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.
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.”
SOH 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.”