G8 Gleneagles

It's almost time. I'll be at a White Band demonstration tomorrow; will you? For readers interested in Live8 and the Gleneagles Africa summit, here's a site full of G8 stuff from the BBC. On the Live8 front, one wonders if the leaked story revealing that U2 and their manager are giving about 6 million dollars personally will have any effect on all the voices accusing them of hypocrisy for being successful in their profession while also participating in consciousness-raising about debt, trade, and aid. Also, here's Jeffrey Sachs in the International Herald Tribune, tirelessly trying to get the facts out in the face of spin. You could also go sign the actual Live8 List.
And: since Blogger won't let me use javascript in a post, I can't display the real-time badge here, but you can see, minute to minute, how many of us are blogging about this stuff with a very cool special Technorati feature. (For the Technorati tag thing, then, I'll footnote this post: .)


"something ancient and altogether magical"

Many thanks to David Williamson for giving me a heads-up about his reflections after the U2 Croke Park concert we both attended. It's not about the concert in particular, but is a lovely piece of writing. I enjoyed his opening image of what you'd have to throw in the mix if you were going to try and clone U2, and I grinned at the phrase "exploring the most sensory fringes of Christendom." Excerpt (U2ey poem links are mine):
The 17th century metaphysical poets, who included in their ranks John Donne and George Herbert, used metaphor to explore the ecstasies of love and religion with footloose wit and invention. Bono and the Edge arguably had more in common with these erstwhile wordsmiths than the likes of Simple Minds and Big Country. Together with drummer Larry Mullen Jr., the three had been immersed in a charismatic Christianity which was as far removed from the ritualistic Catholicism of Dublin as punk rock was from the Monkees. This intensity of religious experience starched the band of the sceptical cynicism which had killed off the optimism of the Sixties. Though their rhythms may have come from the Velvet Underground and the Clash, they kept hold of the ideals of love and fulfilment that a society reeling from Watergate and Vietnam was fast abandoning. This willingness to paint a musical landscape where the mountaintops point, literally, to the heavens didn't shipwreck their careers. In moments of love and friendship, even the jaded urbanite can believe momentarily in the joy such music mirrors. The thousands - and later millions - of people who punched the air during U2 concerts may not have realised how similar the events were to spirited revival meetings, but in a secular age such highs are hard to come by.


I ______ my friend.

As long as I'm linking some images in this post [which was edited to add new images 7/7], I'll give you Yahweh (which reprises the COEXIST theme and ends with a series of Sacred Heart images - no Jesus, just the Heart). But the most theologically impressive thing to me in the stadium version of the U2 Vertigo tour was the treatment of "The Fly." I wish I had it on film because I am writing from memory and I know it varies a bit; would love help from readers. The Zoo portion of the show features this song with its "traditional" destabilizingly fast slogans, some of them flip and some not. But it's no longer just a presentation about media chaos; this time, there's a metanarrative. The opening warns us that LETTERS/ BECOME WORDS/ BECOME SENTENCES/ BECOME LIES and the visuals focus on statements and their potential effects. By a fill-in-the-blank technique they keep the amusement going while also sending a message (eventually stated explicitly) about the power our own choices have to determine what we agree to (i.e. evil or good). There are dialogues in different colors:
As we learn how to fight "Them," "They" go on telling lies, often in red and black, and near the end the truth comes out, superimposed over big white words like HOPE:
TO... [and here I was expecting at last to get the ironic turn, the way "it's your world you can change it" used to shift to "charge it," but, no, the 90s are well and truly gone:]
all gold and white. And then the thing reverses itself, and plays the beginning backwards until "their" lies and "our" apathy/powerlessness disappear into nothingness before your eyes. HTDAAB deluxe book and "death itself beginning to work backwards," anybody?


Fish Part 2

I mentioned earlier, on the occasion of the new edition of the U2 Bible references archive, having written and lost a few extra comments. What I was thinking about was that I'm glad I didn't have to make a list for How to Dismantle, because I find it very hard to decide on whether particular turns of phrase are an allusion, or just part of the Biblical worldview (which would disqualify them for "Drawing Their Fish.")

For example, "always pain before a child is born": yes, or no? "I was born a child of grace" -- the concept is transparently Christian, but can you actually locate it at a particular verse? It's John 3-ey (as is the whole "at the door of the place I started out from and I want back inside" bit), and also pretty Pauline, but what would you cite specifically for Paul? Maybe something in Romans? Or maybe not. "From the brightest star comes the blackest hole" - probably some kind of reference to the fall of Lucifer, but tough to find an actual a passage containing both halves of the concept. "Catch you by the heel" -- is that Jacob, or Achilles, or something else?

I do have to say, however, that I would definitely have included one reference that didn't make this update: "Take this mouth, give it a kiss."

Croke Park

Someone we met from South Africa while in Dublin this past weekend said to my husband, "We have come here to see U2 and die." While our pilgrimage-intensity was not quite at that fever pitch, getting to go to a Dublin concert (the first one) was a thrill. The volume and enthusiasm of the audience singing was extraordinary; during the first chorus of "Beautiful Day" I actually became concerned about the structural soundness of the stadium, which (hyperbole-free statement here) was literally shaking. A side benefit of the trip was getting to meet Get Up Off Your Knees contributor Henry VanderSpek for coffee and have a nice conversation about his new work with World Vision, Make Poverty History, and some other things.


U2 lyrics - Bible references

"Drawing Their Fish in the Sand," the archive of U2 Biblical citations, has now been updated through U2's most recent work. I was interested to read that that piece, apart from the home page, is the most frequently linked-to page on @U2.

It's also interesting to remark that there are many fewer direct Biblical allusions on How to Dismantle than on several previous albums, despite the fact that the CD's Biblical worldview is unusually pronounced. I wrote a little paragraph with examples of hard-to-call lines and then lost it; may try to reconstruct it for you in a few days.


Thought for the day

"Trying to change the way art itself works, for the sake of the so-called 'service of the Gospel,' just does a disservice to both. Art is a terrible preacher. If you want to preach, be a preacher. When you try to force art to preach, you get bad preaching and you get bad art." --Colin Harbinson at the Rencontre Europeene d'Artistes, Paris, June 2005


Prophetic voice sometimes sings

Looks like the Anglican Journal in Canada for some reason just noticed Get Up Off Your Knees. Many common comments, the usual couple well-taken critiques, and this nice bit:
Ms. Whiteley rightly laments the two paths that have often happened with respect to popular music and Christianity. She regrets a mutual abhorrence of one group's fans towards the other. She also skewers the vacuous attempts to borrow religious trappings to give a "spiritual" effect to a secular work or the adding of pop music and general simplicity to "attract the young people" to the Christian religion. She says, "Neither of these responses does full justice to the integral and substantial relationship between religion and culture." This book, and its sermons regardless of quality, scope, or theology, does.


Did they come here to play Jesus?

If you're interested in audio of Steve Stockman's recent talk at The Inn at University Presbyterian Church, it's available here. If you don't have time to listen to all of it, the earlier material is older and the later material is newer.


Jubilee 2005, letter to Bush, more on the "Marshall Plan for Africa," and, OK: Live8.

So far in the American run-up to the G8, it's been "Crumbs for Africa," (wonder where they got that title?) which is why a great thing for American bloggers to link is the pre-G8 ONE letter to Bush. At least one prominent Christian leader is sending it out as a broadside on his email lists.

I also want to thank a reader for sending me a link to this action from the UK Jubilee campaign, which can be taken by people in any country since it addresses all the G-7 Finance Ministers (meeting this weekend). For Americans, you can also now send an online WIPE OUT DEBT in 2005 postcard to President Bush and Treasury Secretary Snow urging them to follow through on the commitment to 100% debt cancellation at the July 2 G8 summit in Scotland. American bloggers reading this post, here's another thing to link; it's no secret Jubilee doesn't have the highest profile in the USA.

If you haven't been following why 2005 is a key year for debt cancellation and other issues related to the Millennium Development Goals, I did a sort of resource post on that earlier. On the other hand, you might be better served to read an up to the moment article on the "New Marshall Plan for Africa" concept in the run-up to the G8 here. The article gives some helpful instances of interventions on a scale that could never be done by private charity. Or, a bit heavier on facts about Africa, this article: "It is difficult to think of any area in which so much could be done to improve human welfare for so little."

I suppose I might as well mention that the site for Live8, the multinational concert event kicking off a week of actions including a massive gathering just before the G8 Africa summit, has some info on this up too. (Anyone taking bets on how many times Live8 will be criticized for not raising money?) By the way, if you'd like to see what Make Poverty History has planned for the G8 gathering, check it out.

"...the world's richest countries sleepwalk their way to a heavily signposted human development disaster."

On the same topic as my larger post from today, The Guardian has a pretty gutsy headline about the results of the Millennium Development Goals so far.


SOS Sermons

An audio file has been posted of something I noted some weeks ago on the site of Shepherd of the Sierra Presbyterian Church MP3 Audio Recording of a sermon (28:50 long) titled "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For: The Theology of U2" and given the weekend U2 were in the Bay Area. The text is, guess what, Psalm 40, and the pastor is clearly more of a 1960s guy who made an effort to learn about U2 but is talking to a congregation who hasn't. His sermon lists 4 themes in U2: Questioning Faith, Social Justice, Sin and Forgiveness, Praising and Longing.

BTW, since this issue has been raised with me recently, can I just state something that should be obvious? This site collects links to material that is very religiously diverse as a way of noting how theologically-grounded minds are working with U2's art. It is not safe to assume that because I link to something or someone, it fully reflects my own beliefs, and even less so that it reflects the beliefs of anyone else who was associated with the book this blog is promoting.



I feel as if I'm hat-tipping Mike at waving or drowning a lot lately, but perhaps he's just on about U2 a lot lately. Anyway, it was at waving or drowning that I found this post (which asks interesting questions itself) linking to Relevant Magazine's post of an audio clip of Bono speaking to an audience about truth in music and about worship in music. (I have to say I come down pretty much exactly where he does: never have been able to muster interest in mainstream CCM, but worship music is "something entirely different and that I'm interested in.") While some of the points we've heard before, I don't recognize the source and Relevant doesn't identify it. I have a guess, but am curious if anyone can tell us for sure where it's from?

Service Jun 10

Get Up Off Your Knees contributor Derek Walmsley invites UK readers near St. Mark's Utley to a Friday night cafe service using U2, part of a series on "Icons of Our Time." (Previous "icons" have included McDonalds and James Bond). The U2 night is this Friday, June 10th, at 7pm for 7.30, starting with coffee.


odyssey: Preachers Who Have Everything But It

A series of posts that began with "Why Preaching Requires Blood" at odyssey borrows from Bono: In Conversation to illustrate the "It" factor in preaching. Marvelous connection.


Academic quiz moment

Bono is mentioned in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (ed. by Stanley Hauerwas, Samuel Wells, Blackwell Publishing, 2004) in the section on "Authority and Obedience." Anybody want to try and guess what principle he has been chosen to illustrate?

A Natural Alliance - New York Times

Interesting piece by David Brooks on the way the fight to end extreme poverty has bred new alliances that cross old American "culture war" boundaries. Excerpt: I recently went to a U2 concert in Philadelphia with a group of evangelicals who have been working with Bono to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa. A few years ago, U2 took a tour of the heartland [sic], stopping off at places like Wheaton College and the megachurch at Willow Creek to urge evangelicals to get involved in Africa. They've responded with alacrity, and now Bono, who is a serious if nonsectarian Christian, is at the nexus of a vast alliance between socially conservative evangelicals and socially liberal N.G.O.'s.... The world is suddenly crowded with people like Rick Warren and Bono who are trying to step out of the logic of the culture war so they can accomplish more in the poverty war. Hat tip to Holly, ONE Campaign Organizing Fellow with Bread for the World, at Hunger for Justice. I only later found out that Christianity Today also blogged about this under the rubric "What Doth Bono Have To Do With Rick Warren?" (although their piece unfortunately helps spread the misconception that the Africa segment in Vertigo concerts is a request for donations "to the band's hunger-relief charity" -- a "charity" which, of course, doesn't even exist.) The Grenzian, who read the same CT piece, adds that Rick Warren talked about U2 recently at a Purpose-Driven Church conference.