02 November 2006

Listening to "Preacher" Bono Preach (Part II)

Bill Hybels interviewing a rock star for forty minutes in lieu of a sermon might seem like blasphemy to some. All I can say is that Bono sounded a lot more like a certain 1st century "prophet" named Jesus than a lot of Pastors do on many Sundays. I really mean that. Bono got his nickname from a high school friend who stole it from a hearing aide shop and labelled the singer "Bono Vox"--a latin approximate for "good voice." He did give a good voice to Jesus and the gospel as Cami and I sat and listened.

He does not purport to be perfect and openly acknowledges without excuse that there are parts of his life that have not been and still are not consistent with his faith in Jesus (is that any different than any of us?). His theology is imperfect, particularly regarding the church (does anyone want to claim their's isn't?) But, he takes the scriptures seriously (I was surprised by how many times he quoted and cited texts as he talked). And, he takes seriously allowing the story of the scriptures to mold the story of his life. This is not a tribute to Bono. It is recognizing a "good voice" when you hear one . . . a good example when you see one . . . It is a tribute (i.e. glory-giving) to the God who has spoken good news into our lives as a reality to be lived.

What folllows are my recollections of some of the things that he said that stood-out in my mind and left me thinking.

  • Being a Christian is not about a pie-in-the-sky escapist fantasy of reaching heaven after we die, but about bringing the reality of heaven to earth through the actions of our lives (Phil 1:27-28). "How in a world of plenty can people be left to starve? We think, 'it's just the way of the world'. And if it is the 'way of the world' we must overthrow the 'way of the world.' 'Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven' is a phrase that grabs me...in every detail of our lives we need to seek that. The world is more malleable than you think." I start with this one because this has been the defining realization of my faith in the last decade. And, it seems to be a realization that the Spirit of God is behind as I hear it emanating from people within all kinds of Christian traditions and denominations. The emphasis of being a Christian that I grew-up with, and I'm pretty sure you did too, is the one that Bono decries. It is a view that renders the lives we're living as physical beings little more than an asterisk to the main point--a waiting room for what really matters. This always bothered me since the beginning of the story reveals God's desire for us as beings reflecting His image to represent Him to the rest of the created order. It doesn't make sense that the Savior's primary goal would be to help us escape that created order. Rather, He takes away our sins and grants us a new nature through the power of the Holy Spirit that allows us to start living under the reign of God right here, right now. The Kingdom of God begins to reclaim creation's territory as our lives are devoted to living in a way completely counter to the fallen kingdom into which we are born. It is not a big enough project to work on our own personal character as our primary mission. Our personal character is important because it is the currency by which we validate the mission we have to be God's representatives.

Bono goes to the White House

  • Christians act on the basis of grace, not obligation or duty, and not with any thought that what they do changes how God has chosen to view them (Eph. 2:4-10). "The world works on the principle of Karma; what you put out comes back to you...but then enters the story of grace in the person of Christ and it turned the world on it's head. We can be the instrument of God's grace." Don't let the reference to "Karma" throw you off --Paul describes something very similar (Gal. 6:7-10). His point is grace. As my prior post described in detail, God's gracious treatment is something that we don't deserve. There is no way to really understand it--only to receive it. And, if we live according to grace, our lives must be different. Stacy gave me a quote that says it well: "The thing about grace is it makes life not fair." We all think we want life to be fair with us, but do you really want God to treat you like you deserve to be treated? The corollary to this is that we're called to extend grace to others, treating them far better than they actually deserve. "I'm much more interested in grace because "I'm depending on it."

With wife Ali in an African Orphanage

  • Bono, like me and many others has struggled with the gap between Christ and "little Christs" (or "Christians...of course, I've never been the source of such struggle for others you understand. 1 Cor. 5:1-13). "I never had a problem with Christ...it was Christians that gave me problems...they seemed completely disinterested culturally and politically...they seemed very strange to me.They can be very judgmental. They tend to judge people by surface problems. I grew very suspicious of Christians, but I was determined to learn more about the life of Christ." His sentiment's echo what Gandhi had to say in his day about Christians. We Christians can keep protesting these characterizations, denying that they are accurate, and wishing that people knew the real us. But, until we begin to honestly and humbly hold ourselves up for scrutiny before God and consider the truth in their response to us, it will never change. Increasingly, the same thing is being said by people who are believers in Jesus, but find the church unhelpful at best, and a hinderance at worst, to their relationship with God and spiritual growth (whether they're right or not, the point is that's their perspective).

Bono & NBC TV News Anchor Brian Williams in Africa

  • Jesus says a lot of very tangible, real-world, right-now, stuff about what saving faith is supposed to look like in our life--more than we like to acknowledge (Mat. 25:31-46). "Redemption is an economic term (literally "to buy back"). There are 2003 verses in scripture about the poor, second only to personal salvation. Love your neighbor is not advice...it's a command. Should an accident of longitude and latitude really decide whether you live or whether you die? Jesus speaks of judgment only once and that is the passage in Matthew where we are asked: 'who clothed the naked?' and 'who fed the poor?' and 'who visited those in prison?' That defines whether you are a part of the Kingdom or not. The reason the church has been slow to respond is that the church has historically always been behind the curve: civil rights, apartheid…the church is afraid of politics. The second reason the church has been so slow is less palatable..the church has been very judgmental about the AIDS virus…it believes that it is about people living irresponsibly. Only 6% of evangelicals felt like they were to act in response to the AIDS epidemic. But the Christ will not let the church walk away from the AIDS emergency…it is like a car crash, we have to act. AIDS is the leprosy of our age. But then something tragic happened…the church woke up and began to act…and they ruined it for me…I couldn’t hate the church anymore. We're not talking about politics in a partisan way here, we're working with the left and the right." G.K. Chesterton, one of my favorite old authors, once wrote: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." (Chapter 5, What's Wrong With The World, 1910). Bono's challenge strikes me as a Christian recognizing the difficulty of the Christian (i.e. Christ's) ideal, but with a fatalism only possible by having already died to oneself, willing to try it. For many of today's Christians, homosexuals are our Samaritans; AIDS patients are our lepers. Why do we hold back from going to them, reaching-out to touch them, and offering healing as Jesus did? The reason is simple: unlike Him, we're just not willing. Instead, we go about shouting "Unclean! Unclean!" on their behalf.

  • God gives us all that we have (spiritual gifts, heart's temperament, abilities, passions, experiences) to use to the maximum degree that we can for His sake (Mat. 25:14-30). "What else are you going to do with thing called 'celebrity'...it's absolutely ridiculous that it is valued more than being a teacher or more than being a mother...but it is currency and I decided that I was going to spend mine. God has made me an opportunist. Great ideas are like great melodies...they are memorable and a moral force whose time has come...and there is movement behind them.I am not Mother Teresa, but I have a head for the world's poor. I am strategic. I can be a voice for the voiceless." Bono's gift, beyond his voice and songwriting ability, is the status that allows him to take-on this cause. He seems to have fully invested himself in it. What would happen if every Christian--if you and I--invested all that we are and have as completely in God's cause? Ghandi once said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." He did not speak it as a Christian truth, but the truth of what he said is of Christ. We're not supposed to just study it, talk about it, and pray for it. We're supposed to dream it and live it and work for it. It starts with a revolution of each individual's heart, but it should continue to be our burden until it rennovates whole societies.

If you've been moved or challenged by this, good. If you want to find-out more about Bono's work, go to The One Campaign. For more information on churches involved in a related campaign go here.

I'll leave you with the lyrics of a U2 song entitled Yahweh (the name God gave to Israel as His personal name. It means "I am who I am" or "I will be who I will be" in Hebrew) that appeared on their last album How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. I think it captures the heartbeat of our God and a poetic cry prayed for Him to humble us enough to embody it.

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes and make them fit

Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt and make it clean, clean

Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul and make it sing, sing

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

Take these hands
Teach them how to carry
Take these hands, don’t make a fist, no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticize
Take this mouth,
give it a kiss

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn
Still waiting for the dawn
The sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Why the dark before the dawn

Take this city
A city should be shining on the hill
Take this city if it be your will
What no man can own,
no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break


Dirk_Star said...


Stacy said...

Giving credit where credit is due: The quote "The thing about grace is that it makes life not fair" is from the band Relient K, from the song "Be My Escape", album "Mmm Hmm". Yes, that is the album title!