Bono's Surrender: Christ Follower (Part III)




Bono may not only be the biggest rock star of the last 40 years, but also one of the world’s highest profile Christian activists. “Christian, really?”

 His high school was nondenominational, rare in Ireland in his growing-up years. His dad was Catholic and his mother was Protestant. He was influenced by some early experiences. “Guggi [one of his boyhood friends] introduced me to the idea that God might be interested in the details of each of our lives, a concept that was going to get me through my boyhood. And my manhood. (The idea that there is a God, I now recognize, is preposterous for many people.)” [47].

 He enjoyed reading the Good News Bible [47]. He went to a Christian summer camp [48]. He even responded to an alter call. Bono recounts that “I’d always be first up when there was an altar call, the “come to Jesus” moment. I still am… I took Jesus with me everywhere and I still do. I’ve never left Jesus out of the banal or profane actions of my life” [48]. He has had several evangelical experiences, such as being part of a small Christian house church community known as “Shalom.”

Sometimes he seems like a recovering evangelical with a bad hair day. However, I am not sure conventional labels would fit. He wouldn’t want to be “evangelical” or “Christian”—any ties to negative baggage of the past or organized religion would be anathema. Instead, he simply tries to follow the teachings of Christ in terms of trying to make a difference and have the tenets of scripture reflected in his life.

Interestingly, many U2 songs have either subtle or overt Christian imagery. One notable example is the song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” Bono explains, “this, our most gospel-like song, is about the quest, not the arrival. And that’s how I find faith” [509]. He launched the “Jubilee project,” rooted in the Old Testament concept. He talks about compassion for those suffering. He talks about the importance of alleviating suffering.

His book is also a form of Christian apologetics, dealing with issues around faith. He notes that “it takes great faith to have no faith. Great strength of character to resist the ancient text that suggests an afterlife” [26].

One reflection of his faith is his constant pondering about what role the band could play, due to its increasing influence, to make a difference in the world. Does Mick Jagger lay awake thinking about that? Bono recounts that “one night in a hotel, a woman, arriving to service one of our rooms, found the three of us [Bono, Larry & Edge; not including Adam] praying and joined in with us. We met all kinds of unexpected strangers who encouraged us to find the answer to a simple prayer: In a broken world how could the band play any role?” [119]

Being a Christ follower, like Bono, always seems to raise complaints about fellow pilgrims. Bono notes, “Christians and those who play the devil’s music do not have a great history. Shalom, the house church community that meant so much to Larry, Edge, and me, was worried we were falling away from our faith” [131].

He shares the reality that, "religious faith can be a problem. Faith divides people. Faith divides people who have faith, and divides people with faith from those who don’t” [136]. He makes a candid remark, often thought but rarely expressed: “[despite his faith] I had no doubt that I preferred the company of so-called unbelievers….people who openly profess faith can be—how shall I put this?—such a pain in the arse” [136].

As a non-subtle shout-out to too-enthusiastic proselytizers: “in a world where is it impossible to avoid advertising, I don’t want the person next to me hard selling their take on the Big Questions. Live your love is the right answer” [136]. He also doesn’t appreciate the lack of humility of some believers: “if I mostly find religiousity annoying, right up at the top of the annoying is the pigheaded certainty of the devout without the doubt” [507].

He recommends a different approach. “I hold to that line attributed to Francis of Assisi, who told his followers, “Go into the world to preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” We need less to be told how to live our lives and more to see people living inspirational lives. I'm also deeply conscious that I can’t live up to the badge I’ve pinned to my lapel. I’m a follower of Christ who can’t keep up. I can’t keep up with the ideas that have me on the pilgrimage in the first place” [137]. He’s a Christ follower; one more pale imitation of the original.