Given the opportunity to explore U2 from Theological, Spiritual view we have watched many books, sites and interesting side notes appear. However the classic general introduction to U2 from a spiritual perspective comes from Steve Stockman’s well organized Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2; “Stocki” an Irishman who has been writing on the band since the early 80s and knows their milieu intimately. Also consider the works of Vagacs and Scharen as well as Garrett to complete your collection, However, most of the best theologically informed writers on U2 are working in journals, magazines, and online. U2-and-God pieces are those by Steven Harmon and Mark Meynell
Since U2 lyrics reflect a thorough immersion in Biblical thought and language, it’s often useful to turn to Drawing Their Fish in the Sand, an online archive of scripture allusions in the band’s work.
Moving from reflection on U2 to material directly by the band, one option that will spark thought is Bono’s National Prayer Breakfast sermon in 2006, which can be viewed here (a 22-minute clip via CNN and YouTube) or purchased as the book On The Move (including photos from his service in Ethiopia with World Vision as a young man). An often-reprinted excerpt from Bono in Conversation, displays the singer at ease in the role of apologist for faith.
And then there’s listening! Novices should certainly explore a best-of album, or a classic like The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby; however, U2 are above all a live band whose vision cannot be fully grasped from their studio material, which is in essence a preliminary sketch for what they eventually achieve in performance.
Their slogan: “Live is where we live.”
We would recommend a trip to YouTube. Either look up performances of your own favorite songs, or observe a few characteristic U2-plus-their-audience moments: Where The Streets Have No Name (2001), Sunday Bloody Sunday (1988), Mothers of The Disappeared (1998—in Santiago with the real mothers brought onstage), the love song to the Holy Spirit Mysterious Ways (2009) and the ZooTV iteration of The Fly (1993) with Bono in character and disorientation on the agenda.
It’s a cliché to point out that the band’s name is a pun: You, too, can be part of this. With that outlook, it’s no surprise that I need to tell you that this guide just skims the surface of ways spiritually-minded listeners can interact with U2’s material. Come on in and mix it up; there’s room for everyone
There are big questions about some of the things they do and say. There are the financial decisions that U2 Inc. have made, there are other concerns of lifestyle and rock star egos, there are concerns about their theology and ethics. For example Christians some have cited their Coexist campaign (which calls on all the ‘Sons of Abraham - Jews, Christians and Muslims - to live together in peace) as evidence of universalism. Well, it may well be! Yet it is hard to deny the moral goodness of the objective.
If one needs labels (and how one wishes one didn’t), perhaps we should see U2 as ‘post-evangelical’ (in the sense of what Dave Tomlinson was getting at in his 1995 book of that name) more than anything else. That will leave many things to be desired for the regular evangelical, of course.
But it is interesting how often themes of historic Christian orthodoxy permeate and inform their creativity. It is of course easy for Christian observers to judge and condemn them - yet who of us can honestly claim to understand the choices, dilemmas and conflicts that arise from having such wealth and influence?
Nevertheless, they offer a profound challenge to Christians with their passionate and committed engagement with the world around us at the social, political and personal levels. U2 is one model of Christian artistic engagement at the highest and most exposed level.
You might not agree with everything they do; you may totally detest their music! But it is foolish to ignore their attempts – for in recent times, no another performers have brought a Christian worldview and set of values into the public square more wholeheartedly and globally than U2. “U2: The Stadium Psalmists & Prophets Mark Meynell
Closing Thoughts. Most of us listen to music as background, something to fill the void. I challenge you to listen to music, really listen. Listen not only to U2 songs, but all songs. You find that references to God and man are vast and written deep within songs that you never thought would have any reference at all.
2011 has been another defining year for the boys, and we of course will continued be along for the ride “Will You?”
- Achtung Baby (33 1/3 album guide) Catanzarite, Stephen Continuum New York 2007
- Bono on Bono: Conversations Assayas, Michka Hodder London 2005
- Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog Whiteley & Maynard (eds) Cowley Cambridge 2003
- Into The Heart: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song Stokes, Niall Carlton London 2005
- One Step Closer – Why U2 matters to those seeking God Scharen, Christian Brazos Gr. Rapids 2006
- Religious Nuts, Political Fanatics: U2 in Theological Perspective Vagacs, Robert Cascade Eugene, OR 2005
- The U2 Reader: a Quarter Century of Commentary Bordowitz, Hank (ed) Hal Leonard New York 2003
- U2 by U2 McCormick, Neil (ed) HarperCollins London 2006
- U2: An Irish Phenomenon Cogan, Visnja Collins Press London 2006
- U2: Into the Heart (the stories behind every song) Stokes, Niall Thunder’s Mouth London 2005
- U2: The Complete Guide to their Music Graham / Oosten de Boer Omnibus London 2004
- Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 Stockman, Steve Relevant Orlando, FL 2005