Bono on Jesus

Bono on Jesus October 3, 2016

This interview with Bono regarding Jesus Christ is simply fascinating. Read it and be inspired!

by Frank Viola

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Michka Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Michka: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Michka: 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.

Michka: 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.

Michka: 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 you will 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.

Michka: 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 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.

Michka: 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 a 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 own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Michka: 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’s 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, as 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

If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Excerpted from the book, Bono by Michka Assayas.


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  • Lawrence Voltz

    Sorry, Steven, but you really don’t know what you are talking about. How’s about instead of repeating things you have never researched for yourself, you do some homework on the history of man, war and politics. And repeating the biased, uneducated and ignorant talking points of Richard Dawkins, or ( gulp) Bill Maher is not research. And you obviously know nothing about the history of Communist Russia or China.

  • Madd

    “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” C.S. Lewis . ” Religions have been the cause of more human pain and suffering over
    the course of history than anything else, with Christianity leading the
    way.” You say that, like so many others, because being a Christian is too hard. To be Christian one must strive to live a life for God, a life meeting with His standards. Non-believers don’t want to be told what to do or to be held accountable for their actions. In saying there is no God, they hope to rest at ease about everything they do and say and there will be no one nagging their conscience. I plan to only grow in my faith and knowledge of the truth, not evolve. People cannot evolve and they never have.

  • Steve Bauer

    I like Bono and have huge respect for his ability to use his fame to draw attention to various humanitarian causes; he’s done a lot of good work around the world. That said, I’m surprised that he hasn’t shaken the ingrained dogma of his Irish childhood and is spewing pro-Catholic and Christian rhetoric. Religions have been the cause of more human pain and suffering over the course of history than anything else, with Christianity leading the way.

    It boggles my mind that people who are otherwise pragmatic and intelligent adults cannot free themselves from the debilitating superstitions passed down from their parents. Anywhere you see oppression, pain and suffering you will find religious intolerance at the heart of it.

    “My God’s better than your God” mindsets need to be abolished! Evolve, people!

  • Tophy Camello

    Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. Grace restores our likeness with God but a lot a people refuse to receive God’s gift so they never transform. It is about time we have a saint for rock stars. As Don Bosco said once, we can have fun without sinning. Long live Bono and rock music.

  • Ginny Bain Allen

    In Matthew 9:11-13, Jesus’ disciples were asked, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He didn’t tell the tax collectors and sinners that they were fine the way they were. He didn’t join them in their sin in an attempt to relate. He wasn’t down with how they were living. He boldly declared that they needed His healing and His salvation.

  • Marty Cunningham

    I applaud Bono in his deep faith and his ability to share the message of Christ with others. The message of the cross is a powerful one, but without the resurrection it is not complete. The empty tomb is our salvation.

  • likeyoudontalreadyknow

    …and the stock market helps poor people how, exactly? Rich people and people with lots of 401k money benefit from a rising stock market. (Anyway, it’s been crashing over the last 2 days because of news that the government may stop pumping $85 billion worth of stimulus, since the economy is supposedly “improving” after 5 years of 7-10% unemployment.)

    If you check the facts, Bush did far more for poor people than Obama has…unless you don’t count Africans dying of AIDS as “poor people.” It’s estimated his AIDS policies saved over 1 million lives – and not a single one of those saved was a vote on election day.

  • Junction_Boy

    Which is why the stock market is at an all time high…

  • This book came out 7 years ago. The quotes about Karma are great, but not sure why they are being referred to so much this week.

  • Joel S. Magsig

    This moved me to tears. I have been a diehard U2 fan since 1988. I have all of their albums. It’s not always been about the music, with me, as some albums are not musically that enlightening, but it’s always been about this man. I have been intrigued since I’ve first heard him. Through his lyrics, I’ve tried to study him. I’ve heard struggles. I’ve heard vanity come and go. I’ve heard him indulge and deny his carnal passions. Basically, I’ve heard him struggle as I have. But what’s always plagued me, is what is his ultimate stance on the issue? Bono’s lyrics often come in the form of throwing the question out there, or stating the juxtaposition…. and as a pragmatic and somewhat sceptical person (and a flawed person who wants to know what a person’s underpinnings are before I render an “agree” or “disagree”) I want to know what his conclusion is. Bono has made a career out of keeping some of his core conclusions to himself. Of course no one would argue FOR poverty in Africa, or FOR more AIDS… These are safe for the campaining. But it’s not safe to come out and state this clearly a case FOR Jesus Christ as God’s son, The Messiah; FOR the church with all its flaws; FOR the power of grace over karma. Thanks, Bono.
    In this, Bono has given us not only the “where he ultimately stands” on the issue of his relationship with Christ, but he’s also presented my Savior in a way that only he could do. He has lifted up God’s Son, stated clearly that he IS the Lamb of God, and that he DOES take away the sins of the world. He has done so from the vantage point that only he has, a world-renown artist, a famous one, a person-we-all-want-to-be, a one-who-has-mingled-with-the-greats… He has asserted to an author who seemingly has the same petulent views so prevalent in our society, not only the veracity of the Bible (in both the Old and New Testaments) but the relevance and dire need for it’s teachings. Do you really “wish you could believe in that,” Michka? or are you just saying that? Because, you can. Anyone can.
    Bono, Thanks. I have found what I’m looking for.

  • 803scdantes

    I think you’re mixing your religion and your politics. Republican does not equal Christian nor vice versa.

  • StanO360

    Hanging out with, engaging sinners is different than putting your blessing on them (and with a president by default his actions).

  • xstratusx

    “Obama’s intentions to look after the poor and the sick” – If you knew anything about Obama’s policies you would know that they make everyone poorer and sicker!

  • Bill_Fan

    Nicely done, Bono. Nicely done.

  • fights

    Thanks, Bono, for not being afraid to tell others about our Savior, Jesus Christ! He definitely has the Holy Spirit and would pray that others will come to know the Truth through him. God is definitely using him as a vessel!

  • Vince Stagbaugh

    I’ve always been a big fan of U2 and I have a certain level of respect for Bono, however I question the band’s decision to play Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
    Perhaps they were ignorant of Obama’s level of moral corruption, which was clear even before he occupied the White House, or they saw it as an opportunity to promote their new album.
    Either way, their lack of discernment was a bit disturbing to me.

  • Tisa Yonts

    Awesome! This conversation is so were I want to be in conversation with people about God:) so love the way Bono thinks and the comfortable transparency in the interview

  • Glad I clicked this as a random link.
    I was wearing my shirt I got at the Philly concert for the 360 tour to my psychatrist’s yesterday! I know both U2 and lunacy! Which brings me to that last bit… It was a good answer, but I might have answered it (if I were a rock star and not a bipolar nobody) that, sure, faith sounds like lunacy. It takes couarge to step out of what is known and safe and concrete – like someone running back into a burning building to save someone or whatever it was that made me once stand between traffic and a panicked horse in a field that was going to get itself hit if I wasn’t there. — But, you know there are different kinds of lunacy. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that we’re all insane. They key is making your crazy work out… some lunatics blow people up for “God,” others practice radicial love that a world that would rather stay comfortable mistakes for stupidity.
    Shades of C.S. Lewis in the last answer, but I’ve honestly seen too many atheists online scoff at that kind of an answer to think it’s a good one anymore. I’d rather not say “Jesus wasn’t crazy” anymore than to say “Some crazy is just what the world needs.” __ Then, that’s my perspecitve as a bonafide crazy person who’s just sane enough to know she’s crazy.
    As a U2 fan, I found this excerpt very cool and am glad I clicked the random link.

  • Thx.

  • Thx. for the comment.

  • troy mc laughlin

    Grace grace glorious grace I’ll take that any day. Thanks Frank

  • Chuck Stark

    Bono may not fit the mold for some people off faith, but I really appreciate his honesty about his faith. I’ve been a fan of the band since their first record came across the airwaves at the old WCEZ and enjoy their lyrics about their faith.

  • Gene Smith

    I loved the story about the pope and the shades. He gave us an in to something about himself and the pope.

  • It’s always encouraging to see these types of stories. Awesome excerpt – thanks for sharing Frank!

  • Thx. bro.

  • Jared Thompson

    Can’t help but hear C.S. Lewis in that last quote at the bottom. What a great excerpt. Thanks for sharing, Frank. Both of your blogs really are such a blessing.

  • Great thoughts!

  • I’ve read excerpts from this book before and I’m just amazed at the way God is using Bono. He is respected by Christians and non-Christians alike. He’s respected by everyone across the political spectrum. He lives out his faith. He doesn’t preach, but when he’s asked about his faith he responds with humility and eloquence.

    I especially love the comparison of karma and grace. My experience is that most Christians get extremely uncomfortable and defensive around the idea of karma because the term comes from Hinduism. But to embrace it and use it to convey biblical truth that “the wages of sin is death” is a brilliant way to communicate our human predicament and provides a glaring contrast to grace that comes through faith in Christ.

  • Thx. for the comment.

  • 2GreatCommandementPreschooler

    this. i find nothing to disparge, decry or debate in this wonderful excerpt. I find it bringing us together in Love of God & neighbor. And being “spent”, not “saved” IS the Gospel, not the “prosperity gospel”, but the Good News of Jesus in living Our Abba’s UnConditional Love and radical, inclusive, explosively transforming, furious Grace.
    I say this, as only a peripheral U2 fan and with all due respect to amazing Jesus followers everywhere like Brian Zahnd and Jimmy Spencer Jr, etc, but a great “fan” of what an amazing, message i just read by . . . Bono (!) and i’d say that if i and others found the real heart of the Good News (as Bono so clearly shares It here instead of the Good News twisted & misshapened into really bad news by so many) you couldn’t keep our butts off da’ pews OR outta the soup kitchens, shelters, and clinics.