With a Shout: Celebrating U2
When Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen formed a band in the late 1970s, the name they chose for themselves was oddly prescient– The Hype. (This came after their short-lived career as The Feedback, a name chosen simply because it was the only technical term the amateur musicians knew, and before they ultimately decided on U2, a name that stuck despite seemingly having no real meaning.) Over three decades later, Dublin’s most earnest garage rockers have become the biggest band in the world, and every new album they make– the latest of which, No Line on the Horizon, arrives on American soil on March 3– is surrounded by the kind of fanfare that would cause most any other band to implode under the weight of ludicrous expectation.
The funny thing about U2, though, is that they seem to feed off the hype rather than be burdened by it; as the expectations of them increase, so, too, do their ambitions. Some have called them self-important, self-righteous, or just plain pompous, but the fact remains: More so than any band in history, U2 seems genuinely convinced of the power of music to make a difference in some meaningful way. Maybe that’s what makes them great.
With the U2 hype machine reaching a new level of frenzy leading up to No Line‘s release, maybe– just maybe– it’s worth taking a moment to forget the marketing machine and think on a more meaningful level about what, exactly, makes this band so capable of supporting– maybe even deserving– all the hype they receive. I’ve asked a few of my fellow music critics and bloggers to join me in reflecting on the band’s myth and their music, and, with their help, I’ve been able to put together a Hurst Review special feature that is, in its own way, not unlike a U2 album– bloated, overlong, and ultimately pretty great.
One of my fantasies for some time has been offering a retreat based around how U2 have worked and reworked “I Will Follow” over their career. Their 29 years of changes to this song track a classic spiritual pilgrimage: from seeking to fervor to sending to struggle to reconciliation. The constants have been the chorus and verse structure, Larry’s drums, Edge’s relentless two-string assault, and Bono’s stalker chant: a minor third in the verses and one obsessive note in the chorus. But so much else has morphed from year to year.
The lyrics are an obvious example. As the seasons of U2’s work pass, is it a “mother” or “lover” in verse 2? “They pulled the four walls down,” or “you tore my four walls down”? Is the narrator’s predicament being “lost,” “caught at a stoplight,” or “chased by amazing grace”? And does the story end neatly with him “found,” or is the verdict Popmart’s trapped, angry “you took the soul from me/you put a hole in me”? (Or do we even sing the song at all? Not on ZooTV we don’t.)
Then there’s the mood of the center bridge. The original on Boy to me comes out eerie and maybe even a tad frightening. (“Your eyes” — they fascinate me, I can’t stay away, but when I do “go in there,” what am I getting myself into? ) In the later 80s it’s a more trusting encounter, and the transition out of it turns exultant. But the whole section is summarily cut for the Pop era: not quite able to meet those eyes just now? After 2001, the bridge returns, often with an extended numinous improvisation, band and crowd hovering in the moment as at the Elevation show in Turin: “Let the Spirit descend on this place/let the lines disappear off my face.”
Or finally the ending. “I Will Follow” concludes with a high-energy drive to the final note, but on the studio version 20-year-old Bono delivers his last word as if sleepwalking, almost as a question: “…follow…?” However, listen to a live performance just a year or so later, and caution is gone as he’s shouting “I will!” The band rush the tempo. It’s a vow. In Popmart, he’s age 37, “I Will Follow” has become a cry of mother-loss paired with “Mofo,” and the end is broken and desperate: “Don’t walk away!” And post-midlife, during the Vertigo tour, sometimes the song actually winds up in Koine Greek: “Agape, agape.”
Stalking agape, or facing the reality that it will never stop stalking you, or renewing your vows to it as in a lifelong marriage – those kinds of relational negotiations backdrop all the different versions of “I Will Follow.” If it’s in the setlist for the upcoming tour, I’ll be looking for it to reveal yet another nuance of how four artists are living a life in love with Love.
Co-editor, Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog
It’s 1980. My mom had recently died. I was still deeply in thrall to the punk rock explosion of the prior four years. I also was knee deep in a totally blind love affair with the music of Bruce Springsteen. I was devastated and emotionally shattered by my mother’s death but found great solace in the music. Always the music.
U2’s “I Will Follow” was a marriage of the lacerating scalpel punk rock had taken to the music industry with the romantic bombast and grandeur of Bruce Springsteen . It was perfect timing – the right song and the right band at a time when I desperately needed something to believe in. I was “a boy trying hard to be a man” and felt I was failing miserably. This seemed to be a new direction – non-ironic, hopeful and maybe even slightly naive lyrics married to that now iconic opening guitar riff. U2 sounded majestic and D.I.Y. at the same time – an almost impossible feat that they’ve rarely captured since on their way to world domination.
When Bono sings “If you walk away, walk away, I walk away, walk away… I will follow” it felt like the newly minted young man I had become was beckoning my heartbroken self to move on. And isn’t that what the greatest pop music does – take the universal and make it personal?
October was the first U2 album I heard. It’s not the best U2 album, but it remains a sentimental favorite, primarily because it contains the quintessential Bono song before he evolved into a Rock Icon. You all know Bono; pompous, arrogant rock star, bloated by his self-importance, wearing his Armani suits and designer shades, out saving the poor, wretched urchins of the world. But on October he was still Bono Vox, the earnest guy with the good voice, still capable of the little, self-effacing statements that carry more weight than all the anthemic arena shakers that followed all too quickly:
Gloria…in te domine
Oh Lord, if I had anything
Anything at all
I’d give it to you
I’d give it to you
He’s speaking in tongues there, in this case the ancient liturgical Latin of the early Christian Church. And if he’s singing about a messiah, his name is not Bono Vox. I had never heard anything like it, this visceral rock ‘n roll hymn of praise. Edge’s guitar riffs sounded unearthly, from another galaxy. Adam Clayton’s popping bass carried the middle section, that calm before the storm, and then all heaven was unleashed on that final, soaring chorus, Bono singing like a crazed choir boy and Larry Mullen Jr. thrashing on his drum kit as if he wanted to batter down the pearly gates. It was, and is, one of the signature moments in rock ‘n roll, an emphatic announcement that hope could be wedded to uncompromisingly insistent music. Nobody had made Christian music like this before, and if a thousand Christian bands have used it for their musical template since, that only accentuates how radical and utterly original it was at the time.
That was twenty-seven years ago. The Kingdom of U2 has risen to ascendancy since then. They are arguably the best band in the world They are inarguably the biggest band in the world. At some point the Kingdom of U2 will totter. That’s the way these things work. But not yet, their new album seems to suggest. In the meantime, my own little kingdom, circumscribed by my family and my career, is in danger of collapsing. I’ve watched half my retirement “nest egg” disappear in the past year, I’ve watched the value of my home decline to far less than what I paid for it ten years ago, I’ve watched my job disappear due to lack of new business. I’m wondering if it’s time to pull the kids out of college; a prospect I most assuredly do not relish.
But Bono had that one covered, too. “Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall/But You go on and on,” he assured me on the title track of that early, mind-blowing album. It’s another little statement, this one made quietly and without exuberant rock ‘n roll fanfare. It helps to center me; remind me of where my priorities lie. These days it seems more prophetic than ever, and October continues to open up in new and surprising ways.
I don’t have any grand U2 conversion story. My older brother would play this battered cassette from time to time, and that these four guys on the front — especially that one with the goofy hat! — were making this ethereal music astonished me.
The singles that braced the front end of the album were appealing, but I was soon drawn to some of the other cuts. I’d borrow the cassette from my brother and play “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “In God’s Country” over and over.
I eventually got my own Columbia House music subscription account (a good idea at the time), and with it copies of War and the somewhat new Achtung Baby. The latter was astonishing, especially to a 10-year-old mind. I didn’t know how to digest songs like “Ultraviolet” or “The Fly,” but I did. And the former album quickly became one of my favorite albums, and to this day remains my favorite U2 album. I can’t think of a bad track on War, and I know when I’m done typing this I’ll dig out the CD and play it.
Admittedly, I’ve had mixed reactions about some of their releases after Achtung Baby (though I have liked all of them to one degree or another). But because of what they’ve done — and because of what those dusty cassettes showed me that they could do — I’ll always be excited for a new U2 release. Always.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about U2 throughout the years, and I’ve always found it sad and odd that, of all of the albums in the band’s oeuvre, 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire seems to be the most overlooked. And this despite being absolutely critical to the band’s development as an artistic outfit.
I suspect this neglect is due, in large part, to the album’s murky, mercurial sound (due, no doubt, to the influence of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, now some of the band’s most constant collaborators). Compared to the earlier albums, especially the blitzkrieg that is War, The Unforgettable Fire sinks in the background, seemingly content to wrap the listener within shimmering layers of the Edge’s guitars and Bono’s impressionistic, stream of consciousness lyrics.
And yet, I find it impossible to conceive of The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, or any of U2’s other forays—however successful or unsuccessful—without The Unforgettable Fire. Within this album’s 10 songs, you hear a band seeking to shake things up, to break out of well-defined styles while remaining true to their spiritual and aesthetic ideals.
But ultimately, it has to come back to the songs. Many, including some of U2’s members, have criticized the album as being pretentious, but I find it consistently haunting and involving. There are the obvious numbers, such as “A Sort Of Homecoming” (which I count among my favorite worship songs) and “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, one of U2’s signature anthems. But it’s the other tracks that I always go back to, be it the titular track with its haunting imagery and gorgeous, understated guitar and orchestral arrangements, the dreamlike “Promenade”, or the hazy mirage that is “4th Of July”.
U2 had never made music like this before, and its refrains continue to echo throughout their catalog. Who knows what would’ve happened if U2 had given in to anxious label exexs and not taken the gambit represented by this album. But I doubt they would’ve become the biggest band in the world if they’d played it safe.
Just what is it about U2 that has made them so widely beloved over the last 30 years? For sure, they have an accessible pop/rock sound that has proven nearly as influential as The Beatles with the soaring vocals of Bono, the instantly recognizable guitar work of The Edge, and the solid rhythmic foundation of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr.
However, as much as I’ve always admired U2’s sound-beginning with The Joshua Tree, my first exposure to the band as a teen- for the longest time, I found their lyrics impenetrable and frustrating. How could a band such as this get away with blending together themes and imagery steeped in Christianity, social justice, sexuality, politics, family values, and pop culture excess, yet still find such widespread acceptance and acclaim? As a young listener, I wrestled over the notion that fans couldn’t possibly appreciate or understand U2’s songs in the same way because of all the (seemingly) disparate ideas.
Of course, I was a younger music aficionado at that time. It wasn’t until years later when a friend pointed out to me that I had hit on the very reason why U2’s songs are so deeply felt by so many, regardless of generation, country, or creed. The imagery is evocative and specific, yet broad enough in context to encourage wide interpretation while still touching on ideas common to us all.
For sure, the lyrics are often inspired by U2’s Christian roots and clearly reflect their spiritual beliefs, but they’re used in a way that makes themes of faith, hope, and love universal. How else to explain millions of fans coming together through the music of U2, eagerly buying the albums and singing songs like “Yahweh” and “40” at the top of their lungs at concerts around the world?
If U2 perhaps sounds a little too familiar in 21st century culture, keep in mind that they are enduring pioneers who have influenced artists throughout the music industry. And though the band is somewhat universal in scope, they have a special quality in both music and lyric that allows them to bridge listeners together like no other band today. The proof is in the anticipation that comes with every new album U2 releases, regardless of whether it disappoints (Pop), impresses (All That You Can’t Leave Behind), or merely satisfies (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) their broad and loyal following.
Rattle & Hum is certainly not one of U2’s highly regarded albums but I have an enduring fondness for it. Part of it is timing. Arriving smack-dab in the middle of my high school years, it served as a soundtrack to a mediocre rockumentary and for my adolescence, providing background music for aimless evenings with friends and an excuse to hunt out import singles to use as evidence of fandom. Mostly I like it because it’s the only outright mess U2 ever have made. They have made worse albums – ideas muddled or unrealized, records without many good songs – but Rattle & Hum is sloppy, stitched together from rejects and remnants, live tracks and moments of brilliance, almost none of it having much to do with the strengths of either The Joshua Tree or the band as a whole. It is famously the record where they discovered America – a country they had been touring for, oh, a better part of the decade, a country that gave them their near-definitive live document Under a Blood Red Sky – but a better way to put that is where they bowed in deference to the pillars of American music, all the better to win the respect of Baby Boomers they pretty much already wooed with The Joshua Tree. As they raced to embrace their role as keeper of the flame they did things they should not have done: hammering home the spirituality of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with a gaudy gospel choir, attacking Albert Goldman and stealing “Helter Skelter” back from Charles Manson, shoehorning BB King into a song inspired by a vague second-hand concept of the blues, a move nearly as patronizing as the inclusion of a snippet of Satan & Adam’s street-corner patter. Embarrassments abound, capped off by Bono exhorting Edge to “play the blues” just before sputtering out his signature staccato echoey eighths.
And yet…all this mess is why I like this album, hell this whole blasted era for U2. Sure, it helps that there are some great songs to anchor the record – “Desire” proves Bo Diddley’s beat is deathless, the Dylan collaboration “Love Rescue Me” and “All I Want Is You” have quiet majesty, while U2 somehow pull of a Stax pastiche on “Angel of Harlem” that actually works as punchy soul and a Billie Holiday tribute – but the album’s character is its disorder, how U2 threw so much into this double-album they didn’t realize they relegated two of their better tunes, “Hallejulah (Here She Come)” and “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel,” to B-sides. They’re a great live band, which you can sometimes hear here, but you can also hear how very, very bad they can be when they overplay their hand, as they do on the lead-footed “Helter Skelter.” Every one of their good instincts is apparent and answered by a cut where those good intentions go wrong; it’s their yin and their yang in one. A decade later, U2 moved into an era where they overanalyzed every little move, resulting in records both bad (Pop) and good (All That You Can’t Leave Behind) but here, they didn’t think they just acted, entirely unselfconscious of their puppy dog idolatry, entirely unaware of whether what they were doing was even any good. They were human, not superstars, and humans are messy, filled with contradictions, alternating between dashed expectations and surprising grace, just like this Rattle & Hum. It’s not their best, not by a long shot, but it is who they are.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Senior Editor, All Music Guide
In the 1980s, U2 had a reputation amongst some of the world’s more cynical music critics as being “the optimistic band”– an odd claim, given the anxiety and unease that fueled Boy and October, the fear of global meltdown that loomed over War, and the spiritual anguish of The Joshua Tree; indeed, the band’s landmark album ended with a tearful lament for the casualties of corrupt South American politics– hardly the mark of a group of cock-eyed, pie-in-the-sky idealists.
I’m almost convinced that U2’s rep as a bunch of glass-half-full goody-goodies stemmed largely from “Pride (In the Name of Love),” the arena-raising anthem for MLK that, to this day, has the power to summon entire stadiums full of people to their feet, chanting along with Bono about the astonishing power of love. For all of that song’s idealism, though, it seems to me that Bono’s take on the subject of love has always been a nuanced one, as gritty in its realism as it is lofty in its romanticism. To me, his songs have always spoken in equal measure about love’s true power and its inherent treachery. That dichotomy was brought to the fore with the band’s touted reinvention, Achtung Baby, an album that ostensibly changed U2’s image forever. Its greatest irony, of course, is that Bono was still singing about the very same things– just from a slightly different angle. Nowhere is that more evident than on the album’s chilling final song, “Love is Blindness,” in which Bono combines his familiar obsessions with religion and violence, weds them together, and charts a course for previously unexplored (by him, anyway) levels of darkness; essentially, it’s a song about what happens when love veers off course, when passion and zeal are misguided and misinformed. The song’s protagonist is a man who loves his country and his religion just a bit too much, and, in uncharacteristically cold, sterile terms, Bono draws the thin, perilous line between well-meaning conviction and outright religious terrorism. Could it be that, more than a decade after he started singing about love’s power, Bono finally stumbled upon a character who loved just a little too much?
He returned to the question throughout the next decade– like Achtung, Zooropa and Pop both mined similar thematic terrain, but from a startlingly different perspective, unearthing the dark, seedy underbelly of love and spirituality. One of the standout tracks from Pop— a spaced-out jazz number called “Please,” which anticipated some of Radiohead’s work– returned to the overzealous religious fanatics of “Love is Blindness,” but here Bono was even more precise and nuanced in his language; the convictions that lead one to detonate a car bomb declare a jihad, he says, are not love at all, but something wholly other, something that Bono rejects out of hand: “You, my love, I could never believe.”
Never one to abandon an obsession or a recurring theme, Bono has continued these musings even into U2’s third decade, but, once again, the paradigm has shifted. Where once he sang of a love corrupted into some horribly, monsterous fanaticism, now he sings of a love tempered into something more closely resembling apathy; in an age where religious faith has largely become equated with an emotional experience, is it any wonder that a man like Bono can look to our ideals of love and find only hollow sentiment and treacle? “Crumbs from Your Table,” an overlooked gem of a song from 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, finds the singer indicting a religious culture that preaches humility, mercy, and, above all, charity, but turns a deaf ear to the plight of the needy. (Aww, man– is he talking about those Africans again?) And on “A Man and a Woman,” he once again draws a thin but crucial dividing line: “I would never take a chance/ on losing love to find romance,” he sings, and there, in one simple couplet, it’s all laid out in the open. It isn’t a very long trip from real love to something almost like hate– just a few steps in either direction, Bono seems to suggest. For over three decades now, he’s been dancing smack dab in the middle, pulled by either extreme but determined to keep his eye on that space between them. And in a world where, far too often, love truly is blindness, I’m grateful for his vigilance.
The Hurst Review
Like many evangelicals who grew up in the 80s amid conservative, fundamentalist-ish Bible Belt churches, my definition of “Christian” music was pretty rigid: it basically included anything I could buy at Mardel’s (the Wal-Mart of Midwestern Christian retailers) or anything that Breakaway said was cool. It definitely did NOT include any band that routinely performed at AIDS-relief concerts or occasionally dropped the f-bomb. But at some point in the 1990s, I realized that those rigid demarcations were ridiculous. Who said “Christian” music had to be made in Nashville or carried in Mardel’s?
U2 was one of the bands that broadened my notion of Christian music. I mean, who could argue that October or Joshua Tree are not Christian but Creed’s Human Clay—an album my high school youth pastor ceaselessly promoted—is?
But enough talk about what is or isn’t “Christian.” It’s kind of a pointless label. The point about U2—the point they have made time and time again—is that they make quality, memorable, resonant music that is informed by life, God, faith, and other human things. Bono came to Wheaton College—”The Harvard of Christian Schools”—when I was a student there, but that doesn’t make U2 Christian. The band has a song about Psalm 40 and dozens of other songs that reference Jesus or Bible verses. Some Episcopal churches have structured their Eucharist around U2 songs. None of this makes U2 “Christian.”
But watching U2 perform in their epic, to-the-heavens manner—the haunting opening strains of “Where the Streets Have No Name” to a captivated world during the post-9/11 Super Bowl halftime show, for example—cannot be described in any other manner than spine-tingling and spiritual, if not Christian.
U2 isn’t perfect and is something over-deified. But their music–however it is labeled–speaks for itself, and it speaks profoundly.
A while back I lived in Dubuque, Iowa with two other guys in an old two story house; the kind of old house with a big front porch and a swing, a fantastic attic and a great, creepy basement. Mostly wood, the old place creaked and moaned in the wind, shivering through the Iowa seasons. As I recall, it was cold that winter, frigid as usual. The snow fell heavily and sat for months, piling up or freezing into mounds of rock hard slush and grime. But, of course, long winters make for wonderful springs and that spring was as wonderful as any I’ve ever known. It was marked by long walks on our property as the flowers slowly, but surely, began to bloom and the birds came home. Its amazing to see how much warmth and sunshine mean to the world when it’s been away for so long. It was a season marked by long, glorious evenings in our attic spent reading aloud, writing, sharing absurd jokes and listening to great music, eyes closed or singing along or simply just taking it in. Great music like U2.
Yes, I remember falling in love with U2 that spring.
Bono, the Edge, Larry and Adam together were a fixture, almost always echoing through the woodworking, piping through the speakers in the bathroom or the kitchen or the attic. Their songs were often on our lips, mostly poorly but always passionately. My roommate, Graeme, had a huge poster on which were displayed each of the U2 album covers, from the beginning through All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I remember vividly staring up at the images and thinking about how long they’d been playing together, thinking how amazing each of those albums were, how on each of them there were moving, personal, profound songs, even on their poorer efforts. I thought about how well they must know each other, about what touring with Bono must be like, about how great The Edge is. I remember doubting that another band would – or will – ever come along again with the longevity and influence of U2, especially in the current landscape of modern pop music. But, I didn’t always think that way. In fact, before I moved in to the old house my relationship with the guys from Dublin was much less intimate.
I’d always listened to them and appreciated their music, not to mention their substantial influence on modern rock music. But I didn’t love them yet. I had no real personal connection to them. A writer I work with talks about what he refers to as “melodo-sensory connectivism;” that is, the idea that often when we have a special, personal experience with a piece of music we come to identify that piece of music with our memories of the place or time in which we heard it. It works with food or scent as well. Well, I hadn’t had that kind of experience with U2 yet. Not until that spring when I lived in the old house and we piped their songs through the speakers into the bathroom. More specifically, I remember learning to love them when one of the guys played U2 Go Home for me, a DVD of their live performance at Slane Castle in Ireland. It was a homecoming for the band, not only because they were back in Ireland, but also because they’d played a show there 20 year earlier to a much smaller crowd. This time, in 2001, there were 80,000 screaming fans, singing and bouncing in unison, a massive chorus of joy and energy that the DVD captures with breathtaking visuals. Think about that. 80,000 fans. That’s Obama-esque.
About two thirds of the way through the DVD, during “All I Want Is You,” I had that “melodo-sensory” experience, one that I think of every time I listen to U2. The lights go down, just low enough to reveal how dark the night is, and we get a shot of the magnificent, beautiful Slane Castle on a high hill overlooking the crowd. Then the Edge eases in with that familiar sound while Bono dedicates the song to his wife. He’s mostly silhouette in the subtle lights, the crowd reflecting the blue lights of the stage, lighters and cellphones held aloft. Bono sings the first verse before pausing; the Edge eases onward, inviting the crowd into the moment. All 80,000 begin to clap in unison, almost on cue, as Bono continues: “You say you’ll give me a highway with no one on it/ a treasure just to look upon it/ all the riches in the night…” The verse ends and the Edges guides us forward as Bono enjoys the cool air of the evening and the beauty of the moment. But then he gets to the line,”You say you want diamonds on a ring of gold / Your story to remain untold /Your love not to grow cold” and he sings like he means it, like its personal, like he believes it possible. And as the song picks up and Larry and Adam join in, we believe it too. Suddenly, Bono is singing at the top of his lungs “All I want is you” again and again, and the crowd is singing with him, responsively like a choir or a congregation, all 80,000 of them believing, at least for these few minutes that their love really might not grow cold. But just when the song really gets moving, the instruments stop and its just Bono and the crowd and probably you and I in our living rooms, singing at the top of our lungs: “all I want is you.” He sings it like a prayer and maybe it is. And the beauty of the moment is in the 80,000 and one, not just the one. Together, everyone singing, praying, loving, enjoying with everything they have, are a congregation and a community, united, at least for a little while, in the power and beauty of art. Then suddenly, like a joyful noise, the Edge dives into the gorgeous intro for “Where the Streets Have No Name” and the lights come up and Bono begins to race around the runway of the stage and the crowd, as one accord, begins to leap up and down, filled with the sheer catharsis of the moment and the sounds. I remember being in awe and thinking of the purity of that moment, thinking of the beautiful purity of a work of art shared and enjoyed, the way that sharing breeds community.
So for me, U2 represents purity and cleansing, the purity of spring, of friendship, of community, of joy. U2 is the catharsis of melted snow and flowers blooming, of the smell of old wood and old books, of home. U2 is, for me, representative of how much warmth and sunshine mean to the world when it’s been away for long.
Editor, Into the Hill
Bono sent me on a mission to Africa. Let me explain:
While there are numerous U2 songs and albums that have personally touched me, my story goes beyond the music and straight to the man behind it. I’ve loved U2’s music for more than two decades, but it wasn’t till 2003 that Bono rocked my world via a cover story in Christianity Today magazine, for which I’m now an associate editor. In that story, titled “Bono’s American Prayer,” the singer challenged American Christians and the church to respond more generously to global poverty and the HIV/AIDS crisis. And though that wasn’t a new message to me, Bono said several things that struck me.
“I am just trying to figure it out,” he told CT. “Everybody wants to make an impact with their life, whether it’s small scale with friends or family . . . or whether it’s on a grand scale, in changing their communities and beyond. I just want to realize my potential.” He recalled one pastor’s recent advice: Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Find out what God’s doing. It’s already blessed. “That’s what I want,” Bono said. “I want to align my life with that.”
And then this clincher: “There’s nothing worse than a rock star with a cause. But celebrity is currency and we want to spend it this way” – that is, “spending” it by not only raising awareness of these issues, but actually doing something about it. That quote hit me hard. I wasn’t a celebrity, and I certainly had very little currency (hey, I work for a non-profit!). But what did I have, and what could I do with it? I soon became a founding member of my church’s HIV/AIDS ministry, and two years later, my wife and I were leading a missions trip to Kenya as part of that ministry. And I’m still involved.
Bono challenged me to be a part of making a difference, the Holy Spirit gave me a kick in the pants, and I got up and moved. That’s what U2 has done for me – or more accurately, to me.
Associate editor, Christianity Today magazine