Bono's Surrender: Meaning Driven (Part IV)





Bono is a Christ follower and at the core he is a meaning-driven individual. He is pursuing his life purposes and striving for clarity around his calling. What’s his purpose? Why does U2 exist?

Bono notes that “I didn’t realize that my whole life would be pitted against the concept that anyone is average. “No man need be a mediocrity if he accepts himself as God made him” is how the poet Patrick Kavanagh put it” [35]. Further, he has a specific prayer in his family: “…a modus that became a prayer in our family. Simple. Direct. Make us useful, dear God. We’re available. How can we be useful in this world where we find ourselves?” [238]

He discusses his calling when U2 first started to get traction. He was part of a house church community called “Shalom.” Bono recalls the situation. He tried to convince the leaders of Shalom, a husband-and-wife team: “when I tried to convince her preacher man that our group could serve God better if we served the gifts we’d been given, that surely heaven would be happy if our band was a success and we’d have the means to help others a little more here on earth. But the preacher man couldn’t see it” [139]. Sadly, this is a variation of the sacred-secular divide. 

The band also struggled with the difference between Jesus’ teaching and the religious infrastructure. “The band talked for hours about the state of our country and what Christ would make of the religion begun in his name. Not much, we thought. Christianity seemed to have become the enemy of the radical Jesus of Nazareth… [despite challenges] we were sure our faith could survive our faith. Our music, though? That was another matter. If we lost our purpose, our band was back where it began: looking for a reason to exist” [164].

He is grateful: “we who love what we do, and would do it for free, should never forget that we are 1 percent of people who have ever lived” [241].

He cites Tony Campolo, an American evangelical author, that of the 2,003 verses related to the poor; only once does Jesus speak about judgment and when he does, it’s about how we treat the poor [204]. That was part of his motivation for his activism. Bono originated an idea called “Jubilee 2000.“ Bono explains that it “was a social movement and one of those rare moments where religion made some practical sense to people who didn’t care much for religion” [357]. It wasn’t about charity, it was about justice. The objective was to write off people’s debt and release them from bondage.

Bono summarizes that "most economists agree that without Jubilee 2000 and its millions of supporters the cancellation of more than $100 billion of debts owed by the poorest countries would not have happened” [369]. It was rewarding for him, however. “In giving time to this movement for justice, I was getting a lot more back” [369].

“But it amplified that nagging question: Did our band want to create a soundtrack for change or help create the change itself?” [369] Bono wrestles with stewarding his calling. Bono explains: “"Fame is currency,” I told anyone who’d listen. “I want to spend mine on the right stuff”" [357]. He wryly notes that “the success of U2 had me over-rewarded and over-regarded” [359].

Bono makes interesting admissions throughout the book that non-Christians may find puzzling. He speaks of the importance of prayer. “He [Nelson Mandela] taught me that prayer is not an escape from real life but a passage towards it” [453].

Bono seems to like reading the Bible. He states, “I am in awe of the poetic power of the scriptures, how you can’t approach the subject of God without metaphor... If science is how we navigate the physical universe, then religious texts offer to navigate the more than physical, the existence we can’t even prove exists" [511].

The “Christmas Story” is inspiring. He states, “the idea that some force of love and logic inside this mysterious universe might choose self-disclosure in the jeopardy of one impoverished child, born on the edge of nowhere, to teach us how we might live in service to one another is overwhelming” [512].

“Why am I always talking about the scriptures? Because they sustained me in the most difficult years in the band and they remain a plumb line to gauge how crooked the wall of my ego has become” [529].

People sometimes say to believers that religion is a crutch, and it sounds like Bono has heard that, too. His response: “if my faith is a crutch, I want to throw it away. I’d rather fall over. I remain more suspicious of religion than most people who’d never darken the door of a church. I’ve never quite found a church I could call home… There is no promised land. We search through the noise for a signal, and we learn to ask better questions of ourselves and each other. I call the signal “God” and search my life for clues that betray the location of the eternal presence” [530].

“All my life I’ve had these epiphanies [thoughts and images that come to him], but the one that holds me now as I enter the third act of this life is not so comforting. It challenges me to overcome myself, to get beyond who I have been, to renew myself. I’m not sure I can make it. I doubt myself” [542].

He was always fascinated with the story of Elijah who is told to wait for the voice of God in a cave on a hillside [543]. For Bono, he’s doing his best, living his calling, well aware of his limitations, cognizant of his roots, reflective of his psychological drivers, aware that he is unreasonable, he was rooted in his family despite challenges.

At the core of Bono’s being, as reflected in Surrender, is a meaning-driven quest focused on how to use his life, and by extension U2, for maximum impact.