Christians Still Looking

Christians Still Looking

The Best of: 1980-1990, that contains Christian connotations, is the song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For ” While there are some Christians who maintain that Bono is renouncing his faith in this song, others maintain that Bono is simply expressing personal struggles with his faith and with temptation. Still others maintain that Bono is expressing his struggle with the current world.

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Taken U2 to Church

A minister will be swapping traditional hymns for tracks by rock band U2 at a communion service with a difference this weekend.

The Rev Nick Cook will perform as Bono for Leicestershire’s first U2charist, at St Hugh’s Church, Market Harborough, on Saturday.

The band – with Dick Callan as guitarist The Edge, Trevor Roach as bass player Adam Clayton and Alex Ulyett as drummer Larry Mullen Jr – will be performing seven of U2’s biggest hits, including One, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride (In The Name Of Love) and Where The Streets Have No Name.

Nick, who is minister of Harborough Baptist Church, said it was a first for the county.

“Well, I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said.

“It will be a fairly normal communion service, but whereas we’d normally have hymns, this will be interspersed with some classic U2 songs.

“I’ll be doing my Bono impression, although I’m not like him as a singer. He can sing slightly higher, so we’ve had to take a couple of songs down a notch.

“We haven’t talked about how we’re going to dress yet.

“I think we’ll be fairly casual but I’m not going to go out and buy the big shades.”

The first U2charist service took place in the United States, where a minister inspired by the spiritual content of some of U2’s hits got permission from the band to use their songs for worship without copyright charges.

The idea is to make the traditional service more appealing to a wider audience, particularly younger people.

The service in Market Harborough is expected to attract more than 100 people. Money raised will go to Christian Aid.

The event also aims to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals – eight objectives set by world leaders at the start of the millennium with the aim of halving the number of people living in poverty across the world by 2015.

The service has been organised by Nick and the Rev Andrew Quigley, from Harborough Anglican team, along with Christian Aid.

Andrew said: “There’s a lot of spiritual content in U2’s music and Bono is known for speaking out on issues such as poverty and raising funds.

“We thought bringing in the live music would make it appealing to younger people and maybe, for people who already support the service, it will perhaps help them see it in a fresh way.

“We want people to come because they like the music, we want people to come because they care about the issues, we want people to hear the church speak about values in different and perhaps challenging words.”

Christian Aid spokeswoman Sue Richardson said: “The service is at the end of our annual Christian Aid Week, when we ask volunteers to collect door to door in their communities to fund our work with the poor overseas.”

The U2charist takes place at St Hugh’s Church, in Northampton Road, Market Harborough, at 8pm on Saturday.

Calling All Christians

Many believers criticize Bono for claiming to be Christian and failing to live in accordance with Evangelical standards and norms.  Steve Stockman summarizes the cynicism of Christians as, “they drink and smoke and swear, how can you believe that they are still Christians?

Likewise Mark Joseph explains many believe U2 is successful in the entertainment industry because “they [are] willing to submerge strong and devout statements of faith and devotion, and instead write songs that [are] vague at best, avoiding whenever possible direct references to God” Despite criticisms, it is clear that Bono’s personal spiritual journey deeply impacts his music.  He boldly quotes Psalms, chants Hallelujah, and openly worships God in front of stadiums of secular audiences.

His lifestyle reflects a strong relationship with his wife Alison Stewart and commitment to his four children.  The humanitarian causes he advocates resonate from a Christian point of view with Biblical imperatives declaring the necessity of faith’s alignment with social justice.

Ultimately, the extent to which Bono lives between Christ and culture is debated.

Todays suggested reading One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God

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.

The Gospel According to U2

Image by Dave Long 2009 U2 360 Tour Tampa Florida We had talked about starting a U2 book Club. We thought we would select the first book and see if we have an interest. We will have a link for threading the conversation. If you don’t have a copy of our first selection you can pick up a copy via the enclosed link.

We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 (Gospel According to U2)

The title of Greg Garrett’s book about the spiritual side of Bono and U2 proclaims his central argument from the front cover. The book is called We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2.

Do you know those famous words?

Rolling Stone ranks “One” (the song in which this line appears) as No. 36 among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was released way back in the early 1990s, when the band was at a crossroads and nearly broke up. Depending on your age, you might recall the more recent Mary J. Blige version of the song, which also was a hit.

The words that end the song — which prompt men and women around the world to “sing along” — are:

One love, one blood, one life. 
You got to do what you should. 
One life with each other: sisters, brothers. 
One life, but we’re not the same. 
We get to carry each other. 
Carry each other. 
One, one.

And, in singing along, we’re essentially joining in a global hymn, Greg argues. He writes, “The meaning of life, U2 ultimately reminds us, is not in how much gold you pile up, how many mansions you build, how many people you can order around, or even how loudly and devoutly you pray and proclaim your salvation. It is in what we get to do for each other. 
“This is U2’s faithful message to the world.”
 Did you catch that key phrase, “get to,” in the lyrics and in Greg’s book? That phrase means that it’s one of life’s great privileges that we get to help each other. Wow! That’s a sermon that’ll snap your head around, if you stop to listen to the lyrics!

Our spiritual mission doesn’t lie in graciously deciding that we’ll donate a little bit of money or expend a little effort on behalf of the needy — when it’s convenient for us. No. The orientation here is waking up in the morning and feeling thankful that we get to help out wherever we can.

CONVERSATION WITH GREG GARRETT ON U2:

DAVID: We’ve told readers about your work before, Greg — especially your earlier book on the spiritual lessons of comic book super heroes. You’re always drawing creative connections between spirituality and popular culture. Tell us what you do for a living - beyond writing books.

GREG: I am professor of English at Baylor University and I’m writer in residence at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin and I’m a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church. Mostly, I’m known as a writer and a teacher.

DAVID: We should explain to readers that, in addition to attending U2 concerts and following the band’s work over the years — you once had an opportunity to sit down with these guys and interview them.

GREG: I did. It was back in the days when I was a rock journalist. I interviewed them after they had recorded their second album.

DAVID: These guys are not card-carrying members of any particular religious group, are they? They’re not regularly practicing Catholics, for example.

GREG: No, they absolutely are not. The interesting thing for many of your readers is that they have been people of faith — but outside of almost any organized religious tradition for more than 30 years. 
They grew up in Ireland and saw the people of Ireland blowing each other up over divisions of faith. They’ve felt they could live out their lives of faith more authentically outside of any organized tradition. Three of the four members would think of themselves as Christian but they have not been part of a formal Christian organization for more than 30 years. They seem to be very much in tune with various faith and wisdom traditions, though. They have worked with the Dalai Lama and with Jewish leaders and many others — so it’s a very ecumenical understanding they have about how we are called to be the face of change for the world.

We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 (Gospel According to U2)

DAVID: In a way, they’re a voice for the “Nones” — the growing ranks of Americans who answer with the word, “None,” when pollsters ask them for their “religious affiliation.”

GREG: Yes, Brian McLaren talks about them in this way. In a very real sense, they model new ways of being a faith community. The have a very clear sense of mission — we are called together to help people. And, as they work out this mission, they seem to be modeling a new way to be people of faith.

DAVID: Why are they so enduring in their popularity?

GREG: Not only are they a band with incredible longevity, so they have lots of sales and awards and fans who follow them, but they’re also a band that continually reinvents itself and keeps itself relevant. The new album, No Line on the Horizon, has new sounds and ideas. 
I don’t want to criticize other bands by name, but people know which bands only go back to work when they need more money. U2 was freed from that necessity very early in their career because of some smart business decisions they made. They’re free from having to worry about making more money. So, in an album like No Line on the Horizon, there are elements of their past albums — but you also hear some new Eastern stuff that comes from recording in Morocco. It’s recognizable as U2, but they’re still exploring new music. They’re not resting on their laurels.

DAVID: They started out with some concerns very close to home, but they’ve become world citizens. That’s a pretty surprising transition for four guys from Dublin.

We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 (Gospel According to U2)

GREG: The four did grow up in Dublin. Ireland was what they knew. But they soon had some powerful experiences of the world. 
Particularly, Bono traveled to Central America and Africa. In Ethiopia, he had a father hand him a starving child and tell him: “Take him home with you, please. If he stays here, he will die.” That’s powerful stuff. 
Their consciousness expanded so greatly that they came to see the whole world needs help — not just the people in Ireland.

DAVID: Is this spiritual mission we’re talking an effort by the entire U2 band? Or is this really Bono we’re talking about in terms of these spiritual commitments?

GREG: That’s a cool question and difficult to answer. From years of following U2 and from my research for this new book, I would say: Bono is the point person, but he is representing the band in concerns they share. 
When we look at the benefit concerts they do — or the benefit tour they did for Amnesty International — you can see this is a thrust they’re making together. It’s like they’re part of a family and they make these efforts together. 
 Here in America recently, the guitar player The Edge partnered with Gibson guitars to help get instruments back into the hands of musicians along the Gulf Coast who lost their instruments in the big hurricane. So, the whole band obviously cares about these issues.

DAVID: With so much music released over the years, what albums would you suggest that newcomers pick up to familiarize themselves with U2?

GREG: The obvious and perhaps the easiest answer is to get one of the Best Of albums. If you listen to some of the music from early to mid career, a lot of people will say: “Ohhh, that song is by U2?”
 Another good first choice is All That You Can’t Leave Behind. This is the album that came out in October of 2001.

DAVID: Rolling Stone called it the band’s “third masterpiece.” Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby were the first two in Rolling Stone’s list.

GREG: This is the album associated with many of the things we were dealing with after 9/11. Then, early the following year, they performed at the Super Bowl. So that album is a good choice. 
But I also recommend the new album, No Line on the Horizon, because it’s as intentionally spiritual as anything they’ve ever written.

DAVID: In Part 1 of this U2 story, we shared some of the words from a song on that new album, “Cedars of Lebanon.” The song warns people to “choose your enemies carefully, ‘cause they will define you.”

We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 (Gospel According to U2)

GREG: Yes, they’re warning that we can be defined by our hatred. The album has allusions to the Middle East adventures of Great Britain and America. 
U2 has been standing up against practices like torture and rendition that are just now coming to light more fully. In a very real sense, they’re saying that your enemies will define you. You’ve got to be cautious about how you combat evil — because it can make you evil yourself.

DAVID: They seem to be stepping into the classic tradition of the ancient Hebrew prophets — these courageous figures who stood up to powerful figures and called for justice and a return to basic religious values.

GREG: One of the sections of my book deals with the tradition of prophetic voices and I take a look at the idea of “prophetic” as not referring to “predicting the future,” which is a definition a lot of people know from popular culture, but “prophetic voice” as a phrase really describing someone who speaks truth to power. For Bono and U2, this isn’t about religious propositions or orthodoxy — it’s about deep spiritual truths like standing in solidarity with the poor. Bono describes what he is doing now as serving as a lobbyist for the poor.

DAVID: You’ve traveled widely, Greg. You’ve heard many of the world’s great preachers — yet your book explains that you’ve been profoundly moved, over many years, by the spiritual messages preached by this rock band.

GREG: I wrote this book because I do have a profound personal connection with the band. And it’s not just that I sat down with them for an interview 27 years ago. It’s because their music and their lives have shown up in my life over and over again. 
 All the work I have done in writing and teaching about religion and culture has grown out of this kind of experience. 
U2 is one way that many people feel God moving in their lives. For so many people, they don’t feel it in organized religion but in experiences like turning on the radio and hearing a song they desperately needed to hear at that moment. I have a passion for this particular book and this group — because these musicians have set out on an authentic spiritual quest and have told the world about it honestly. 
They are reaching out to millions through their music — letting us know we are not alone in our journeys.

This article was originally published at Read The Spirit.

We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 (Gospel According to U2)