ONE(song by U2): A cultural text that changed the world.

The world of the text:

“One” is a song by Irish Band U2.  It is the third track from the band’s 1991 album, Achtung Baby.  It has consistently been acclaimed as one of the greatest songs of all time.  Music journalists and critics have hailed it as “a song that will last the test of time” and “a song that can be sung in any genre” and “an all-time classic”.  It has just importantly been hailed as “the song that saved U2”.   Considering the band’s impact on individuals, rock music, various sub-cultures, and humanitarian efforts, it can be argued that this one song thereby, has had a dramatic impact on our world.

A most unique characteristic of the song is how the lyrics transcend meaning and can be interpreted in many ways.  Thereby, making it special and connecting to a multitude of diverse people and causes.   The meaning of the song has been greatly debated.    I was able to find over a dozen different interpretations of the lyrics including diverse comments provided by the artists themselves.   It appears that the band clearly understands that within the postmodern mindset, the song has more value as a song with multiple truths and applications.  In other words, the song can have a different meaning for each person that listens to it, not unlike a great piece of art.

Bono describes the theme of the song as “a song of oneness, but not the hippie idea of ‘Let’s all live together.’ It is, in fact the opposite. It’s saying, we are one, but we’re not the same.  It’s not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive.  It’s a reminder that we have no choice.”  Therefore, Bono is describing the song as it applies to society as a whole.  However, the Edge describes it as a “bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty heavy stuff.”  Another point he made which I believe is critical is that he suggested that the line “we get to carry each other” introduces “grace” into the song due to the wording “get to” as opposed to “got to”.  In other words, it’s a privilege, as opposed to an obligation to support and love each other.

There has also been considerable speculation that the song is considered a conversation between a father and his HIV+ gay son based on three factors:  It was released in March 1992 as an AIDS benefit single with all the band’s royalties being donated to AIDS research; the cover of the single was a photograph by David Wajnarowicz, a gay artist who died of AIDS; and its first music video depicted the band dressed in drag.

Besides the aforementioned interpretations, some of the other popular suggestions for the song’s meaning include:  Edge’s divorce, the previous disunity of East vs. West Germany and their reunification, the band’s present conflict and turmoil, Bono’s relationship with his father, America’s response to Africa, or the conflict between man and God.

The last meaning chosen secondary to Bono’s additional verse called the “Hear us coming” verse which he has added to the song many times in concert:  “You hear us coming Lord?/ You hear us call?/ You hear us knocking, knocking at the door?/ You hear us coming Lord?/ You hear us call?/ You hear us scratching, will you make me crawl?”

The interpretation that makes the most sense to me is the one described by each of the band’s members, Bono and the Edge.  It is a highly emotional conversation between two people and their troubled personal relationship that turns into a song relating to the world’s troubled relationships and the need to realize that we must work out our differences because loving each other is a necessity and privilege.

For example, let’s consider a married couple (Edge and his wife, a gay couple, or any emotional relationship in turmoil) in which one partner has done something to greatly hurt the other, in this example let’s say it’s a man and a woman and the man has cheated on his wife.  The first third of the song is the husband pleading to his wife, the next third(from “Have you…” until “….make me crawl”) is the wife’s response.  Finally, in the last third, Bono takes the liberty to expand the conflict to society in general when he sings…… “One Love/ One blood/ One life…..Sisters/ Brothers…..etc”.    Bono created the quintessential postmodern song by creating lyrics that relate to both personal conflict and worldly conflict in one work of art.

This explanation makes even more sense when you replace “Well it’s too late tonight” with “Is it too late tonight?” and replace “Lepers in your head” with “Lepers in your bed”.  These small lyrical alterations are common place during the live shows.

The world behind the text:

“One” is considered a rock ballad.  Rock understood as Rock & Roll music.  Rock & Roll began to gain popularity in the early 1950s.  Rock & Roll was a slang term for having sex used by the black community.  The Christian community and critics, in general, saw the art form as anti-Christian pointing out that the vast majority of the rock industry themes included sex, drugs, rebellion, and Satan.  Most Christians felt, as many still do today, that Christianity and Rock were in direct opposition to one another.  However, no one could deny the power that the music had on popular culture and society.  Many argue that Rock has had more influence on society than any other form of art in the history of the world.

In response to Rock, many Christian critics, called for a separation between Christian and Rock culture.   Others decided to imitate Rock but in a Christian way.  This imitation is thought to have been started in the U.S. in the late 60s and early 70s.with artists such as Larry Norman and Petra.  It was also strongly influenced by the Gospel music of artists such as Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin.  However, this Christian form of rock music was not considered its own genre until it was coined “Jesus Music” in the 1970s.  This “Christian hippie” Rock music based on love and peace transformed into a multi-million dollar industry re-named as “Contemporary Christian Music, CCM” in the 1980s and has gained in popularity since.  However, its influence and power in the secular world continues to be minimal when compared to today’s popular music.

U2  formed in 1976 in Dublin, Ireland.   Each member of the band attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School.  Larry Mullen Jr. posted a note on the school’s notice board to start a band resulting in the eventual development of U2, two years later, consisting of Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry).  The band chose “U2” because of its ambiguity.  This is significant to point out because many of their song lyrics are also ambiguous very often having “underlying Christian or scriptural components”.

During the early development of the band, there was great conflict. Northern Ireland was Roman Catholic and Southern Protestant,  creating national conflict often escalating into violence.  To further complicate issues, Bono’s father was Roman Catholic and mother Protestant.  These factors greatly influenced Bono, the band’s headman and lyric creator.

Three of the members (Bono, Edge, and Larry) were members of a Christian group called the “Shalom Fellowship.”  Their membership and beliefs were actually seen by the band as a rebellion towards their subculture.  It was here and amongst themselves that they developed a strong, but very personal, Christian faith – a faith that consisted of strong rebellion against organized religion and the conflicts it could create, as well as, a strong theology towards the cross and grace.

U2 signed to a major record label, Island Records, in 1980.  This is significant considering the label was secular.  Steve Stockman, in his book, Walk On, The Spiritual Journey of U2, makes the point that had the band begun in the U.S., it may have very likely signed with a Christian label considering the member’s extremely strong faith. But, unlike America, in Ireland the band did not have this option.  Stockman also felt this was critical to the public acceptance of the much of the band’s early Christian-based lyrics and songs on the first two albums – songs such as “40” which comes directly from Psalms 40 and “Gloria”.  Their first album, titled October and released in 1981, was reviewed in Hot Press as a “Christian LP”.

The band was known throughout the 80s as one that exuded both strong rebellious and spiritual tones .  They became an international  act by the mid -80s, but broke through with the album, The Joshua Tree, in 1987 as one of the best bands in the world and superstars.  The album topped the charts in 20 countries, won “Best” by the Grammy Awards, and achieved record breaking critical and popular success becoming one of the world’s all-time selling albums.  However, their next album, Rattle & Hum, released in 1988, although fairly successful with sales, caught massive critical backlash stating that the band had become megalomaniacs and portrayed itself as extremely pompous, self-righteous, and unoriginal.

Bono latter described that “We were shell-shocked. We had become the enemy.”  Upon completing the tour in 1989, the band was exhausted both mentally and creatively.  Bono stated “we were creatively running out of steam.”  At the end of the tour, the band knew that Rattle and Hum was not “them” and that they had lost the fun in what they were doing.  Bono stated at the end of the last concert of the tour to the audience “we are going to go away for a while and dream it all up again.”  That “dreaming up again”  and as Bono stated “cutting down the Joshua Tree” became much more difficult than expected nearly spelling out the end of the band and bringing us full circle to “One”.

Seeking  inspiration from the German reunification, the band decided to move their recording sessions to Berlin’s Hansa Studios in late 1990.  Two members of the band (Bono and the Edge) wanted to move in a new direction by creating a vastly different  sound more similar to European industrial and electronic dance music .  However, the remaining two members of the band (Adam Clayton and especially Larry Mullen Jr.) preferred their previous sound.  Due to this conflict, the band had great difficulty developing demos or getting anything going for weeks on end. On top of this conflict, the Edge was going through a divorce with his wife involving their three children. Things looked very bleak. Mullin said he “thought this might be the end” of the band.   Bono latter described the band “At a pivot point.  The idea of the band breaking up was a real possibility.”

The Edge was working on two different chord progressions on an early version of the song, Mysterious Ways (this has been debated as Ultraviolet –Light My Way, but is incorrect). He took both chord progressions to the band and producer Daniel Lanois.  They liked both chords, but Lanois suggested playing both chords together sequentially.   Edge stated “suddenly something very powerful (was) happening in the room. Everyone recognized it was a special piece.  We caught a glimpse of what the song could be” – that “something special” rapidly developed into “One”.   The lead singer, Bono, created the lyrics, and recalled that they “just fell out of the sky, a gift.”  This may be fairly interpreted as a “divine gift” considering his spiritual background.

The world in front of the text:

The song’s writing inspired the band and changed the outlook of the sessions.  Mullin Jr. stated the song reassured the band that all was not lost.  The song unified  their individual differences and disunity, spearheading the movement and encouraging the band  to head in a new direction.  This new direction led the band away from basic rock to a vastly experimental beat similar to the European techno market.  It also provided the initial inspiration for the album, Achtung Baby and the Zoo TV tour – both vastly different from U2’s previous work  – ushering in explosive color, attitude, irony, humor, stage characters, and postmodern cultural influence and approval.  The transformation of the band’s music, image,  and marketing strategy appeared brilliant considering the extremely positive secular response by public and critic alike.

The album went on to sale 18 million copies, win a Grammy Award, and successfully reinvent U2 (at least according to “worldly” secular views).  It has been hailed routinely by Rock critics as one of the best albums of all time.

In contrast to their previous records focusing on lyrics that were politically and socially charged, the lyrics were more introspective, personal, and darker in tone exuding feelings of doubt, confusion, conflict, and loneliness.  The combination of these lyrics, the band’s misunderstood concept and usage of irony, and their new ethos created mass confusion and debate among most of its Christian- based followers.

U2 continued with this postmodern ethos over their next two albums throughout the 90s, but returned to their more conventional sound and Christian-based music in 2000 when they released All that you can’t leave behind.  An album that again, allowed the band to reclaim the title of “Best band in the world” and won  7 more Grammy awards.  Rolling Stone magazine declared it as “U2’s third masterpiece.”

Over the last eleven years, the band released two more highly acclaimed albums, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame(1985), achieved the record for most Grammy Awards by any artist, and has been ranked routinely by Rock critics as “one of the greatest bands of all-time.”  The band has continued to be a beacon for social justice and eternal truth for many.

Starting in 2000, the band, and Bono in particular, began to gain an understanding that their celebrity status could be used in a powerful way towards human rights and philanthropic causes.  Over the last decade their impact on third world debt, AIDS relief, free trade with Africa, and disaster relief cannot be understated – not only participating in benefit concerts, but really getting involved in the political and religious arenas to make major world-wide changes.

Bono’s activism concerning Africa is widely known.  He co-founded DATA, EDUN, the ONE Campaign, and Product Red.  These are international humanitarian organizations that have made significant measurable differences.  Bono has become one of the world’s best-known philanthropic performers and was named the most politically effective celebrity of all time by the National Journal.   He has been named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”(1987) and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.

Although controversial and criticized on a grand scale by Christians, especially with the release of Achtung Baby and the development of the Zoo TV tour, many non-Christians have been influenced in a positive way towards salvation by digging deeper into the band’s ethos and song lyrics. In his book, One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God, Associate director of the Yale Center, Christian Scharen argues that “U2 is a cultural icon that points people one step closer to the cross.”  He writes that U2 was a major contributor towards his salvation.

The bands success in the secular world and with a secular record label has been a major influence on other Christian artists and the Rock industry.  Thus, allowing the artist the opportunity to cross over and impact the much larger pop culture, as opposed to simply imitating it.  In his book, Faith.God. and Rock+Roll (2003), Mark Joseph describes U2 as “A band that in many ways pioneered the idea that Rock music that glorified God could be done for a mainstream audience.”  He suggests that U2 helped pave the way for artists like Amy Grant, Creed, P.O.D., Lifehouse,  and Sixpence None the Richer to achieve success and share their Christian beliefs in the popular culture and music industry.

The biblical view of the text

The release of their 1991 album, Achtung Baby, and the Zoo TV tour had U2’s most liberal Christian supporters wondering what in the world was going on.  If U2 was on the Christian fence prior to this album, it appeared they  had now completely catapulted off.

“One” seemed an exception to the album regarding its  sound(much more similar to the band’s previous work) and more importantly, its overall sense of “goodness” and truth portrayed through conflict and its resolution through grace.  The song has been used extensively to oppose social injustice, to fight poverty, and to combat AIDS.  It stresses the importance of loving, cooperating, supporting, forgiving, and treating others as you would like to be treated.

These themes are prevalent throughout scripture and obvious Biblical truths:

  1. Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  2. Hebrews 13:1   Let brotherly love continue.  Do not forget to entertain strangers……Remember the prisoners as if chained with them –those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.
  3. John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
  4. Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another…….
  5. Matthew 25:40 ……..‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one the least of these my brethren, you did it for me.’
  6. Leviticus 25:35 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor……..then you shall help him.

The song supports the truth of a common unity of all humanity – “One love/ One blood” – each of us created in God’s image.(Genesis 1:27).  It also points towards the need of one community.  It’s a theme Paul touches on in his First Letter to the Corinthians when he argues that a community that shares in the body of Christ is “one” body.  No matter what our differences, whether “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free”, we are bound together in the body of Christ.

The song also introduces grace in the term we “get” to carry each other.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8).   In our sin and unholy condition, he still accepted us by his grace (Romans 15:7).  Therefore, we are not only called to accept and help others – carry others – we are privileged to have the opportunity to do so as ambassadors to Christ.  Every day we have the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal his grace through us.  Isn’t that awesome!  Thanks be to God.

“One” touches on Jesus’ divine healing powers in the lines “Have you come here to play Jesus/ To the lepers in your head”.

It  reveals love in a Biblical sense:   “Love is a temple/ Love the Higher law.”  Indicating that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) who is God (1 John 5:7) and love(1 John 4:8).  Love is the higher Biblical law (Romans 13:10).

It’s no wonder that “One” has achieved such international praise with so much agreement with Biblical truth.  However, I can’t understand or fully agree with the line in the “Hear us coming” verse that Bono adds to most of the live shows.  At the end of the verse his line is “You(Lord) hear us scratching, will you make me crawl?”  It’s odd how Bono changes the word “us” to “me” in the last 5 words.  It appears he is applying the line to himself.  Bono has declared himself as a Christian publically many times and through his lyrics has revealed a genuine understanding of scripture.  My question:  Would a “saved” Christian who clearly understands his sins have been made as white as snow through Christ’s redeeming blood ask the Lord if he is going to have to scratch and crawl?

These lyrics were written at a time when the band and Bono appeared to be at a crossroads of doubt and belief.   The Edge latter stated “this was a period of one of my spiritual low points.”   We all have had periods in our life in which we feel distant from God.

A non-Christian would most likely read this and come to the conclusion that I was interpreting the song with a strong Christian-bias.  However, he must clearly understand the world behind the text.  On U2s official website, Bono states “We’ve found different ways of expressing it (the band’s faith)…. It’s there for people who are interested.  It shouldn’t be there for people who aren’t.”  On the website, 77 songs across every album are said to have Biblical references in the lyrics.

The most ironic thing about “One” is that this beautiful “Christian-like” song lead the band in a direction that could be described as anti-Christian with the resulting development of Achtung Baby and the Zoo TV tour.  From this turning of the page, U2’s image, album, and tour were transformed from modernity to a near devilish postmodernity – including Bono playing three different characters – the Fly(rock star), MacPhisto (the devil) , and Mirrorball Man(televangelist), a highly controversial album cover with several occult images,  concerts with a multitude of giant television screens all flashing postmodern messages and rapidly altering images,  and  highly emotional immoral song lyrics U2 wanted to re-create themselves and they most certainly did in an extreme way.  This new ethos alienated many Christian supporters.

Bono latter described that the new ethos was a means of using irony and humor to point out  the absurdity of many American addictions such as materialism and hyper-technology realism.  The Fly character was meant to reveal the foolishness of and make fun of the Rock Star.  The Mirrorball Man was meant to portray the televangelist as a greedy, selfish, and ridiculous being.

Without question, MacPhisto was the character that alienated Christians the most.  Here was Bono as the devil, including horns.  The image itself was enough to cause Christians to harshly judge and turn away.  Bono’s intent was to mock the devil.  He later reported that he got the idea from C. S. Lewis’s book, The Screwtape Letters.  The book begins with two quotes, from Martin Luther and Thomas More.  More said, “The devil … the prudent spirit … cannot endure to be mocked.”  A later cartoon video actually revealed the cover of the book.  One of the postmodern messages flashed on the giant video screens during the Zoo TV tour actually said “Mock the Devil.”

Not to show any disrespect to Thomas Moore, the ultimate authority and final say regarding the devil is Scripture itself.  Scripture interpretations vary, but after reviewing multiple Biblical interpretations, I could only find resist the devil as opposed to mock the devil:  “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil.  He will flee from you.” (James 4:7)   Mock is defined as to attack or treat with ridicule or mimicry. To challenge.  Resist is defined as to withstand, to refrain, or to abstain from.  I would be careful to not confuse these two meanings.  One is to initiate action (offense) and the other is to respond to an action (defense).  Mocking may start a fight that otherwise would have not occurred.  Could this possibly have been a contributing factor to the band’s subversion away from Christianity throughout the early 90s?

Regardless of Bono’s intention, the effect on Christians and Christianity was not a positive one.  It was apparent that he and the band were pushing boundaries to far, having spiritual doubts, responding to the “worldly” criticism from their last album in a “worldly” way, and becoming the roles they were playing.  Bono presented himself as the Fly on and off stage and stated that it was “liberating.”

The entire concept behind the album and tour was to create a postmodern confusion.  This is directly opposed to the Biblical concept of “truth.”  Sometimes perceptions become truth to the audience.  Bono had often cleverly disguised scripture and spiritual messages within the band’s music and makeup in order to prevent the band from becoming “pigeon-holed” as a Christian group and alienating secular groups.  He felt this was appropriate in light of the bigger picture of staying involved with the culture.  However, this new direction took the concept to a whole new level.   The average fan clearly did not understood what was going on. It was apparent the band was hiding their spiritual “light” deeper than ever before.

Matthew 5:16 tells us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Furthermore, Matthew 5:14 tells us “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  In essence, the band clearly did not put their “light” on top of a hill for everyone to see during this tour and the next two.

Their new approach created a multitude of negative and misunderstood messages.  Many appropriate accusations and questions surfaced regarding the band’s faith and behavior:  “They drink and smoke and swear.  Bono dresses up as the devil. They are not open about the Gospel.  They portray several large crosses on the video screens during the concert with flames inside each cross.  Followed by the crosses transforming into Nazi symbols. How can you believe that they are still Christians?”

I can understand the band’s philosophy to look at the big picture in using less direct means of sharing their faith and scripture – if that picture is to influence and save as many souls as possible by remaining a strong Christian force in the popular culture.  However, it seems to me that the band members, the album, the album’s cover art, the tour, and the new songs steered away from this big picture in order to achieve popular and critical “worldly” success.  And it most certainly did, but at what cost.  In his book, the We Get to Carry Each Other, The Gospel According to U2, Greg Garrett writes that the band decided that they had to change if they wanted people(the masses of pop culture) to go on listening to them – no one (the public) seemed to pay attention to sincerity any more.  Sounds like the band’s measuring stick for success at this time leaned further away from Godly principles than ever before.

Redeeming the text:   How do we make it the way God intended.  How would you communicate the gospel to seekers or skeptics in light of “One”.

The cultural text “One”, the “world of the text” in this paper, can communicate the Gospel to seekers or skeptics effortlessly, with rare exception, as previously noted.  It may very well be one of the secular cultural products, similar to the ships of Tarshish, that make it into the New Jerusalem.

Rock music and U2 (the world behind the text) present a more difficult redemption challenge.  Both have been controversial subjects for years.

The “world in front of the text”, has challenges to redeem (U2’s new ethos and irony, Achtung Baby!, and the Zoo TV tour) and results that are in high agreement with Biblical philosophy including Bono’s incredible humanitarian and philanthropic achievements  and the bands eventual return to a strong Christian faith, sincerity, and  international spiritual influence.

We haven’t been able to discuss the often asked question and thoroughly researched and debated subject of Christianity and Rock Music including questions such as “What songs are appropriate for Christian listeners?” and “Should Christians listen to or be involved in Rock music and popular culture?” Many books have been written on the subject and a Google search contains 19,900,000 results!  We simply don’t have the space in this assignment to cover it.  In his book,  “The Rock and Roll Rebellion”, Mark Joseph states “Music, far from being inherently Christian or Secular, should instead be viewed by believers as either consistent with the Bible and therefore honoring God, or inconsistent with the Bible and therefore dishonoring to God – period.”  This makes sense to me – listen to music that demonstrates Biblical agreement and consistency towards Biblical truth regardless of the genre.

In his book, Love not the world, Watchman Nee writes “Physical separation does not make men holy… to separate ourselves from the world today, and thus deprive it of its only light, in no way glorifies god.” We are told to “go ye into the world and preach the gospel.”  Jesus tells us to stay involved with our unsaved brethren until the day of harvest in his parable of the good seed and the weeds. This is not accomplished by separating from or imitating culture, but by transforming it.   Transformation cannot be accomplished without being involved.  Our light needs to shine in the darkest corners of our world including popular culture and rock music.  U2 has proven that Christianity and Rock music can co-exist within mainstream popular culture.  This has enabled them to reach millions of non-Christians in powerfully spiritual ways.

In Christianity Today, 2003, Bono was accused of having a thin ecclesiology.  In his book, “Walk On, The Spiritual Journey of U2”, Steve Stockman writes “The editor defined ecclesiology as cooperating with the Christian media and publicly being a member of some established Church group – assuming U2 had no spiritual family or support of fellowship.”  How can Bono and the other members of the band be Christians if they are not part of an established church?

In the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, church is defined as the people of God, the Body of Christ, and the Covenant Community.   As expected, the first definition in Webster’s New World Dictionary is a building set apart for public worship.  We must realize that church is more than an organization or building.  Author Greg Garrett defines ecclesia as a gathering of Jesus followers. He further goes on to point out “If we do envision ecclesia as a group of people rather than a building, then I think we can make a powerful case for U2 (and their Christian followers) as a faithful community.”  Think about that, a faithful community made up of millions of people with occasional services of over 100,000 people in attendance – now that’s a church!

Since the 1991 release of Achtung Baby and the Zoo TV tour, U2’s faith has been strongly attacked and questioned by the Christian community.  In his book, “33 ½ Achtung Baby”, Stephen Catanzarite writes “With Achtung Baby, U2 pulled off the ultimate post-modern fast one:  the use of irony to emphasize honesty.”  He also described the lyrics as “a poetry of fallenness -taken collectively, they offer an insightful meditation on the Fall (of humanity in the Garden) and the consequences of our “fallen-ness.””  Bono has stated “That was the theme of the whole shebang – to expose modern culture and let people see the shallow nonsense that it was.”

Crosses burning on stage, Bono pretending to be the devil, and slogans like – “Everything you know is wrong” – are in my opinion, not messages for Christians that can be redeemed through the rationalization of irony.  The band during this career spiritual low point definitely went too far.  The good news though is the band made their way of out of this “wilderness”, a wilderness we all must go through at one point in our lives, and eventually found their way back to sincerity.  In essence, they redeemed themselves.

The Edge latter pointed out “We were always suspicious of irony, hiding behind a wink, clever-clever lyrics at the expense of the soul…….But in retrospect, I think we followed the idea through to the end and actually discovered that irony is not necessarily  the enemy of the soul.”

The “wilderness” lasted nearly a decade and resulted in many Christian fan casualties.  The band released the album, “All that you can’t leave behind” in 2000.  They had come full circle returning to their more straightforward sincerity and previous sound.  The album was described as “U2’s most spiritual”.  The culmination of Bono’s experiences spearheading third world country debt relief in Jubilee 2000 and the band’s “ministry-type presence” to American crowds after 9/11 contributed towards a further strengthening of their faith and openness about it in interviews and song lyrics.  This new found sincerity has continued to grow over the last decade and is evident in the music and the band’s relentless humanitarian and philanthropic efforts.   If a Christian is to be judged by his “fruit”, U2 has an entire orange grove!  Maybe it’s time for alienated Christians to take another look at the band.

I must share that writing this paper has been an incredible experience and journey for me.  I have always loved U2’s music, but had no idea that they were Christians or that most of their songs allude to scripture.  It has encouraged me to become more aware of the potential depth and underlying beauty that can exist in our world.

In 1987, I was 17 and in Munich, West Germany with two companions.  We had been traveling all over Europe during the summer.  We planned on staying in Munich for two days and it just so happened, that U2 was in concert one evening performing the Joshua Tree Tour.  We were so very close to trying to go and get tickets, but at the last second decided otherwise.  The next morning in the hotel lobby, a bunch of American teenagers ran up to me and said “Why didn’t you go? We all got in and it was the most awesome concert of all-time!”  It has always stuck in my head as one of those big regrets in life.  Maybe that experience would have led me to a far greater understanding of the band and Christian interaction with popular music and culture.  Maybe I was supposed to be at that concert.  Or maybe God wanted to reveal it to me at a later time –   that later time being now.

Isn’t it awesome to understand that the world’s greatest band over the last thirty years loves Jesus Christ and isn’t afraid to express it?!!!  At their last concert of 2010 in the Rose Bowl in front of over 100,000 people and millions on camera, Bono and U2 continued this open expression of faith.  Towards the end of the concert, Bono finished “Christian-Strong” singing  – One, Amazing Grace, Where the Streets have No Name(reference to Heaven) and ended the show with Moment of Surrender ( a salvation song about surrendering to Jesus). I can only reply with what Bono says at the end of many of their concerts:

“The spirit is in the house!”

Hallelujah!  Hallelujah! Hallelujah!