It was no contest! U2 were playing across the road from the Sunday evening service I regularly attended. A long queue of punk rockers waited to shake off near freezing temperatures with the heat of bouncing and singing Psalms with U2. It was 27th February 1983 and U2 were playing in Aberdeen Union Street’s Capitol Theatre. I was perplexed, if 3 of the U2 band were Christians, why perform on the Lord’s Day (Sunday)? 40 years on I see things differently, and given the choice between the U2 concert and traditional church service, the U2 praise leaders might draw me in, if I could afford the ticket.
Tracing Bono & U2’s journey and pilgrimage through Bono’s life-story (so far) ‘Surrender’ 40 Songs, One Story, was intriguing. Being about the same age as Bono I can identify with his growing humility and allowing people to see beyond the performance masks, which front his concerts. He calls himself ‘a Jesus follower who can’t keep up’ (tell me about it!), but that he is deeply suspicious of organised religion and corralled cultures of faith which think they’ve cornered The Truth. He hasn’t found a church which he can truly call ‘Home’, but does recognise the importance of learning from, and uniting with, other believers. His deep appreciation and respect for Eugene Peterson, reflected in a brilliant YouTube conversation, and his quoting of CS Lewis’ view that our choice about Jesus Christ’s identity is ‘Liar, Lunatic, or Lord’ (Mad, Bad, or God), reflect Bono’s deeply held Christian convictions.
Bono underlines how important the Bible is to him, “The well of friendship can run dry in a family, a marriage, a community, a band. A good strategy for me is to continually go back to the source. To drop my bucket in the well in the hope of a refill. Why am I always talking about the scriptures? Because they sustained me in the most difficult years of the band, and they remain a plumb line to gauge how crooked the wall of ego has become.”
Ultimately, Unconditional, Sacrificial LOVE is the great force Bono draws from, “I return to a spiritual master like the apostle Paul…I have so much to learn from this ancient writer. How does someone who first shows up as a monumental pain-in-the-arse fundamentalist become someone who can write the greatest ode to love in two thousand years?” (1 Corinthians Chapter 13). And clearly this love drives him to make a difference in Making Poverty History, Addressing the Aids epidemic, and bringing justice to the two thirds world. He senses God’s Signal most present, and at work, among the exiled, victimised and poor. His approach moves from patronising ‘problem solving’ to ‘listening to people on the ground’ and enabling them to change things for the better. The change of US government from Democrat to Republican was a huge challenge in political relations and releasing important support from the US, but they compromised and found the higher way of Love: ”You don’t have to agree on everything if the one thing you do agree on is important enough…the search for common ground starts with a search for higher ground…. And it turns out the fight for justice comes down to boring words that don’t look good on a T-shirt. Competence. Governance. Transparency. Accountability. Words that bring transformation. The non-shouty words. The quiet words that turn the world right side up.”
Thank you, Paul David Hewson, for opening up and sharing your journey so far. I look forward to hearing the story from your passionate and patient better half Ali’s perspective. Yes, we’re all on a pilgrimage, ‘still haven’t found what we’re looking for’, but ‘God’s Love’ gives us a taster and lights our way. Surrendering to this marvellous mystery and majesty of passionate and personal Love is surely The Way to Go! ‘Rock on!’