U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin. The group consists of Bono (lead vocals and guitar) The Edge (guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals) Adam Clayton (bass guitar) and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion).
U2 are one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 170 million records worldwide. They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band and, in 2005, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone ranked U2 at number 22 in its list of the ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time’.
I’ve been a fan of U2 since the iconic Boy was released in 1980 and have 13 of their studio albums (plus Live and greatest hits compilations) though I mostly have a soft spot for everything up to 1987’s The Joshua Tree! Whilst their early sound was rooted in post-punk, it eventually grew to incorporate influences from many genres of popular music – some better than others, it has to be said – and they have maintained a sound built on solid melodic instrumentals. Their lyrics, often embellished with spiritual imagery, focus on personal themes and sociopolitical concerns, human rights and philanthropic causes.
I enjoyed the following article in Christianity Magazine about how, on Saturday 26th September 1976, four teenagers decided to get together to make music. Forty years of faith-fuelled songs later, Steve Stockman presents some of Bono’s best quotes on God, Christianity and the Bible:
1. Bono on why Jesus died
“I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb…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.” (From Bono on Bono)
2. Experiencing the presence of God
“I just go where the life is, you know? Where I feel the Holy Spirit. If it’s in the back of a Roman Catholic cathedral, in the quietness and the incense, which suggest the mystery of God, of God’s presence, or in the bright lights of the revival tent, I just go where I find life. I don’t see denomination.” (From an interview with Christianity Today)
3. Why Jesus isn’t letting you off the hook!
“Jesus isn’t lettin’ you off the hook. The Scriptures don’t let you off the hook so easily…When people say, you know, ‘Good teacher’, ‘Prophet’, ‘Really nice guy’…this is not how Jesus thought of Himself. So you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case…You have to make a choice on that. And I believe that Jesus was, you know, the Son of God.” (From an interview with Focus on the Family)
4. Why church music should be better
“I remember the psalms from the Church of Ireland as a child. I remember thinking ‘great words, shame about the tunes’. Except for ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ which was a great tune and I really liked that. [The Psalms] have this rawness and brutal honesty…the pslamist is brutally honest about the explosive joy he is feeling and the deep sorrow or confusion. I often think, ‘gosh why isn’t church music more like that?'” (From his conversation with Eugene Peterson)
5. Grace vs karma
“It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people…At the centre 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…Its 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 will you 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. 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.” (From Bono on Bono)
6. Understanding the Old Testament
“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.” (From Bono on Bono)
7. What it means to be a Christian
“We have a pastor who said to us, ‘Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing, Bono.’…He said, ‘Find out what God is doing, ’cause it’s already blessed’…When you align yourself with God’s purpose as described in the Scriptures, something special happens to your life.” (From an interview with Focus on the Family)
8. The Biblical view of poverty
“It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time. You know, the only time Jesus Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor. ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.'” (From Bono’s speech at the 54th National Prayer Breakfast in America)
9. Why religion can get in the way of God
“One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God. For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land…and in this country, seeing God’s second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash…in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV. Even though I was a believer. Perhaps because I was a believer.” (From Bono’s speech at the 54th National Prayer Breakfast in America)
10. Being honest with God
“What’s so powerful about the Psalms are, as well as they’re being gospel and songs of praise, they are also the Blues. It’s very important for Christians to be honest with God, which often, you know, God is much more interested in who you are than who you want to be.” (From an interview with Focus on the Family)