No Longer Christian Band

Bringing U2 into a conversation with a group of Christians can be a dangerous occupation. Once up held as the prime examples of Christians in the music business, many people now view the band as arrogant and egotistical, having long since abandoned their early religious fervour.

In fact, many churches will point to U2 as evidence of the fact that the music industry is too full of corruption and depravity for even the most committed believers to hold out against, almost as mothers used to frighten their children into good behaviour with stories of the hobgoblins that awaited the ill-behaved child! Viewing U2 on the surface this can be understandable, but a deeper look at what the band are doing portrays a very different story.

Without a doubt U2 have changed a lot since their early albums. Many believe that U2 no longer possess the Christian beliefs which so obviously underpinned these albums, and in many respects amidst the images which U2 have created their beliefs can be difficult to unearth.

Often such use of artistic subterfuge is deeply frowned upon by Christian fundamentalists who argue that the gospel message should be perfectly clear; however, this is ignoring the fact that much of the Bible is itself written in artistic prose, rich in hidden meanings and multi-faceted nuances, whilst several books merely contain poetry - the most artistic of all writing forms.

Jesus himself taught in parables, using the images of the day to bring across truths about God, and most of the time leaving the people scratching their heads and wondering what he meant.

Bono's Lyrics and Faith

The music of U2 has appealed to both Christian and secular audiences alike for well over two decades. Not only are the sounds and melodies intriguing but the lyrics exemplify powerful emotions which captivate audiences by identifying with inner emotions and struggles.

The man behind these compelling lyrics is Bono, U2’s exclusive song writer. But what is Bono trying to say through his lyrics? Is he touching on spiritual or even Christian issues, as Christian fans often suggest?

Although there is some truth in assertions that Bono’s songs are ambiguous, and vague this can not be generalized to all of his songs.  There are many songs in which Christian content is unmistakable. In this section, some of Bono’s most popular songs, namely those from U2’s compilation albums, The Best of: 1980-1990, and The Best of: 1990-2000, will be examined for Christian content.

Moreover, popular songs Bono has written from 2000-2005 will also be examined. Ultimately, the reason Bono’s songs appeal to both Christian and secular audiences alike, is because the songs resonate in people’s hearts as they are able to identify with the real-life issues of pain, doubt, fear, love, and hope.  

In 1987, Bono released, “Where The Streets Have No Name” which became an immediate hit. This song was inspired by the visit Bono and his wife Alison Stewart made to Ethiopia in 1985.  In Ethiopia they saw great disparity between the rich, city-dwellers and the poor, rural villagers who were dying in the desert.

Bono comments to Propaganda, the official U2 magazine( at the time), on how he was trying to sketch with this song a feeling reflecting either a spiritual or a romantic location.

 

He goes on to explain: “I often feel very claustrophobic in a city, a feeling of wanting to break out of that city and a feeling of wanting to go somewhere where the values of the city and the values of our society don’t hold you down. An interesting story that someone told me once is that in Belfast, by what street someone lives on you can tell not only their religion but tell how much money they’re making - literally by which side of the road they live on, because the further up the hill the more expensive the houses become.

You can almost tell what the people are earning by the name of the street they live on and what side to that street they live on. That said something to me, and so I started writing about a place where the streets have no name”


Even though  Bono is not explicit in identifying whether this place, where the streets have no name, is a new Heaven on Earth or not, the fact that status indicators would be written off certainly suggests that it is a place to which one would aspire. At the same time that the song exhibits a hope for a better world, it also exhibits a real emotional struggle of dealing with the current world. The first verse of the song reads:

I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the wall

That hold me inside
I wanna reach out

And touch the flame

Where the streets have no name


These lyrics reveal a conflicted heart that wants to embrace and extend love, but is fearful of doing so.[x] The song’s last verse expresses the wickedness of humanity:

We’re still building and burning down love
                       
Burning down love
                        And when I go there
                        I go there with you
                        (It’s all I can do)

 
In essence, this song is calling people to rise up to the challenge of loving others in spite of different backgrounds, thereby disregarding labels of race, social status, nationality etc.

This notion of throwing off identity labels falls much in line with Galatians 3:28, where the apostle Paul writes, “ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Although Bono does not come out directly and speak about Heaven, he is clearly speaking about a peaceful place where love overrides all identity barriers.


Faith Follows Fans, Bono Follows the World

Right now news from around the tour maybe a bit slow, nothing really new to report. Great time to catch up on other stories,become  fan, follow the litle bird and await for the return.  We have been reading some interesting books about U2, Bono and Faith it seems that everyone wants to place a label on the band and yet know one really has an idea of where to place it. 

To call them a Christian band may cause a shift in the world reglion. Yet many churchs will tell you allowing U2 music to play within the church has returned some people to God.

The title track from the band’s latest album, No Line on the Horizon — an album as steeped in spirituality as any since U2’s earliest years — seems to speak to that. There’s the image itself, the absence of a line, a final destination. A character in the song also says two things worth noting: “Infinity is a great place to start,” and “Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear.”

Razim sees it as similar to the parting of the Red Sea. “To me, it’s about God making a way when there seems to be no way.”

It’s a vast vision of the cosmos and the beyond that doesn’t exactly jive with the idea of heaven as a victorious endgame.

So it is that Bono told Christianity Today, “I generally think religion gets in the way of God.”

Or in 2002, the Edge told Hot Press, “I still have a spiritual life, but I’m not really a fan of religion per se.”

Christianity Today referred to Bono’s tour of American churches on behalf of African aid as “an arm’s-length experience of churches (that) leaves Bono with a paper-thin ecclesiology that measures the church’s mission [or its “relevance”] almost exclusively in geopolitical terms.”

But Garrett sees progress in Bono’s nonmusical works. “I think we’re seeing more people believe in that sense of the church needing to be more responsive to the needs of the world and less fixated in individual salvation. Especially among younger Christians. I think they were on the front end of that.”

The band’s music has found its way into American churches in the form of U2charists, which have been taking place over the past five or six years.

Razim has overseen two of them at Palmer, New Year’s Eve 2008 and Juneteenth 2009, both of which filled the church to capacity. A third is planned for the coming New Year’s Eve. U2 music is sung and money is raised for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, a stipulation by the band in exchange for allowing its music to be sung without royalties.

She says the U2charist is “true to who we are” and in keeping with the church’s outreach.

And despite a somewhat strained relationship between U2 and any particular organized religion, Razim, like Garrett, sees kinship in the band’s spirituality. “It’s about searching and seeking,” she says. “The first time I heard a U2 song I detected it. It’s a journey, with faith developing and asking hard questions.

“I think their music is affirming and empowering, and it’s a true expression of who we are in this place and time.”

U2’S SPIRITUAL PLAYLIST

Sometimes U2’s songs are fairly obvious in their religious reference points. 40 is just a modified version of Psalm 40. Then there’s Mysterious Ways, which could just as easily be about a woman as it could about some other spirit. Some songs are questioning (most of Pop),others reverent (much of Boy). Here are just a few of the band’s spiritual songs that represent just some of the breadth of U2’s spiritual journey. As to which spirit they’re summoning, that’s in the ear of the behearer.

Twilight (from Boy, 1980)

I Will Follow (from Boy, 1980)

Gloria (from October, 1981)

Rejoice (from October, 1981)

40 (from War, 1983)

The Unforgettable Fire (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (from The Joshua Tree, 1987)

Bullet the Blue Sky (from The Joshua Tree, 1987)

Mysterious Ways (from Achtung Baby, 1991)

The Wanderer (from Zooropa, 1992)

Wake Up Dead Man (from Pop, 1997)

Grace (from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, 2000)

Elevation (from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, 2000)

Peace on Earth (from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, 2000)

Love and Peace or Else(fromHow to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 2004)

Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own (fromHow to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb • , 2004)

Magnificent (from No Line on the Horizon, 2009)

U2 Fan Book Selections

The question has been asked many times. Is it possible to be a committed Christian and rock superstar, can political activists make good music? How much does a hugely successful rock band really care about AIDS and poverty in Africa or is the whole concept just a front for selling more music. U2 has had a successful career distinctly dipping into those issues while remaining true to its fans.   For over two decades, U2 has been one of the biggest acts in rock music. They’ve produced over a dozen platinum and multiplatinum records and won 15 Grammy Awards. Critics everywhere have praised the band’s thoughtful, complex lyrics and the artistry of their music. At the same time, Bono, the group’s lead singer, has dedicated himself to political and social causes, blurring the line between rock star and respected statesman.

U2TOURFANS 2009We have just completed our book store list of the must read books about U2. The books have been selected to give a new fan some prospective into U2, covering all the topics.  If you’re looking for a holiday gift or just something refreshing to read while you wait out the next show. We invite you to visit our book store. Your purchases are safe and secure, you may ask why buy from our site; why not go directly to AMAZON or any of the other thousands of book stores on-line. We do earn commissions of the sale of the item. By the way if you click a link and purchase anything from AMAZON, you’re supporting our website. So this holiday season why not purchase items from our store. Watch for our guest writers to be coming soon.