Looking back on the intervening years of many more emails with Angela (and others), and this blog, and Get Up Off Your Knees itself, that all seems like a really long time ago. At any rate, even if you're only slightly interested in the history of the @U2 archive of U2 Biblical references, you should read the column for its last paragraph (which I'm sure will make many fans say "...what workers? what vineyard?")


Respect Is the New Indifference

Some interesting thoughts from a future seminary student on his U2 concert experience in Chicago. This isn't a review; it's a theological reflection on enthusiasm for a person versus assent to their message, and it makes a smart comparision between Bono and John Paul II -- which for once, isn't a "Bono for Pope" joke.


"an ordinary man in his ordinary way chatting to a friend about what is most important to him"

Steve Stockman has done two articles on Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. Incidentally, I'd missed that a few more faith-related excerpts got blogged here, plus a 4-page excerpt is in the Sunday Times today.

But back to the Stockman pieces: The first is this review for the Phantom Tollbooth. The second, a fuller treatment which repeats some material but contains more information on the book's contents, is this article for Faith For Life. First real writeups of In Conversation from a Christian perspective so far as I know. Stocki comments in both articles that "Bono's own clarity of expression when it comes to his beliefs about Jesus and the cross will be a surprise to even those who believed he believed these things but never expected him to utter the confession publicly again." Uh, yeah.


text.soul.culture: Sometimes...

Just found this early May post about worship planning for a youth group at text.soul.culture, linking a Flash animation which draws on a recent U2 single. It's not one of the more visually harmonious efforts I've seen, but works pretty well and is certainly up to the moment. Nice quotations at the end.

On another topic, remind me again why I wasn't at that Boston concert last night? Wow.


Now there's a metaphor for you

I have not seen a Vertigo tour program, but someone sent me this quote on the song "Love and Peace or Else" from it which is too good not to post: "It's like the Fly went to the seminary to become a priest and ended up in this song."


"There's a lot of competition for the title of "lord," and most of the candidates will enrich themselves at your expense."

Thanks to a couple folks who have sent me this Trinity Sunday reflection using "Please" to think about lordship and politics. Excerpt: "[Christians] participate in national affairs as paroikoi, pilgrims who live in and among the nations, but whose baptism calls us to seek and serve Christ in others, and to serve Christ only. Putting one of the rulers of the nations in the same category as Jesus and allegiance to one nation's agenda in the same category as our citizenship in God's kingdom indicate a fundamental category confusion, a tragic mistake."


Seattle event by Stocki

For our Pacific Northwest readers: Get Up Off Your Knees contributor Steve Stockman, who is on sabbatical at Regent College in Vancouver BC, gave a lecture there on May 19 entitled "U2: Did They Come Here to Play Jesus?" Mike has a nice writeup here. Sorry I missed this at the time, but Stocki will be repeating it at The Inn at University Presbyterian Church, a midweek college ministry in Seattle, on June 7. The Inn typically archives its messages, if you're interested.


U2 at the Fleet Center

Welcome to those readers who are visiting from Boston.Com, the site of my hometown paper! Enjoy reading, and please consider buying our book, published right here in the Boston metro area, which benefits The AIDS Support Organization in Uganda, to read in the GA line this coming week.


"We are made for a mission": week 6.

A Christian blogger who's trying to put together an Africa Sunday for his congregation ran into my co-editor Raewynne at the ONE rally in Philadelphia last weekend.


grid blog :: pentecost

Fire, oil, wind, wine, water, and mysterious ways: today is all about the Holy Spirit. Much of the Christian world observes May 15 as the feast of Pentecost, and a number of people are grid blogging, using numerous languages, in celebration.

These days, focusing on Africa is probably enough to count as U2 content, so what I want to lift up is the over 200 million participants in the May 15 Pentecost global prayer event organized by African Christians. Join them with this portion of the suggested corporate intercession for today in Xhosa.

Nkosi yethu sonke: Siyavuma ukuba asinakwenza nto ngaphandle kwakho.
NgalePentekosti, thulula uMoya wakho phezu kwenyama yonke. Xhobisa ibandla ukuba litshintshe libengumfanekiso kaYesu Kristu. Khulula amandla akho ukuzisa impiliso kwabagulayo, ukufikelela esiphelweni sombulalazwe ugawulayo, inkululeko kwabanedemoni,intuthuzelo kwabo balilayo, kwaye khulula nakwabo bacinezelekileyo. Yiza unyibilikise iintliziyo zabantu babenothando kwakhona. Zamisa ibandla bombathise ababuthathaka, iinkedama, abahlolokazi nabadala, ukuba babathuthuzele. Shukumisa ibandla lakho live izikhalo zabangenamakhaya, abalambileyo, abangekuzenzelanto nabo bafayo. Bonakalisa inceba yakho kwaye uzibonakalise kwiimfuno zethu. Siphe ubulumko nokubona kwikona zonke zobomi ukuze sifumane iimpendulo zeemfuno zasemhlabeni. Sincede ukusebenzisa izixhaso zomhlaba ngokufanelekileyo. Thulula uthando lwakho ezintliziyweni zethu kwaye usizalise ngothando amandla kaMoya Oyingcwele ubeluphawu ebomini bethu.

(Lord of all: We confess that we can do nothing apart from You.
On this Pentecost, pour out Your Spirit on all flesh. Empower the Church to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Release Your power to bring healing to the sick, for an end to the AIDS pandemic, freedom to the demonised, comfort to those who mourn, and release for those who are oppressed. Come and melt the hearts of people to love again. Stir the Church to enfold the weak, the orphans, the widows and elderly, to comfort them. Stir Your Church to hear the cries of the homeless, the hungry, the helpless and the dying. Display Your mercy and provide for our needs. Give us wisdom and insight in every sphere of life so that we will find the answers to the needs of the world. Help us to use the resources of the earth for the well-being of all. Pour Your love into our hearts and fill us with compassion and let the power of the Holy Spirit characterise our lives.)

If you would like to help answer this prayer, visit ONE.org.


First real rumblings? Who knows...

Anyone who has read my chapter on the theological history of U2 in Get Up Off Your Knees might remember my expressing a certain surprise that there was little or no public criticism of U2's return to a) omnipresence and b) wearing their heart on their sleeve during (in particular) the 3rd, post-9/11 leg of the Elevation tour. I talked about the Rattle and Hum backlash and wondered why there seemed to be no similar attacks from the critics in 2001-2002. Though I haven't seen a show yet, it's obvious the overt political tone is back, as is a more explicit Christian profession most of us thought we'd never see again. I've been wondering, as a Joshua Tree-era fan myself, if U2 were possibly going to be able to get away in 2005 with combining their current massively high profile with the same kind of stuff that got them branded as self-righteous, pious, know-it-all, and over-impressed with their own importance in the late 80s. While I've seen some critical comments on the political content of the show and on the band sometimes going through the motions, they have been in dominantly positive articles, and there's been plenty of wholesale fawning, too. Chicago, however, marks the first real "give us a freaking break, U2" stuff I've read: this one, but most especially "The Rev. Bono" from the Sun-Times. "Every bit as phony, bombastic and manipulative as a Britney Spears concert, the Republican National Convention or a televangelist's miracle-working dog and pony show." Man, reading that put me right back to 1988. What's next?


Make poverty history

If you missed the ONE print ad that appeared yesterday, referring to the "defense, diplomacy, and development" triad, and asking support for Bush's FY 2006 budget request, here's a PDF. Half a million Americans have now signed the ONE declaration.


Conquering and to conquer

For those of you who missed it during its run on @U2's front page, the Edge contributed this image, an original drawing, to be auctioned next week as a fund raiser for the Irish Seal Sanctuary. Seals I-III, as Matt pointed out, is a pun, and he explained it better than I could: The hand image with writing is reminiscent of one of the images from the HTDAAB deluxe book. But the text here refers to three seals -- a white horse, red horse, and a black horse. Some of you will immediately know that Edge isn't referring to seals that swim in the ocean; it's a reference to the first three of the seven seals of Revelation in the Bible. Reading this as someone with congregational experience, I had to smile thinking back to the different groups of parishioners who were always intrigued by the detailed symbolism of apocalyptic books, one of whom was those Christians with precise, technical, scientific minds. Incidentally, I would much rather have this as a T-shirt than the similar Edge "intelligent design" maze U2.com is selling.
[post edited 5/16 to include image, courtesy of @U2.)


Youth study session on U2

I was recently pointed to this lectionary-based U2-related youth group session outline from earlier in the year. While it makes several general comments on U2, it's based on Psalm 40 and uses "40." (A much more plausible song decision now than when the study session was published in January.) Anyway, overall, the lesson plan is just fair and has some U2 misinformation (The whole band "traveled with the Secretary of State to discuss assistance in foreign countries"? ATYCLB was released only 2 years ago? etc.) But I'm linking it for archival purposes and as something that could perhaps be adapted by a youth group leader with more U2 knowledge.


One Step Closer

Chris Scharen, a professor at Yale Divinity School, is working on a new book about U2. On his blog, One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God, he issues "an open invitation to the blogosphere to help me make the book better than what I could write alone." I hope some of you will take him up on this, particularly the folks (I know you're out there) who got nearly perfect scores on that recent Sol O. Mann quiz, or who are lovers of the ZooTV and/or Popmart eras, or who could give Chris some thoughtful reactions from a non-Christian perspective.


uno, dos.

Had a nice series of emails the other day with Steve Stockman, author of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2, a book I suspect most Get Up Off Your Knees fans have read. He is winding up work on the revised edition (which extends up through the beginning of the Vertigo Tour), and hopes to have it out by late June.


Kicking at the Darkness: The Singer Speaks

Overall, this blog has the same policy as the Get Up Off Your Knees book: we're not really a place for discussion or speculation about the personal spiritual beliefs of artists. I try to keep a broader faith-and-culture, art-and-proclamation focus. One thing this means is that I don't often post U2 band member quotes, which I imagine is disappointing for the many people getting here lately in search of excerpts or quotations about God or religion from the new autobiography type book Bono: In Conversation. If that's what you're looking for, material from Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas is now beginning to show up elsewhere in the Christian blog world. I am guessing there will be a whole lot more within the next few weeks.


God in the house

I'd been thinking about doing a post, sifting through some of the reviews of the Vertigo Tour so far, that would analyze examples of the spontaneous religious language used by the secular media to try and describe the experience of seeing U2. I didn't get to that, so here is something very different, a series of comments on U2 live in the form of U2 concert reviews from the Christian online world.

Let's start with a Relevant review of U2 live, followed by extensive discussions that aren't really on the topic of the article. (Funky Presbyterian takes a funny shot at the title: Of course God was there; he can afford the ticket prices.) Jeffrey Overstreet writes a thoughtful review of the first Seattle date.

Other Christian bloggers are posting more spontaneous reflections as well, and I'll link a few, noting that we should all cut them some slack for their wild, over-the-top, just-back-from-the-gig, these-are-not-drunken-as-ye-suppose-type enthusiasm, OK? From U2 in Denver, here's a review post at the Ready Room including funny cell phone comment. The Radley Porch and The Banty Rooster both try to describe the same concert. Here's Uptown Pilgrim who recently returned not only from U2 but also from a mission trip to El Salvador, tying that in and reflecting on community. Mike at Waving or Drowning starts his U2 in Vancouver blog post "Just back from church..." and promises more in-depth reflection later (well worth checking for. Call Paul.) Life of Turner and EternaLee were there too.

Obviously, there are also people posting about how the band are working for the Evil One and anyone who perceives a positive spiritual effect is deluded, etc. Sorry, but you'll have to do your own Googling if you want to read those.

Finally, here are a Presbyterian college minister's reflections on seeing U2 versus coming to church; this gentleman seems to have less U2 background than the writers linked above, but is doing some interesting personal wrestling. Incidentally, this is the first description I've heard of leaving a lone spotlight trained on the crucifix at the end of "40"; one-shot deal or ongoing image, anyone know?