Friday, August 17, 2007

Book Review: "On the Move" by Bono

Book Review: On the Move by Bono

I have had On the Move on my shelf for some time and have read it three or four times. Part of the reason for re-reading it is that I have always liked Bono and find I am always trying to give him the benefit of the doubt (despite what some detractors have accused!).

With that in mind, you should know that this book is really a speech that Bono gave to the US National Prayer Breakfast in 2006 set to images and photographs mostly taken by Bono himself. In the speech, Bono was asking for the US Government to consider spending one percent of the Federal Budget on foreign aid. And that may be a very good idea.

But what is frustrating with Bono is his appeal to Christianity as the basis for this action – as if the Bible called for this kind of thing. What is more, Bono likes to reach into all of the world’s major religions and clip quotes that support his ideas. None of this is new for the longtime vocalist of U2.

Bono typifies much of what passes for “theological thought” these days. 1. Quote a few Bible verses that use words that touch on your issue. 2. Inject your own ideas into these verses (ignoring context and the scope of redemptive history). 3. Cry shame on Christians who do not do what you do or at least do not do what you want them to do (for as Bono admits in his speech: “there’s something unnatural.... perhaps something unseemly... about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the South of France.” It is little wonder Bono is a kind of patron saint to the more radical end of the Emergent movement.

But the fundamental problem in Bono’s speech/book is this: it preaches a Christless, works-salvation. Bono calls for Spirit-empowered actions from dead-in-sin people... and subtly promises them that God will be pleased with what they do. That is not Christianity. That is Pharisiism. And that works-righteousness is at the heart of every world religion – except Biblical Christianity.

Should Christians do all they can to alleviate the suffering of the poor and oppressed? Without question! But of far greater importance is getting the Gospel of Jesus Christ straight and proclaiming it to all – poor and rich alike.

This world does not need the “Beatitudes for a Globalized World.” What it needs is Jesus Christ: First and Last! And all those converts to Jesus will join with all those other converts to keep preaching Jesus... and doing much to minister to the suffering.


  1. Good post, Paul.

    "Bono calls for Spirit-empowered actions from dead-in-sin people..."

    Do you think it's bad to ask those who aren't Christian's to be just in their dealings with the poor?

  2. Do works without faith glorify God? Romans 9 seems to say no. But that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with asking people to help the poor. Unless I'm mistaken, Kerux's point was that tapping Christianity as the motivator isn't appropriate.

  3. That makes sense.

    Do you think Bono thought he was talking to Christians at the prayer breakfast?

  4. P.S. I'm enjoying thinking about how Chappell or Keller would have dealt with this. They may have said, "This is what the Bible says about our duty to the poor," but they would have highlighted our need for the cross in order to really live this way.

  5. God forbid Christians should get off their duffs and do something good for others.

  6. Darryl, re your comment about how Chappell or Keller would have deal with this...have you ever read the address Keller gave at the 9/11 memorial service in 2006? You can find it at As I read it, I think you're right.

    That address has always made me squirm a bit. Keller is so gracious to other religions:

    "Now at this point, I’d like to freely acknowledge that every faith...every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. But as a Christian minister I know my own faith’s resources the best, so let me simply share with you what I’ve got."

    That whole thing has often made me uncomfortable, but the more I look at it the more it seems very "Acts 17ish". And inarguably cross-centered. I realize the way I would have spoken there is not nearly as biblical-missional and cross-centered as the way Keller did.

    Sorry if it seems this derails a bit from the Bono post, but I think it relates: there is a way to call the world to thought and action, a way that resonates within the culture, that still does not forego the cross nor the resurrection. I haven't heard that from Bono, much as I've cheered many of the things he's said. This way of the cross is the way I want to learn to follow, and to teach.


  7. Hi Tom,

    Yes, I did read that sermon. I squirmed too, but I think I agree with your assessment. I also know that Keller didn't throw that in there to be pluralistic - it helps to know a little bit of his thinking to appreciate what he does.

    "This way of the cross is the way I want to learn to follow, and to teach." Amen to that!

  8. Very good post! It is the Gospel that men need to hear. The end for any mercy ministry or help is to magnify the work of Christ as we spread the good news of what God has done for sinners at Calvary. Could you imagine the blessing it would be to have Bono tell the U.S. Government to support pastors to go and preach the message of reconciliation that the apsotle Paul describes in 2 Cor. 5. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing our tresspasses to us...We urge you on behalf of reconciled to God...For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

    Thanks again for reminder of what is of central importance.



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