U2, Religion and Spirituality

Bono sharing his signature sunglasses with St. John Paul II

Bono sharing his signature sunglasses with St. John Paul II

I am heading to see U2 this weekend in Chicago with my wife (the kids are spending time with the grandparents :-).  I have always liked U2’s music but it was not until the last five or so years when my spiritual journey took a dramatic U-turn (bad pun intended) from practical agnosticism to honest doubt to sincere belief that I have started to really appreciate them as they have been writing about the quest for God in the context of love, doubt and reason for over 35 years. I appreciate the fact that they are devoutly Christian, and are not afraid to express it as in this 2005 interview between Bono and Michka Assayas:

[T]he secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes:No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched.”

From Christianity Today (August 1, 2005)

More importantly, I am impressed with how Bono puts his beliefs into practice, such as his vocal contributions to debt relief for poor countries to his other charitable works. Further, I appreciate the poetry of U2’s music in that it liberally incorporates religious themes but also expresses the existential doubt that is common to all humanity.

A friend of mine gave me the Rolling Stone Special Collectors Edition for U2 which contains many old interviews with U2. What is interesting from a faith perspective is that although Bono has always had a strong faith, he has moved from a disdain towards organized religion (which is understandable given that he grew up in a bitter Catholic/Anglican sectarian conflict) to finding peace between organized religion and his strong Christian beliefs, which is something I can relate to :-).

Set forth below is an excerpt from the magazine which is from a 2005 interview with Bono:

What is your religious belief today? What is your concept of God?

If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there’s a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in ‘straw poverty’; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me.

How does it make sense?

As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the [creator of the] unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that makes me a Christian. Although I don’t use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to. I feel like I am the worst example of it, so I just kind of keep my mouth shut.

Do you pray?

I try to take time out of every day, in prayer and meditation. I feel as at home in a Catholic cathedral as in a revival tent. I also have enormous respect for my friends who are atheists, most of whom are, and the courage it takes not to believe.

How big an influence is the Bible on your songwriting? How much do you draw on its imagery, its ideas?

It sustains me.

As a belief, or as a literary thing?

As a belief. . . I’m the sort of character who’s got to have an anchor. I want to be around immovable objects. I want to build my house on a rock, because even if the waters are not high around the house, I’m going to bring back a storm. I have that in me. So it’s sort of underpinning for me. I don’t read it as a historical book. I don’t read it as, ‘Well, that’s good advice.’ I let it speak to me in other ways.

Rolling Stone Special Collectors Edition (2015), pp. 69-70

On a personal level, I am looking forward to a weekend with my wife and the concert on Monday!

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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5 Responses to U2, Religion and Spirituality

  1. Have fun, be safe and praise God!

  2. How exciting!
    I too like U2 and have often referenced Bono’s words in various posts—the recent most timely being during your hiatus and my attempts of getting more physically fit as I spent my morning time of servitude on the elliptical, listening to what else but U2 🙂
    I was often struck by the lyrics to songs that I would latter tie into a post or two—
    Perhaps the longevity of the band is indeed due to the fact that the Boys of Belfast, understand from where it is they have come and they clearly understand to where it is they now must go—taking their talents as the gift it has been and sharing that gift by giving back in a multitude of ways!!
    Enjoy your “date” weekend William 🙂

  3. This is a good article…however in the quote he takes the Lord’s name in vain….this is so sad…and published in Christianity Today. Please see reference https://carm.org/lords-name-vain We must be careful to follow all of the commandments.

  4. James Sabato says:

    It’s time for unification and peace through music on a global scale.
    Please read this and sign it. I don’t want any recognition just to see it happen. I call it “a peaceful wave of unity”. Here is the link: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/a-song-for-global-unification-and-peace
    James Michael Sabato
    Please help me spread the word!

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