Friday, April 24, 2009

Bono on Easter: "It’s 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is?"

hi: John Meadows sent me this article from the New York Times, written by Bono with some reflections on the significance of Easter in our current cultural context.

I AM in Midtown Manhattan, where drivers still play their car horns as if they were musical instruments and shouting in restaurants is sport.

I am a long way from the warm breeze of voices I heard a week ago on Easter Sunday.
“Glorify your name,” the island women sang, as they swayed in a cut sandstone church. I was overwhelmed by a riot of color, an emotional swell that carried me to sea.

Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm — and it crescendos this time of year. The rumba of Carnival gives way to the slow march of Lent, then to the staccato hymnals of the Easter parade. From revelry to reverie. After 40 days in the desert, sort of ...

Carnival — rock stars are good at that.

“Carne” is flesh; “Carne-val,” its goodbye party. I’ve been to many. Brazilians say they’ve done it longest; they certainly do it best. You can’t help but contract the fever. You’ve got no choice but to join the ravers as they swell up the streets bursting like the banks of a river in a flood of fun set to rhythm. This is a Joy that cannot be conjured. This is life force. This is the heart full and spilling over with gratitude. The choice is yours ...

It’s Lent I’ve always had issues with. I gave it up ... self-denial is where I come a cropper. My idea of discipline is simple — hard work — but of course that’s another indulgence.

Then comes the dying and the living that is Easter.

It’s a transcendent moment for me — a rebirth I always seem to need. Never more so than a few years ago, when my father died. I recall the embarrassment and relief of hot tears as I knelt in a chapel in a village in France and repented my prodigal nature — repented for fighting my father for so many years and wasting so many opportunities to know him better. I remember the feeling of “a peace that passes understanding” as a load lifted. Of all the Christian festivals, it is the Easter parade that demands the most faith — pushing you past reverence for creation, through bewilderment at the idea of a virgin birth, and into the far-fetched and far-reaching idea that death is not the end. The cross as crossroads. Whatever your religious or nonreligious views, the chance to begin again is a compelling idea.

For the rest of the article, click here.


joe 6-pack said...

... "Carnival is over. Commerce has been overheating markets and climates ... the sooty skies of the industrial revolution have changed scale and location, but now melt ice caps and make the seas boil in the time of technological revolution. Capitalism is on trial; globalization is, once again, in the dock. We used to say that all we wanted for the rest of the world was what we had for ourselves. Then we found out that if every living soul on the planet had a fridge and a house and an S.U.V., we would choke on our own exhaust.

Lent is upon us whether we asked for it or not. And with it, we hope, comes a chance at redemption. But redemption is not just a spiritual term, it’s an economic concept. At the turn of the millennium, the debt cancellation campaign, inspired by the Jewish concept of Jubilee, aimed to give the poorest countries a fresh start. Thirty-four million more children in Africa are now in school in large part because their governments used money freed up by debt relief. This redemption was not an end to economic slavery, but it was a more hopeful beginning for many. And to the many, not the lucky few, is surely where any soul-searching must lead us."

Brian Emmet said...

Can someone help me understand why Bono is any more to be paid attention to than Mick Jagger or Steve Tyler? Let the cudgels fall upon me!

joe 6-pack said...

hmmmm..... maybe because he is a committed believer and also committed to good works that glorify God? At least that is why I pay more attention to him.

Brian Emmet said...

Sorry--I was tired and crabby.

joe 6-pack said...

np, you are allowed after a long trip and dealing with the loss of your father.

I would probably also listen to Mick Jagger and Steve Tyler if they had something to say ... by-the-way, who the heck is Steve Tyler?

I also listen to you even though you are NOT a rock star ...

Brian Emmet said...

OK, OK, I take your point. Steve Tyler, father of Liv, is the frontman for Aerosmith ("Walk This Way")... I know, I'm dating myself: Jagger and Tyler are both in their 60s, and still cavorting like teenagers. Sad, cyncial, or way cool? Anyway, I react against the cult of celebrity and wonder if any of the celebrity activists are accomplishing as much as we might think/hope. I'm just about finished with Christian Smith's book "Soul Searching," that looks at the religious lives of American teens, 13-17. Interesting, scary, and hopeful, all at the same time. There's probably no way to measure it, but I wonder about the lasting spiritual impact that Bono has on his audiences (as opposed to the good things he seems to do privately with his time and wealth)... maybe it doesn't matter.

joe 6-pack said...

well... I think the same could be said for anyone, don't you think? What kind of lasting impact do you or I have on our audiences? or any of the peole we know? I'm guessing very little.

Cavorting like teenagers in their 60s? It almost sounds like me -- but I am only 58.

Personally, I think it is good to have some positive, kingdom oriented voices from outside the church and outside the pulpit. I also like Delilah ... the night time pop music show oriented around romance, love and committment ... she is a believer, and she has wonderful ministry of encouragment ...although she is NOT a teacher or theologian. you go:

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. THE MESSAGE:
4-11 "God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful!"

joe 6-pack said...

ok, I deleted Bono's picture to avoid any hint of celebrity idolization and posted a new topic from Dave Dunbar's Missional Journal. (just messing with you Brian, evil laugh)

steve H said...

Thanks for taking this up while I was out of town so I wouldn't be tempted to get too far into the topic.

It was quite enlightening to read Bono's words about repenting of his prodigal nature after his father's death. That would seem to go a long ways toward explaining what I have seen as "a re-emphasis on the faith" in the lyrics of several songs on the last three U2 albums.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, no one may listen to us, but they don't idolize us, either! Unlike Bono, you and I will never qualify as celebrities.

While I enjoyed Bono's NYT piece, I was also left feeling a bit flat. It may be all that Bono said all he could get away with with The Times, but Easter is not primarily about us getting a fresh start on life. Jesus' resurrection was not, in the first instance, geared towards making us better people--that reality comes later, but only after, some rather significant spiritual work for us and in us.

joe 6-pack said...

what do you have against celebrities? I agree with you when they are doing stupid stuff (most of the time) or off the chain idealistic leftist politics (most of the time) so I find it a bit refreshing to hear "a celebrity" talk about repentence, the ressurrection and other good stuff. I'm not sure its fair to hold Bono to the same standard you would hold Wright when he discusses the resurrection ... or even to hold him to the same standard you and I woudl hold one another as spiritual leaders. If you put him in the context of Sean Penn, Madonna and Alex Baldwin, he comes off brillantly.

by-the-way, this seems like a silly issue to argue over, so let me know and I will happily delete the stupid post and be done with it. I only posted it because I thought it went with the Wright piece on Easter and because for better or worse, people do listen to him. He probably has more credibility than any other public "church leader" today with Christian young people other than Rick Warren.

steve H said...

I wouldn't advise deleting the article. Pop culture in general stinks in relation to Biblical values and standards; however, when a pop culture icon actually wrestles with truth and/or tries to live by a higher set of values he or she can be a positive influence. At the least what they say or do may provided openings for meaningful conversation with those who put value in that "icon."

just joe said...

Steve: THANK YOU ... uhuh, uhuh, uhuh, uhuh!! take that and smoke it Brian!

Brian and I are both a little cranky this week. I had a jezabel spirit sink her teeth into my ass last Wed. night and start chewing -- while going after my huevos with a machete... not a pleasant few days. I am only now starting to bounce back and I'm looking for someone to take it out on ... (wink)

I guess the good news is that the unholy astral spirit realized I was not giving into seduction so it changed up to intimidation. (Wait - can demons read blogs? darn)

John M. said...

Wow Joseph, sounds like you've had an exciting few days while I was gone for the weekend.

Brian just for the record I would have posted the Bono article here had I known how. Since I didn't, I sent it to Joseph mentioining the above, and he, without coercion, put it up. I thought it was relevent because of the Wright disucssion about Easter.

Also, for good or ill, Bono is one of the most respected individuals and voices among those 30 and under in the world. So, perhaps we should at least be conversant with what he says. After all, the NY Times has not offered any of us a column!

Personally I was exited that he had the balls to lay out his personal repentence the way he did and actually talk about Easter and resurrection in a public "secular" forum.

Remember that he's a poet and artist and activist -- not a theologian or Bible expositor -- although like Dylan there are a lot of biblical allusions in his lyrics that go unoticed by many. There is also a foundation of integrity and morality in his songs that is pretty amazing for a "rock star". Even his love songs, although real and earthy, usually have those other qualities, and a close listening reveals that many of them are written to or about his wife to whom he has been with for 34 years and been married to for 27 years. They have four children (all born after they were married). Rather domesticated and committed for your typical celebrity, rock star.

If you have time, go to You Tube and search "U2 Magnificent". Several versions will come up. Watch the one that was performed on The David Letterman show about a month ago. See if it looks and sounds like worship (of God, not Bono) to does to me. Poor Letterman was pretty much taken off guard. All he could say afterward was, "Isn't that something...?" The song is from their latest album "No Line on the Horizon", which has several other biblically oriented songs.

B-t-w, Bono and U2 are not a shoe-in with all Chritian youth -- at least young teens. I was watching the above clip during my hall duty after school a couple weeks ago. One girl's comment was, "U2 confuses me. They seem to send a lot of mixed messages." Discernment or the one-dimensional, un-nuanced view of a Jr. High student?

Ambiguity or artistry? I guess it's all in the ear of the listener.

It's pretty obvious that U2's music is not directed to Christians anyway. Prophetic or pathetic? You decide.

Brian Emmet said...

I'd only say that if we're supposed to agree with every post, it will be hard to have any fun! I'm glad to have the Bono piece, glad to be correctively and lovingly assaulted for my cluelessness pertaining to him and his work.

I'm not sure I buy the argument that because Bono is a poet/musician and not a theologian, that he thereby gets a pass on being theologically acute, especially given his status and celebrity and platform. Our history is replete with folks who were both creative artists and Biblically insightful and faithful. Biblical allusions and references don't mean much--every President in recent memory has quoted Scripture in, e.g., his inaugural address, and they all of them make hash of their texts, running the risk of actually taking the Lord's name in vain.

Other than that, I think Bono is terrific!

just joe said...

can you refresh my memory of where his theology goes amiss?

My point was that one expect depth, accuracy and subtle theological nuance from someone like Wright or Piper (they don't agree with one another about the atonement, by-the-way),

but when a musician (or an artist, school teacher, bartender, grad student, etc) says "God is good" and "I love the ressurection" ... it is a good thing in context, alhtough maybe lacking in theological muscle.

Brian Emmet said...

Sorry: a whole piece "on Easter" that doesn't mention Jesus? It's not what Bono affirms that's a problem for me; it's what he never seems to get around to.

just joe said...

ok, now that makes more sense to me than just not liking to focus on what celebrities are saying. Perhaps I misunderstood you in the beginning, but I thought your issue was with Bono or with "celebrities" ... a critique based on the absence of any mention of Jesus seems fair enough to me ... although I wonder if it being published in the New York Times has something to do with it. I don't know, but I grant you your point.