U2 Beyond Words

Formed in 1976, formed a Mount Temple Comprehensive School with limited music skills Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry set out to change the world with their music or did they? The early references to the band pointed to their limited musical skills.

Early on the band was deeply rooted into post punk and eventually grew to include influences from many genres of pop music. Signed to Island Records they released Boy – and broke thru as an international act. Along came 1987 and the breakthrough CD “The Joshua Tree” was released and that was the same year CD’s became the must have musical media.  

U2 integrated dance, industrial, and alternative rock influences into their sound and performances, and embraced a more ironic and self-deprecating image. Similar experimentation continued for the remainder of the 1990s with mixed levels of success.

U2 regained critical and commercial favor after there 2000 record All That You Can’t Leave Behind. On it and the group’s subsequent releases, they adopted a more conventional sound while maintaining influences from their earlier musical explorations.  

Has success changed U2 or have we changed into accepting faith on our sleeves and dipping our toes into the book of faith driven by the musical tunes of U2? Often you hear references of U2’s dabble into faith, love, marriage and hope yet they never labeled a Christian band. Why is that?

What is it that makes music Christian? Does it have to be written specifically for the church, for liturgical or devotional purposes, to fall into that category? Must it refer to Scripture, quoting directly or alluding by imagery? Should its explicit purpose be to evangelize? Will it sound a certain way, stick to certain conventions, or squeeze unlikely paradigms into a Christian shape?

There certainly is “Christian music” that does a few or all of these things. Some of it is deliciously uplifting, and some of it is incomparably dreadful. But perhaps all these questions reflect the wrong approach to Christian music entirely.

Perhaps the better way is to ask the question not so much of the art as of the artist. That would make Christian music the work of Christian composers, regardless of what it sounds like and what, in each particular instance, it says. If we follow that definition, then we will find the most wildly successful creators of Christian music in the past two decades — not hymn writers, and not Amy Grant, but the four Irishmen who are collectively known as U2.

Can you name any other pop contemporary musicians that have been able to introduce so many bible references without a label the book of Psalms is weaved throughout most of U2’s work.

Bono did come out and speak about his faith in an essay “My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic; anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable.” “I had a foot in both camps, so my Goliath became religion itself; I began to see religion as the perversion of faith.”

Curiously enough, the religious brutality was never enough to knock the faith out of him, and Bono’s lyrics remain unalterably Christian in their coloring, even though his religion — the practice of his faith — has since shifted to rock-n-roll.

So what if within the music comes a little faith, hope and love for your fellow man, does the world not need a little love? Share your comment and views.

God is in the House

Where the Streets Have No Name.Beautiful Day.I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.Yahweh. For fans of the Irish band U2, these are familiar rock songs. But to a growing number of Christians, they’re becoming tunes for worship, and for the Eucharist.

Services using U2’s music, commonly called U2charist, were begun by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. The services combine the music of the rock band with traditional communion. They focus on a message of global reconciliation, justice, and care for neighbors as advocated by Bono, the lead singer of U2. Bono, a dedicated Christian, is also a global ambassador for Millennium Development Goals, a movement by the United Nations to eradicate poverty and disease by the year 2015.

U2charist first took hold in the U.S. at St. George’s Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine, drawing 130 people. Many of those in attendance were in a younger demographic and did not usually attend the church. Since then, dozens of the services have been held worldwide in churches of many denominations.

In a U2charist service, the liturgy remains the same, although the music is markedly different. U2 songs are repurposed as the opening hymn, song of praise, sermon response, and offertory. Most of the songs are seen as metaphors, with lyrics that are layered with meaning.

“In church, you hear [the music] in a different way. It’s like new,” said Natalie Williams, a 17-year-old who attended a U2charist at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

Eric Johnson, who attended the service at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Lakeland, Florida, had no doubt about the effectiveness of the music.

“The crowd, the enthusiasm, the energy—I felt like the Holy Spirit was in the room. The message was getting through, and we were worshiping together,” he said.

The offerings that are collected at U2charists go to charities fighting extreme poverty and AIDS, as worked out in an agreement with the band’s publishing company. Paige Blair, rector of St. George’s, estimates that more than $36,000 has been raised from the U2charist services for the cause.

“People are learning there is something they can do to change the world,” she said. “And they leave feeling that they really can.”

At St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Encinitas, California, the U2charist service was well-received by young and old alike. Teens connected to the “hip factor,” while adults found deeper meaning in the music.

At St. Andrew’s, the service drew a crowd that compares to normal Christmas or Easter attendance. St. George’s is beginning a U2charist team to help others implement the service. And this year, a U2charist service will be broadcast in Great Britain on Easter Sunday.

“It spread like wildfire,” Blair said. “We’re giving people a way to engage their faith in a meaningful way.”

And letting them rock out at the same time.

This week we will start a three part or four part series on U2, God and Faith.