Behind the Scenes with Bono: Rock, Politics, Poverty… and His Christian Faith

Believe it or not, I still hear Christians who declare that Bono isn’t a believer. In spite of his testimonies in public, in print, in music, and in deed.

And here he is again, in a monster of an article about the band and its singer, talking about the steep climb of putting faith into action (and into art) while world-famous:

SOH What intrigues me, though, is this tricky place you are in, which is quite unprecedented in pop star terms. You have used your celebrity to go into the world of political activism, but also the world of corporate wealth and the super-rich, and all in the cause of fighting poverty. It’s a tricky place for a rock’n’roller to be.

Bono “I know, I know. It’s dangerous. And it worries Larry, and it worries the whole band, if truth be told. But, you know, here’s the thing – they thought, all of them, Larry, Edge, Adam, that my campaigning would sink the ship.”

SOH The U2 ship?

Bono “Yeah! They thought that the rotten tomatoes world rain down and people would not be able to hack it. That was before they started throwing them themselves [laughs]. They thought, one, that it would distract me. And more than that… They were just not into it at all.

SOH All three of them were against it?

Bono “Oh, I think so. I mean, Edge pleaded with me right at the start not to meet Bush. Five or six years ago. They all did.”

Initially, Bush wasn’t so keen on meeting you, either. So how long did it take you to get a meeting with him?

Bono “It took a while. He just did not want to meet me at first.”

SOH How much difference does your faith make in these situations – your Christian faith?

Bono “A big difference. I mean, I had been a serious scourge of the religious right, and particularly the evangelicals, for their inaction on Africa. And, to be fair to them, after taking a serious beating they did get up and do something, and that gave Bush cover on his right flank.”

SOH Did you ever get into theological debate with Bush?

Bono “Oh yeah! I wouldn’t talk about it, but yeah.”

SOH OK, I have to ask you this one. Did you ever pray with him?

Bono “Whoaah! (He reaches for his drink.) But I didn’t inhale [laughs]. Look, I would always use the scriptures to argue my corner. There are 2,103 verses of scripture pertaining to dealing with the poor. That helps, and it also helps to know that.

“Boy, did my days of Bible study come in handy! And, by the way, it’s an offence to me that religious people can close their eyes to this stuff. It’s just really not allowed.”

SOH From where I’m sitting, though, a lot of the people that you are bargaining with, and who are undoubtedly helping save lives in Africa, have also, by their actions elsewhere, shown a blatant disregard for human life on a grand scale. Surely, that, too, is their legacy?

Bono “Look, it’s appalling and shocking and not ever excusable, the waste of human life. But on our issues, all I can say to you is that there are 29 million children in Africa who were not going to school and who now are. That’s just in seven years. Now, that’s not an excuse for a wrong-headed adventure. It’s not an excuse. But I don’t believe Tony Blair is evil. I know him enough to know that he is a sincere and serious person who would in any unserious way make those decisions and, though I disagreed with those decisions at the time, I think it’s really simplistic to think that he is anyone’s poodle.”

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  • Travis

    Chattaway, I find it unwarranted too. As a staffer for an “evangelical” non-profit missions org, Bono’s comments regarding the so-called beating the religious right received for their “inaction” in Africa are absurd and intellectually dishonest. The organization I work for, and many other para-church organizations with whom we partner, have been doing work in Africa for many years. To read this, it sounds like the religious right didn’t get into gear until he stood up and said something about it, and it’s insulting.

    I admire a great many things about Bono–he’s a world-class individual with, I am sure, a deep relationship with Jesus Christ (like you said Jeffrey, he’s made this eloquently clear many times in the past). I am well aware of his political beliefs, and while I may disagree with some of them, I have always felt that when he brought something to the table, he did so in a manner of civility, and worthy of Christ’s Gospel. This is the first time I have ever felt otherwise.

  • Does anyone think Bono’s self-puffery — his claim that he was the “serious scourge” of evangelicals, and that they shaped up and did the right thing after he, himself, gave them “a serious beating” — is really all that warranted? I can never hear claims like this without thinking back to a Christianity Today editorial from six years ago called “Bono’s Thin Ecclesiology” (feel free to Google it).

  • Great interview — thanks for posting that.

    I admire the man for soldiering on and putting his faith into action.