For those who are still telling me Bono isn’t a Christian…

Recently I spoke in church about the “ministry” of U2 through their music and through their involvement in aid for Africa. Afterward, I heard from someone arguing the same thing I’ve heard for decades… that Bono may use a lot of religious references, but he’s really just a rock star who’s sold out for the love of money.

Frankly, I’m not very interested in arguments about the state of Bono’s soul. That’s not my business. But I *am* excited that the biggest rock star in the world uses his moments in the spotlight to draw our attention to someone else. At the Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago… perhaps the highest honor that the media has to offer a celebrity… what did Bono do? He quoted from Psalm 116, giving the glory for that moment to God.

Here’s an excerpt from 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?

Bono: 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 shit 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.

Bono: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.

Bono: 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.

Bono: 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 shit. 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.

Bono: 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?

Bono: 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…

 

  • Facebook
  • stryper

    i think bono finally GETS it…from grace to claiming Christ. he has changed his attitude of u.s. christianity over the years….first being embarrassed he is a christian to being able to openly discuss it.

  • Anonymous

    I would like to point out to the individual who posted the motherjones interview where Bono states that “one way to Jesus” is simply a fundamentalist concept is from an interview done in 1989. The interview where Bono claims Jesus as Messiah and the Savior is w/a different person and took place in 2004 or 2005. Therefore, it is obvious that Bono has changed his beliefs on the path to Jesus since then based on what he said in the more recent interview.

  • Anonymous

    As hard as it may be for some Christians to understand, not everyone who believes in the saving grace of Christ believes that what is written in the Bible makes it impossible for God to extend salvation to someone who does not consider him/herself to be a Christian. For some, particularly those who have known a Muslim, Jew, Hindu…you name it…who in every meaningful way seems to exhibit the love of God, it seems impossible that God could be such a small-minded technocrat as to condemn a loving person to an eternity of Hell. So you either choose to interpret the Bible in a way that allows God to be bigger than his own “rules”, or you come to the conclusion that, while Christ may indeed be the Son of God, the Bible is not a perfect record of what he said. For what its worth, applying logic to Bono’s comments, he would have to conclude that God is bigger than his own rules in order to embrace Lewis’ “lunatic or saviour” argument.

    I do not understand why so many Christians, particularly those of the fundamentalist persuasion, feel the need to revoke the Christian label from someone if they don’t meet THEIR definition of what it means to be a Christian.

  • bobbobbob

    The issue that Bono had with American churches abandoning Africa was to do with money. Billions of dollars comes into american churches every year. A lot of it is wasted in some peoples opinions.

    What strikes me about Bono is that he is on a journey and he is a real person. He is an artist.
    He is being used by God and is using the gifts God has given him to love and help people.

    It is like that saying “what would jesus do” its a useless concept because its all based on your own preconceptions. Some might think Jesus would love going to a bar for the evening and others wouldnt.

    Thats how it works with Bono. To be a follower of Christ you do not necesarily have to believe everything that a certain church group does.

    Looking at Bonos belief in Christ, his humility (he often says he is a fan of christianity and not a member) looking at his giving (he is not that rich) he comes across fairly christlike.

  • Conor O’Riordan

    http://bonotheenigma.blogspot.com/

    http://www.motherjones.com/arts/books/1989/05/bono.html

    The above link contains the full interview of which i am posting a segment .
    Before i do though i just want to say that i had seen that recent Bono in conversation interview quoted before and his explaination of grace to me seemed to indicate someone who has an understanding and experience of salvation . I am posting this segment of this interview to show how confusing and cotradictory an individual he is when voicing his opinions . perhaps his opinion has changed since this interview but as yet he has never gone back on a word of it to my knowlege .
    you make your own mind up here it is and by the way check out the full text to see i am noy miss quoting .

    {Quote begins below}
    Do you still believe that Jesus is the way? Doesn’t that biblical injunction deny that followers of other religions can enter paradise?

    I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that fundamentalist concept. I believe, what is it? “The way is as narrow as the eye of the needle,” and all that. But I think that’s just to keep the fundamentalists out…. (laughs)

    I never really accepted the whole “born again” tag. It’s a great term, had it not been so abused. I accepted it on one level, in that I loved the idea of being reborn…. I think people should be reborn every day, man! You know, every day again and again and again! At 20 years old, this idea of “surrender every day,” this idea of “dying to oneself” … was so exciting! Then I came to America in 1981, the land of milk and the .357 Magnum. It blew my mind that this word “reborn” meant nothing.

    What do you think of Prince’s brand of salacious Christianity, which says that brilliant sex lights the way to paradise?

    I just believe that Prince believes the same thing I do: that God is sex as well as love.

    So you feel, when you listen to a Prince album, that you guys are singing the same gospel?

    I feel very close to Prince, closer than you might think.

    Closer than I would think, in that he’s considered sex-crazed, while critics regularly describe U2 as nearly sexless.

    I’m deeply insulted to hear you say that, and shocked, and mesmerized. I don’t think they could have been to too many U2 shows. You’d have to ask our audience. This may be one of those cliches from the critical community who generally themselves are completely sexless. You can’t f..k people with your head, or may

    Do you like being intoxicated?

    (Raises a finger) ‘Tis better to be drunk on the spirit; however, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s is sometimes handier

    U2 doesn’t seem to tackle the kind of politics that might truly trouble or alienate their fans. In the film you go on about apartheid and then ask, “Am I bugging you?” just about everyone in the US is opposed to apartheid. Yet you never speak out on issues like abortion, Israel and the Palestinians, the death penalty, AIDS, gay rights. Let’s talk about some of those. How do you feel, for instance, about abortion?

    I just have my own ideas. I believe that it’s a woman’s right to choose. Absolutely.

    Have you ever talked about that in concert? Or in any context?

    No.

    {end of quotation}

    Now just let me say that i am not saying Bono is not a believer but i am just posting the above to prove something . i am trying to show that people who criticise bono are not judgemental biggots just looking for an opportunity to bring him down and ignore the good stuff . as you can see from the quote Christians have sound reasons to be confused about the enigma called bono .

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    I completely agree with this:

    >>What Bono says in that section of the show (and says every show at that moment in Sunday Bloody Sunday, which is of course a song about interreligious violence) has nothing whatsoever to do with competing truth-claims. He says, “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed: It’s true, they’re all sons of Abraham.” Lately he’s been leading back into the song text by singing, “Father Abraham, speak to your sons and tell them: No More!” In other words, these are the three Abrahamic religions and violence between groups with a common ancestor is regrettable.<<

    >>I find it both sad, and quite telling, to watch (on other sites as well) the rush of some Christian bloggers to expand DeRogatis’ single quoted word (“true”) into an entire universalistic theology, attribute that theology to Bono, and attack him over it.<<<

    Thank you, Beth. That is EXACTLY what Bono was saying, and in their rush to condemn him, many Christians have written him off as a relativist BECAUSE THEY WEREN’T LISTENING CLOSELY. That’s just embarrassing.

    And no, Heather, I don’t think Bono is more important than Jesus. I think he IS important in our media-saturated culture BECAUSE he is one of the few who unapologetically points to Jesus. And since Jesus isn’t likely to be voted TIME’s Person of the Year anytime soon, well, I’d rather see Bono get the honor than, say, Sean Penn.

    To God be the glory.

  • Anonymous

    Do you deny Bono’s true statement, that the three were son’s of Abraham? I don’t see anyone talking about his real point.

  • heather

    What got me on this post wasn’t so much about Bono as it was about Jesus. I mean, if we walk away from this more amazed at Bono than we are at Jesus, doesn’t that defeat the purpose. Sure, Bono seems to be right on and a great communicator of the gospel, but what I most appreciate about Bono in this interview is that I am reminded of the beauty and awesomeness of my Savior! Thanks.

  • heather

    What got me on this post wasn’t so much about Bono as it was about Jesus. I mean, if we walk away from this more amazed at Bono than we are at Jesus, doesn’t that defeat the purpose. Sure, Bono seems to be right on and a great communicator of the gospel, but what I most appreciate about Bono in this interview is that I am reminded of the beauty and awesomeness of my Savior! Thanks.

  • glennbob

    Just wanted to say that Bono’s example has encouraged me, as a follower of Jesus and as an artist. As someone raised an evangelical Christian, Bono has shown me that it is important to reach out to the world where they’re at and in a way that will be received and appreciated. “It’s the sick who need a doctor,” isn’t it? It angers me how Christians are so quick to judge him when he bares so much good fruit… if you look. The Christian music industry also angers me in that it is delusional if it thinks it is designed to reach non-christians. So many people trapped by ‘religious rederec and tradition out there that they don’t live in the truth and freedome of Christ and there light doesn’t shine outside the cumbya Christian club. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Col 2:8
    Not dogging on religion here, just trying to come from a challenging angle. I thank God for my religion, so long as it leads me into a personal, meaningful, right relationship with Him.

  • Anonymous

    Too bad bono is actually a sellout, maybe he should copy someone else’s idea, hmm maybe something like a livestrong bracelet! THATS NEW!

  • Dave Trowbridge

    Brother Nature: we didn’t have the Dark Ages because of the Church. We had it because the Roman Empire collapsed–I don’t agree with Gibbons that Christianity played much of a role in that. Actually, IMO, the Church did a lot to shorten the Dark Ages.

    But I agree with you about the cringe factor in Anon’s assertion. As a Christocentric Quaker I find those sort of statements at best useless, and at worst demonic. “The light that enlightens every man was coming into the world…” Better to answer to that of God in everyone than curse them for unbelief in your particular formulation of the Spirit’s movement through the world.

  • Brother Nature

    “It is a flat out lie to say that all of those faiths are “true”. “

    Yow, I always cringe when I read statements like this. That’s a problem with faith to me; there doesn’t seem to be any foundation on which to evaluate competing faiths to see which is ‘true’. There are quite a few holy books, and they unfortunately don’t all agree. Christians themselves come in all shapes and sizes as far as what they believe; how can you determine what is true amongst competing ideas based on faith?

    “I mean you could argue that another nutcase (Adolf Hitler) “changed the course of civilization” but you’d be wrong.”

    I’d say it’s a pretty easy argument to say that Hitler changed the course of civilization, unless the elimination of millions of people and destruction of entire cities has no effect on it. He probably didn’t have as big an impact as Christianity, but I think it’s safe to say that at certain times in our history, that particular religion did not change the course of civilization for the better; it is one of the reasons why we have that period called the Dark Ages.

    Very interesting post on Bono, and I think he did an excellent job of explaining his beliefs.

  • rev heather

    Thank you for posting that… I was referred to your blog through someone who, knowing my interest in U2, forwarded it on to me. To those who have have posted comments here and expressed surprise about Bono being a Christian, I think it’s simply because you haven’t read much about him. There’s a lot out there. To learn more about Bono’s faith development from an early age, read Killing Bono by school chum Neil McCormick. Although it’s really Neil’s memoir, his life is inextricably bound with U2 (and it’s a good read). Neil is a skeptic about faith, and relates many fascinating debates he and Bono have had over the years.

  • Beth

    Boy, it is *astounding* how links to this post are turning up all over the blogosphere. (It’s just hitting the Anglican blog world this weekend, which is how I ended up back here.)

    But mainly, this is a response to Kirby’s response to Anonymous. Kirby is right. Jim DeRogatis very clearly missed the point; in fact, he omitted Bono’s point entirely and made another one that he liked better.

    What Bono says in that section of the show (and says every show at that moment in Sunday Bloody Sunday, which is of course a song about interreligious violence) has nothing whatsoever to do with competing truth-claims. He says, “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed: It’s true, they’re all sons of Abraham.” Lately he’s been leading back into the song text by singing, “Father Abraham, speak to your sons and tell them: No More!” In other words, these are the three Abrahamic religions and violence between groups with a common ancestor is regrettable.

    I find it both sad, and quite telling, to watch (on other sites as well) the rush of some Christian bloggers to expand DeRogatis’ single quoted word (“true”) into an entire universalistic theology, attribute that theology to Bono, and attack him over it.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    An very powerful piece you have here, my friend. I always thought we could use pop-culture as a way of relating the message of Christ, and it seems Bono has already done that.

  • kirby

    In response to Anonymous, regarding the jimdero.com U2 concert review, you failed to call to anyone’s attention the fact that there really is not a quote from Bono in your excerpt, aside from the word “true” … so in effect, you having trouble with someone saying the word “true” without knowing the context of the actual quote makes no sense. I have often heard Christians speaking of the fact that there are certain Truths represented in various world religions, but that their incorporation of such Truths into their belief systems does not cancel out those Truths being owned by God. With the information (or lack thereof) provided in this quote, how do you not know Bono was speaking in that context, and Jim DeRogatis simply missed the point? Now if you get me a quote of Bono saying that he believes God offers the grace of salvation through following the eight fold path or the five pillars, then you’ve got something worth posting.

  • Jamie

    I think one great thing about Bono is that he is excellent in areas that the main stream american church tends to be neglectful on. His guinune care for people is a great example to set. His freedom to speak openly and causual about the Gospel is another thing that most people in churches neglect to do. Those things make me want to applaud.
    I’m a youth pastor and alot of my kids are in college now and they are committed to their faith and they hold Bono up as a prophet…
    I must admit that Bono dropping the F-bomb and national tv really hindered me from appriecating all the things he’s doing right. But give credit where credit is due… Bono is a life that challenges us to re-examine what Christians should hold as “musts” in their lives.

  • Becca

    amazing post … thrilled to read it.

  • Anonymous

    I read a review in the Chicago Sun Times that said this, “The 45-year old front man’s hubristic sins went on and on–there was a facile routine about how Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all ‘true’…” It is dated May 9, 2005.

    Check it out for yourself at http://www.jimdero.com/News2005/U2ReviewMay9.htm.

    I really have a problem with someone who has so much influence and “power” saying he is a Christian and then goes on to say this. It is a flat out lie to say that all of those faiths are “true”. To me he is saying there is more than one way to Heaven, and if that were true than Christianity would be false. There is only ONE way to Heaven and that is through Jesus Christ, there is only ONE truth and that is Jesus Christ. And maybe I am wrong but I always thought that when you choose Christ and believe on Him as your Lord and Savior that part of that is believing that He is the ONLY truth.

  • Thorny

    Jeff,

    Thanks for posting this. Totally going to post your blog site on my site and this article that you’ve written. It’s awesome! Thanks again.

    Thorny <

  • Alex F

    Thanks for posting this. I’m going to quote some of it and link back to your blog.

  • mike

    Thank you, Jeffrey. Since the early 80s until now, I too was a skeptic of Bono’s relationship with Christ. Recently, I attended the “Alive 2005″ event in Ohio and attended a seminar where the speaker touched on Bono’s example as a Christian. I was challenged when he stated that Bono along with many other artists follow Christ but do not choose to use the rhetoric the popular church thinks of as Christian. In other words, he’s out of the box. During the “Alive” event, my box was certainly shaken. My eyes were opened to the fact that Christians are going outside the church walls to the most ungodly places to reach people who need Him. Bono appears to be doing that and challenging us to do the same. I think this is marvelous.

    I’ve read various articles where Bono has spoken at churches and one thing that I did find disagreeable was that he has come across as condemning the church as ignoring the plight of AIDS and the poverty in Africa and that the church will become irrelevant. Many silent warriors in Christ who are not celebrities have gone before him availing their sweat, their tears, and their blood to bring help and restore the lives of people in Africa (and other impoverished nations). As long as Christ is around filling the hearts of people to do His work, I don’t think the church will ever become irrelevant.

    Alright, sorry for taking up much space here! I’m otherwise grateful that you posted this interview with Bono. As Jeff said, Bono gave us a very clear and simple confession of His faith. Rock on!

  • Shaunfon333

    I enjoy U2 and wondered where Bono was these days regarding his Christianity, though I always believed he was a Christian. This was a very cool interview piece and he pretty much tells it like it is. Too bad we don’t have more of this floating around in the celeb world, whatever that is.

  • Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer

    Jeffrey, since you don’t have the trackback feature on your blog, I just want to alert you that I have referenced your blog and this post on my blog: http://www.burrintheburgh.blogspot.com.

    Forgive the self-promotion, but I thought you might want to know I’m directing people to you. Great work!

  • Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer

    Thank you for posting this. I have always enjoyed U2 as a rock band. And I have recenlty been impressed with Bono’s work for Africa. And though I’ve often heard the rumor of his Christian faith, until now I’d not seen much direct evidence of it (the good deeds notwithstanding). Only he and God know what is in his heart. But that is one of the clearest and simplest confessions of the gospel of Jesus Christ that I have seen.

  • mark

    My understanding of “Judge not lest ye be judged” as always pertained to the speculation of the final resting place for someone else’s soul. Jesus was clear when He told us not to separate the wheat from the tears. If someone claims to be a Christian he is to be treated as one. He was equally clear when He told us to watch people for the fruit of their deeds. There are ways in which we are to treat non repentant sinners who claim Christ that in some ways resembles the treatment of non believers. Bono clearly claims Christ. His works clearly show the love of God to a world that needs His love. To question his salvation in the name of Christ smacks of hypocrisy I can’t even comprehend.

  • Patrick Lafferty

    irrespective of his status before the Father of Lights, his witness is instructive for us all in its rawness, its simplicity

  • Anonymous

    >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…

    Bono nails a significant truth here methinks….I mean you could argue that another nutcase (Adolf Hitler) “changed the course of civilization” but you’d be wrong. Despite the spread of Naziism when he was alive, it shrank down to the fringe when he was dead. Christ’s influence continues…and continues…and continues…

  • Benj

    Ah, nice to read that from Bono. His comments on grace and karma remind of the song “Grace” from a couple albums back.

    And good blog, by the way. I have enjoyed reading your posts.

  • sg

    Great passage! Thanks for posting it. I appreciate Bono as a fellow traveler, wanderer, questioner, believer.

  • Beth

    You know the thing that struck me most about the very first question? Assayas, as a longtime friend, obviously knows that Bono became “religious” at an “early age,” when his “experience of life was nonexistent.” Bono has said as much publicly himself. I’m impressed both that he doesn’t get defensive, and by his answer that, essentially, the earlier you find God the less inflexibility you’ll have built up to resist Him.

    I expect that most of the people who are already determined not to accept Bono as a fellow Christian won’t change their minds because of this book, any more than they changed them at “I am a believer and I have faith in Christ,” or at….etc., etc. It’s an “if they don’t believe Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe if someone rises from the dead” kind of thing at this point.

  • Glenn

    Thanks for this Jeffrey, made me see Bono in even more of a positive light.

    You are certainly right that he does some awesome work and probably does more good for the world than 90% of the “Christians” out there.

    At the same time, the state of his soul is indeed important, though I agree that it is not really our place to speculate on it per se. The state of his soul is by far of more importance than all of the othe r stuff to be honest, as is the case for any of us.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X