Monday, July 11, 2005

Bono and Christianity

Here is an excerpt from a book called Bono in Conversation, the new book of interviews with U2's front man by Michka Assayas. This is from a chapter called "Add Eternity to That," in which Assayas shows interest in talking about Bono's religious beliefs, and challenges him with the idea that the only people who really wreak havoc and terror upon the world do so because of religious convictions. He's implying, really, that religion is the source of many of the world's woes, so wouldn't we do better just to abandon it?

Assayas: Appalling things seem to happen when people become religious at too early an age or when their experience of life is nonexistent. Don't you think?

Zealots often have no love for the world. They're just getting through it to the next one. It's a favorite topic. It's the old cliché: "Eat s*** now, pie in the sky when you die." But I take Christ at his word: "On Earth as it is in Heaven." As to the first part of your question, in my experience, the older you get, the less chance you have to transform your life, the less open you are to love in a challenging way. You tend towards love that's more comforting and safe.

Assayas: As I told you, I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.

I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s***. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled… It’s not our owngood works that get us through the gates of Heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy , in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the 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 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. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had King of the Jews” on his head, and was they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. 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…
Lots of people are confused about Bono and his faith. This answers some questions, raises some others. What do you think?


Chuck said...

He seems genuine. I certainly can't see what's in his heart but he is one "celebrity" that hasn't been bashful about calling Jesus the Messiah. Even since 9/11 when "tolerance" has become all the buzz he's still out their saying it. I wish some "evangelicals" would show such certainty when given the opportunity.

Chuck said...

One other note. I went to see U2 at the Smith Center in either 89 or 90, can't remember. At the time the Baptist Student Union was attempting to maintain their campus charter to use campus facilities. Liberal groups(go figure)were suing the school for allowing a religous group to have a charter. At the end of "40",

"I waited patiently for the Lord He inclined and heard my cry" for those non-U2 listeners

Bono said a short prayer for the BSU and then proceeded to chastise the school and those involved in the suit for their "narrow-mindedness and lack of tolerance". The look on some of the faces in that crowd was priceless.

Anonymous said...

What do you think about the ONE campaign?

Jeff A. Spry said...

Some thoughts on "Making Poverty History":

Read this from John 12 - Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

How can we make poverty history when Jesus said "the poor you will always have with you."

Bruce Roberts said...

On the povery issue, should we then do nothing, or follow the biblical command to take care of the poor (even if it is as part of a "secular" movement)? As for Bono, no offense to Jeff because we do need to defend true biblical ideas and point out false teachers, but we sometimes get too focused on criticizing others and looking for what's wrong with them rather than what may be right. As I read Bono's explanation for why he believed Jesus was the Son of God, I thought of C.S. Lewis' statement (I'm paraphrasing) that Jesus was either a)the Son of God as he claimed to be, b)a liar, or c)a lunatic. In answer to his own question to Peter, "Who do you say I am?", everyone must answer one of the 3 choices. You can't say he was a Prophet because if he wasn't the Son of God, he was lying or crazy and that doesn't make for a good prophet. You can't say he was a good moral teacher because good moral teachers don't lie and they're generally not insane. Either he was who he said he was or he was a liar or he was crazy. I'm sure election has someting to do with what each person chooses as their personal answer. Back to Peter and Jesus, after Peter correctly answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of God," Jesus said that God had revealed this to Peter, it had not been revealed by man. C.S. Lewis worked this idea into the Chronicles of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe when Lucy claims to have been in Narnia and her brothers and sister don't believe her. Peter and Susan talk to the Professor about it and he says there are 3 choices, either she's telling the truth, she's lying, or she's crazy. As with Christ, the correct answer is that she was telling the truth, though the truth seemed unbelievable. The author that interviewed Bono sounds like Lucy and Susan, failing to recognize the truth because the idea that Jesus is the Son of God seems too unbelievable for him. Like the professor, Bono uses a bit of logic to show that it's actually more plausible to believe that Jesus is the Son of God than that he was a prophet.

Jeff A. Spry said...

Do nothing? Absolutely not. It is the mission of the church to take care of the poor. It is an indictment on the church that Hollywood must do this sort of thing in our place. But the church is not entirely lax. Much is being done by the church that does not get this type of attention, however.

In Matthew 6:2-3, Jesus said "When you give to the poor," do it in secret. He did not say, "if" but "when." He expects this of us.

In Romans 15:26, Paul praises Macedonia and Achaia for their offering for the poor in Jerusalem.

In Galatians 3:10, Paul is before James and John and Peter because of his theology and after the interview, Paul says the only thing they asked of him was to "remember the poor."

James gives some words to us regarding the poor in James 2:2-6.

It is the job of the church to care for the underprivileged: the widows, the orphans, the destitute. It is easy to rail on celebrities but I (and all of us) should remove the plank in our eyes first - what have we done to help the poor in Statesville and around the world?