Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hefty and Poetic

I recently finished a book called “Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2” (Steve Stockman). I have listened to U2 since the early 1980’s, which coincided with my baptism into Christ, and like a lot of people I have been intrigued by their music’s subtle allusions to the Christian faith.. Steve Beard, editor of Good News magazine, puts it well when he says, “There is very little garden-variety evangelicalism found in the members of the band. They drink, smoke, swear and wear leather pants. But there is a hefty and poetic substance that I think would startle St. Paul and bring a smile to the Psalmist.”

What I hear in Bono, the lead singer, whom Beard refers to as “rock ‘n’ roll’s most effective and enigmatic spiritual provocateur,” is the gritty, aching, relentless QUEST to know, understand, and experience God and his presence in the world.

Consider “Where the Streets Have No Name”: I want to run / I want to hide /I want to tear down the walls / that hold me inside / I want to reach out / and touch the flame / where the streets have no name. (Now read Psalm 42:1-3).

Consider “One Tree Hill,” written in memory of a friend who died tragically: We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill / As the day begs the night for mercy / Your sun so bright it leaves no shadows, only scars / Carved into stone on the face of the earth / The moon is up and over One Tree Hill / You see the sun go down in your eyes / You run like a river to the sea / Like a river to the sea. (Now read the mournful psalms about loss and pain).

Consider “Peace on Earth”: Heaven on Earth / We need it now / I’m sick of all of this / Hanging around / Sick of sorrow / Sick of pain / Sick of hearing again and again / That there’s gonna be Peace on Earth… / Jesus can you take the time / to throw a drowning man a line / Peace on Earth (now read Habakkuk).

Consider “When I Look at the World”: “When you look at the world / what is it that you see? / People find all kinds of things / that bring them to their knees / I see an expression / so clear and so true / that it changes the atmosphere / when you walk into the room / So I try to be like you / Try to feel it like you do / But without you it’s no use / I can’t see what you see / When I look at the world. (Now read the gospels).

In my old age (at 42, the sun is setting) I am becoming less patient with plastic Christianity that takes no risks and tolerates no rough edges, and I find myself hungering for more of the grittiness and passion that I hear in these lyrics. Many Christians have been critical of U-2 and vice-versa. Each has a point. Fine. But I think the modern church needs more “hefty and poetic.” Leather pants or not.


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