Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bono on Christianity

As a teenager growing up in Toronto in the early 80's I like to pride myself on being one of the first North American U2 fans. I remember hearing songs from October playing on CFNY FM and thinking I had found a music that made sense to me. Back in the days when U2 played the El Mocambo, not the ACC. What really owned me though was going to a local youth meeting and somebody mentioning that Bono was a Christian.Later on, my buddy's Dad ended up traveling with U2 as their photographer. Wow. That was the cool of cool, checking out photos of the guys that nobody else would ever see!I was hooked.But things changed over the years.The evident spirituality of those early songs gave over to something else... and by conviction I stopped listening. Bono wasn't moving me to worship the Lord anymore.Over the years, I have always kept one eye on U2 - sort of secretly hoping for some kind of revival or genuine conversion. So, I read an excerpt online from this week from the Bono interview. I include a few quotes below, but you can read the whole thing for yourself here. The language is not pretty, so don't read it if that is going to bother you. (I have edited my quotes.)

What is your religious belief today? What is your concept of God?
If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there's a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in "straw poverty"; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me.
How does it make sense?
As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It's so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian. Although I don't use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to. I feel like I'm the worst example of it, so I just kinda keep my mouth shut.
Do you pray or have any religious practices?
I try to take time out of every day, in prayer and meditation. I feel as at home in a Catholic cathedral as in a revival tent. I also have enormous respect for my friends who are atheists, most of whom are, and the courage it takes not to believe.
How big an influence is the Bible on your songwriting? How much do you draw on its imagery, its ideas?
It sustains me.
As a belief, or as a literary thing?
As a belief. These are hard subjects to talk about because you can sound like such a #######. I'm the sort of character who's got to have an anchor. I want to be around immovable objects. I want to build my house on a rock, because even if the waters are not high around the house, I'm going to bring back a storm. I have that in me. So it's sort of underpinning for me.
I don't read it as a historical book. I don't read it as, "Well, that's good advice." I let it speak to me in other ways. They call it the rhema. It's a hard word to translate from Greek, but it sort of means it changes in the moment you're in. It seems to do that for me.
You're saying it's a living thing?
It's a plumb line for me. In the Scriptures, it is self-described as a clear pool that you can see yourself in, to see where you're at, if you're still enough. I'm writing a poem at the moment called "The Pilgrim and His Lack of Progress." I'm not sure I'm the best advertisement for this stuff.

Two thoughts:
1. No wonder the emergent church loves U2.
2. I am going to keep praying for Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry.


  1. All 4 of them are believers in Christ now, and I'm sure they covet the prayers of other believers.

  2. You can read the World Magazine article here that would agree with you, Anonymous...

  3. I'm not sure that 'anonymous' is right, although I would love to see these four men turn to Christ as their Saviour and Lord.

    Paul, I appreciated your point about the emergent church's attraction to U2. It's a scary thing, eh. I've been studying Mark 8:27-9:1 - who do you say I am? Of all the people who 'venerated' Christ as one of the greatest prophets of all time (e.g. Elijah, etc.), it was only the one who confessed Jesus as the Christ, and then was willing to be a suffering disciple, whose soul would not be lost. The 'almost right' confessions of Christ abounded in his day and ours, as did the 'almost disciples', but only the person who confesses Jesus as the Christ, and dies to self to follow Him, is saved.

  4. Ian, I wasn't aware that the Lord has set you up as the earthly judge of who is and is not saved. That's a relief, I'm glad it's not my job. Did I make the cut?

  5. Pastor Martin,
    Two thoughts:
    1. I find it interesting that Bono does not love the emergent church back - but rather - he shuns the entire white community of churches...Why did you leave that part of the article out, I wonder?
    2. According to this article; Bono is quite capable of talking to Jesus on his own behalf.

  6. Harry Potter and U2. Two topics that are guaranteed to get a rise out of blog readers.

  7. I've been wondering what's going on in U2 and this whole question. Thanks for the update.

  8. ben,
    1. As to what part of the article I included, it was only that which was pertinent to my question. The note about ec was more of a side observation. Of course, I did link to the entire article at and the world mag article, too. I think that makes it pretty clear I was not trying to hide anything!
    2. Bono may feel that he is capable to communicate with the Lord on his own - my point is that the Lord specified a certain way to do that. I think you would agree with me that tapping morse code on an oak tree, as legitimate as that form of communication may be, is not the way to draw close to God. Bono says a lot of things (even the RS interviewer noted the sheer QUANTITY of his verbage) and I am merely highlighting statements he made that do not line up with orthodoxy. In particular, has he repented of his sin and put his faith in Christ alone?
    For free: I think the World Mag article erred in highlighting certain other statements that make Bono appear in a very different light. I have never met Bono, so all I have to consider are the sum of his public statements on his personal faith. I am not sure WM was balanced in that regard.
    Bottom line: I hope and pray that Bono embraces the only Saviour the world will ever know!

  9. As far as Bono embracing Jesus as savior, it seems pretty clear (to me) that he is very clear on who Jesus is...according to the World Mag is an excerpt as an example...

    "Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: He was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says, No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: 'I'm the Messiah.' I'm saying: 'I am God incarnate.' . . . So what you're left with is either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. . . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that's farfetched."

    We (Christians) can argue the semantics of our faith and beliefs until we're blue in the face but it won't help us to reach people for Jesus Christ or fulfill the great commission.

    My statement about Bono being able to pray for himself was only to point out that perhaps your/our time would be better used in praying for those who DO NOT know Christ or profess him as savior/messiah...agree or disagree?

  10. Dear Jimmy,

    Briefly (as I don't have much time), there is a sense in which you are right, and there is a sense in which I am right. According to the Bible I have no right to say that a person is damned or not damned. I am not able to judge whether a person is truly a believer in Jesus Christ because only God knows the person's heart. For this reason I want to thank you for your (very frank) rebuke. This should especially be the case since all I (and we) have to work with are the quotes that may or may not be exactly written as Bono originally said them, and that may or may not be an accurate reflection of his heart before the God of the universe.

    On the other hand, though, according to the Bible a Christian has the right to make strong statements like this one: only the person who turns from their sin (repents), and believes in Jesus as the one who bore the punishment for the sin of the world, and who rose victorious over death, only that person will be saved. It may not be my job to give a definitive answer as to the authenticity of a person's acceptance or rejection of this absolute truth, but every Christian is called to stand on 'the gospel basics' as absolutely true. The Christian may even be called at times to make 'judgment calls' as to whether a person is 'walking in line with the truth of the gospel' (e.g. whether or not to seek to restore a brother or sister in sin (Gal 6:1; 1 Tim 5:20-21, etc), but that's a topic for another time.

    I don't have time to write any more on this right now. I do hope that Bono will be saved on the final day. In fact, his background of having one protestant and one Catholic parent in turbulent Ireland, burdens me. I hate the brutal witness for Christ that many Christians have been, because of how it effects people like Bono! If nothing else, we can all say that Bono has had a struggle with Christianity for a long time.

  11. I'm sorry to have missed this dialogue here, it's pretty interesting. Thanks for the World Mag link, what an incredible read! Granted, it's only a portion of what went on between Bono and the journalist, but it is intriguing none-the-less.
    I posted on my blog about Bono a little while ago, after having read the Rollingstone interview -- I didn't find that it left me believing he was a Christian. When I read the Christianity Today article about him a couple of years ago, I thought the same thing. He sounded liberal and new-agey.
    Reading Veith's account is much more encouraging.
    I won't step into the foray and give my opinion about whether I think he's a believer, but I do want to say one quick thing.
    I think that Ian is right about the necessity for Christians to be vocal about their judgments and opinions, particularly when it comes to the gospel. If a person is running around claiming to be a Christian, but looks like the farthest thing from it, Christians need to declare this guy as a fake. If we don't take a stand on gospel-oriented issues, we fall into the camp of those whom Christ "never knew."

    What a great dialogue though! I wish I had such on my blog. :(

  12. Ian, be careful how you word things brother, "If a person is running around claiming to be a Christian, but LOOKS LIKE the farthest thing from it, Christians need to declare this guy as a fake."
    What exactly is a Christian supposed to LOOK LIKE in order to not be condemned by those that are supposed to believe in the same Lord as Savior?
    American-Christian? Chinese-Christian? Afro-American-Christian? T-Shirt wearing-Bible thumping-Bible Study Leading-Preaching on the corner and Praying in public Christian?

    In my Heart-Felt and "Bible College educated" opinion; If Jesus were walking the earth today he wouldn't be caught dead in 99.9% of American churches.

  13. Ben,
    I'm not sure that you're right (I mean that respectfully). Maybe I should have defined what looking like a Christian entails, or better what it doesn't entail. It's a hard thing because all Christians are sinners and wind up as hyprocrites in one way or another. Yet I do believe that if we see a striving for Christ-likeness in a Christian, there is a sense we see what a Christian "looks like."
    A case in point: of the twenty friends that I used to hang out with that professed Christ, all of them but two (one of whom is me) are professing non-Christians. At the time I noticed things about them that didn't at all seem Christian. But because they claimed that they were, every once in a while talked about "Jesus" and went to church, I believed they were Christians. One of them, the guy who led me to Christ is openly atheistic, amoral and antagonistic to anything that smells of Christ. I could see the fakeness in them at the time, but chalked it up to me being immature and not understanding Christianity well enough. Now, as a maturer Christian, I can see things in those guys that were just patently un-Christian. They were fakes, of that there is no doubt in my mind.
    Whether it is possible to judge 100% if a person is a fake is not what I'm trying to argue. Of course we can't judge another's salvation conclusively. But we can have a good idea whether a person is a believer. If we can make a good, albeit rough, judgement on a believer's salvation, we should also be able to make the similar judgment on one who is not.
    This is very important for pastors especially. If there is a guy or girl in their flock who claims to be a Christian, yet in the pastor's mind doesn't appear to be one at all, the pastor has to judge so as to be able to minister to that person appropriately.
    I don't mean that we necessarily have to call out all the fakes and put them in the pillory, but I do think that we have to be wise and biblical in our judgments of everyone who names Christ. Paul commands us to do this in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
    Anyways, I've bogged down Paul's blog enough for now.
    Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!
    God bless,

  14. Ian,
    I appreciated your comments, especially the latter part of your second post regarding 'making judgment calls'. You are completely right that we can never conclusively say whether a person is saved or not, but at the same time, the Biblical commands to rebuke the sinner (1 Tim 5:20), and to 'restore the fallen brother or sister that is in sin' (Gal 6:1), and to approach the person who has sinned against you (Mt 18), etc., make it clear that it is the duty of the church to hold up other Christians, to gently (Gal 6:1) expose their sin to them, and to seek to restore them to right standing with the Lord. Our 'spirit of gentleness' (Gal 6:1, cf. Gal 5:22-23) must come from a heart that is humbly acquainted with the fact that the only one holding us up is Christ; therefore we should guard against pride with all our might (Gal 6:1b; 3-5). But at the same time we are called to make these kinds of judgment calls.

    Maybe a lot of the problem with this dialogue is that we are talking about a man who is not in our local church community - none of us really knows him. I've seen brutal things in Bono's song lyrics and in his public life. But the reality is, I don't know him. . .I don't know his heart right now.

    Maybe instead we sould draw out principles that apply to our local church family. If we are a committed member of a local church (which the NT assumes is true of every Christian), then there are certain judgment calls that we are to make, both with regard to doctrinal orthodoxy, and Christian living. When a person in our immediate community fails at a point in either of these things, we are to humbly, gently, expose the unbiblical belief and/or behaviour, and to ultimately seek the person's restoration. "The goal of this charge is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5). In the context, Paul is telling Timothy to expose sins and doctrinal errors and teach people not to do them. And the goal of all this 'judging?. . .no, charging', is love, that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

    I need to run now. In fact, I'm retiring from commenting on the blogosphere. I just don't have time for this kind of thing!

    I hope this was thought provoking.

  15. Here's the thing, we fundamentally disagree on the subject of passing judgment on fellow followers or Christ.
    The fact that we disagree on this matter is obviously not going to change no matter how much scripture you misquote, take out of context or flat out manipulate to prove your point.
    We will have to agree to disagree.

  16. (Above should read "Fellow followers OF Christ")

  17. Hey Ben,
    I know what you mean when you suggest there are times when good Christian folks just need to "agree to disagree" on some topics - I suppose that will be with us all until the glory of heaven!
    But I am wondering if you could give one, or maybe two points where you feel Scripture was misquoted, taken out of context or manipulated in the above comments? I thought most of what was said was pretty accurate to the text, but part of what I enjoy about blogging is having others challenge my presuppositions... sometimes we (me) just assume things and do not even realize we have not thought that carefully about them.
    So, not to drag this thing out, but do you think you could provide an example?

  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  19. This is a little frustrating...My employer (as many do) limits the sort of websites that can be accessed, and I don't have my Bible with me.
    I'll be happy to respond from the scripture as soon as I'm able.

    In the meantime, I think my main point (and I should have just come out and said it up front) is that Christians by nature are very quick to judge others before judging themselves.
    This is my opinion based on my perception and also from being a Christian who was quick to judge everyone else until I found that my time on this earth would be better spent judging myself first.

    Also, let's be clear about one thing...when the Bible says "restore the fallen brother or sister that is in sin' (Gal 6:1), and to approach the person who has sinned against you (Mt 18)" - this is obviously telling us to go to the person in question PERSONALLY...Standing to the side and pointing out someone elses "sin" to another Christian falls under the catagories of Judging and Gossip - NOT Approaching or Restoring.

  20. Hi Ben,
    I wanted to add a few more comments. I like the way that this dialogue is challenging us all to think Biblically. I do stand by my earlier post, but also thank you for your points about the need to guard against gossip. This is such a thin line that we need to tread wisely, with the aid of godly people to support us. Again, the danger from Gal 6:1-5 is falling prey to pride as we work to restore a fallen brother or sister.

    As we all seek to be shaped by God's Word in all we say and do, I'd welcome further thoughts from you. I've appreciated many of the challenges already.

    I did want to add one more reason for 'rebuke', though. 1 Tim 5:20 is written to Timothy (a pastor/elder in Ephesus, a young man, qualified, but not in the special office of apostle). It reads (ESV is a better translation than the NIV) - 1 Timothy 5:20 "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear". According to this passage it is sometimes (hopfeully not often) the call of the Christian to publically rebuke a person if they persist in sin (durative present participle, which is why this translation is better than the NIV. NIV makes it sound like any time a person sins we should publically rebuke them). In other places the reason for rebuke/restoration is the up-building of the person - so they will persevere 'in Christ'. But this passage offers us another reason for making a judgment call and rebuking a person: so that other Christians will stand in fear, i.e. so they won't fall into the same snare. Now, this is obviously not to be taken lightly, and it is not to be used hap-hazardly. But the principle is clear: if a person persists in sin, and is left to do so, others may fall prey to that same sin (cf. Paul rebuking Peter publically in Gal 2).

    Again, I want to stress that this is best used in our local church families - the place we are committed to. But when it comes to wrong theology and living that is not becoming of the gospel, when it is done publically by an influencer, Christians must point it out so that others don't fall into that trap. The one who does this must not do so arrogantly or pridefully, must work to be broken and come across as broken, but errors must be exposed.

    To tell you the truth I've always felt bad for so called 'celebrity Christians'. They are aldready in the spot-light, and as soon as they make a profession of faith, a huge weight that they often can't bear often falls on their shoulders. I think of the errors that I make daily, but these were exceedingly multiplied when I was a newer believer. We must pray for men and women who trust Christ and who are famous. But at the same time, we need to guard against allowing their errors to influence other Christians away from Christ.

    Before I close off I need to reinforce: this is to be practiced most often in the context of our local church community - the people we are intimately involved with. Ben, you are right that we are called to approach the person privately (Mt 18 - it can and does move to a public thing if it is not repented of). But when a person is in the lime-light, we are not to condemn them for their own sake, but brokenly, and humbly, show where their error is unbliblcal, and therefore spiritually poisonous to Christians.

    Our ultimate goal in any rebuke must be the glory of God. If I'm looking to put another notch in my belt as a heresy hunter, then I better not rebuke anyone! But as the goal is the restoration of the fallen brother or sister, and/or the clarity/purity of the gospel/gospel-living in our church family, then God is honoured. This must be our ultimate goal.

    I'm now re-retiring from commenting on the blogosphere. Ben, I do appreciate the dialogue, though. It is very profitable.

    In Christ, Ian.

  21. Hi Paul,

    I stumbled across this discussion in a round-about way. I realise I'm a little late to the party on this one. I attended the last U2 show in Toronto as a guest of a friend who loves them. In the middle of one of the songs Bono went into chanting the follow:

    Jesus, the Jew
    Muhammad, makes two,
    They both are from the same God.

    He repeated this little poem about 7 or 8 times. The obvious insinuation is one of universalism, or all paths lead to the same God.

    I've always been skeptical of the reports that Bono was a Christian, this only helped to confirm that according to the scriptures, he can't be; at this point in his life anyways.


  22. Ben, be encouraged -- there are others out here who think you are making strong theological -- and, more importantly, Christ-like -- comments. Yes, strongly biblically supportive ones too. Thanks for taking the time to challenge and to think outside the NorthAmerican culture-box.

  23. All 4 of them are believers in Christ now, and I'm sure they covet the prayers of other believers.

    Funny how you can be so certain of that when none of us have seen any fruit that would give a positive indication to that claim.

  24. We should pray for them like we'd pray for anyone, and pray the same thing for ourselves as we're praying for them.