U2's spiritual journey creates questions

The last of a three part series over a couple of months. Whats more taboo than drugs, sex or is God ? The unwelcomed guest in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. However that’s preciselly why Bono, lead singer of U2, finds God to be such a powerful subject for the band’s songs. “You’re in a rock band what can’t you talk about? God? OK, here we go,” he once said. “You’re supposed to write songs about sex and drugs. Well, no, I won’t.” Todays top trending conversation is #SEX and you have to wonder with the quesions posed by fans? Does U2 have a lot fo sexual references in their songs or would say that they pretty much stay on the “God” trip?

From the band’s origins as four dreaming teenagers in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1970s to its current status as among the greatest rock bands on the planet, U2 has written and performed music shot through with a religiosity that defies easy categorization.

On its 2001 Elevation Tour, U2 sold out arenas and stadiums around the world, using in the process a surprising amount of religious imagery. The band usually closed with “Walk On,” a song from, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Toward the end of the song, Bono would shout “Unto the Almighty, thank you!” and lead the crowd in a chorus of hallelujahs.

Bono and the rest of U2 would seem to fit comfortably with evangelicalism and contemporary Christian music. That placement, however, is resisted by both the evangelical establishment and the band itself. U2’s members—Bono, guitarist The Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton ( which has birthday this month)—drink and smoke and swear, causing some pietistic Christians to question the band’s beliefs.

U2 doesn’t seem to care whether churches accept the band. Over  years, U2 has grown uncomfortable with organized religion, calling church life “claustrophobic” and blaming Christianity, at least in part, for dividing Ireland. “I have this hunger in me…. Everywhere I look, I see evidence of a Creator,” Bono has said. “But I don’t see it as religion, which has cut my people in two.”

The question of U2’s religious beliefs, and the ways band members have expressed them, is the subject of a 2001 book, Walk On—The Spiritual Journey of U2 (Relevant Books), by Steve Stockman, a Presbyterian minister in Ireland. Stockman mines U2 interviews and books about the band and its music to write a spiritual companion to the band’s career.

Stockman wrote that in U2’s early days in Dublin, Bono, The Edge and Mullen embraced a charismatic evangelical form of Christianity unusual then for Ireland. They found like-minded believers in a small group called the Shalom Fellowship. In the early 1980s, one of Shalom’s leaders declared that U2 would have to give up rock `n’ roll to please God.

It was a crossroads for the band, and after deciding that God would rather have them play rock music than stay in the fellowship, Bono, The Edge and Mullen left. Never again would any members of U2 be formally aligned with a religious group. “For Bono, The Edge and Larry, the God that they met and have pilgrimaged with down the amazing road is a God who is bigger than church or religious boundaries,”(STOCKMAN)