Author Topic: U2 and my faith journey  (Read 119 times)

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Offline popsadie

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U2 and my faith journey
« on: November 04, 2019, 09:44:31 AM »
A warning, this is long, but I do wonder if anyone else has had their interest in U2 intersect with a spiritual search.

I’ve been a fan for twenty-two and a half years. When I was getting ready to graduate high school, my father gave me tickets to see Popmart, and a fan was born. Soon after, I located a used copy of War and spent graduation gift money on their newest album, Pop. That summer, in between working as my aunt’s live-in babysitter, I did little else but ride my bicycle and listen to those albums on my Discman, crying out to a God I wasn’t sure I even believed in anymore.

Of course, that summer soon morphed into my first semester of college. I began that year confused and ready to break away. Into what, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to be a small-town girl anymore, so I explored the local scene and all of the temptations that rebellion offered, diving into a relationship with a local rocker in his mid 20’s who was, let's just say, experienced. Though I wasn’t ready, and I tried to refuse, I became experienced as well. I also became lost and full of shame. It wasn’t what I wanted to be. Still, I didn't believe I could go back. I was an acrobat. I couldn’t return. I may have wrestled with God at night, but I knew I wasn't winning.

Thankfully, I did break-up with the guy, but I still felt homeless and aimless. I tried to attend church but felt cold. I tried to pray, but I heard no answers. I tried to sing but only felt discord. Still, War and Pop seemed to offer some solace, and while listening to them during a long overnight paper writing session, something or someone seemed to breakthrough. I had just finished listening to “Wake Up Dead Man” and found myself praying it. When “Surrender” followed, I heard something or someone from the other side. My body felt strangely warm and I saw myself as Sadie. I recognized that I must. No, that I could surrender. Who seemed so far off now held out His hand, asking me if I would, and also promising me that I could, with His help, follow.

What that following would look like, I wasn’t sure. I wanted to love God and man. I became a passionate death penalty activist and became obsessed with volunteering, on the first front. I also returned to the church. The night after that aforementioned late-night revelation, a floormate invited me to attend my dorm floor’s bible study. Through that link, I started attending a charismatic Christian college fellowship called X Alpha. The aspects of Christian faith I encountered in that group blew my mind, to say the least. I still remember standing near the stage during worship and being prayed over in tongues. I felt that heat again, much more intense, and a love for God that I couldn’t put into words. Imagine my surprise when I picked up a copy of the first U2 book I read, The Unforgettable Fire, and discovered that twenty years ago, several members of my favorite band had encountered a similar situation.

I suppose that is a huge part of why I feel such a kinship with the band and especially with Bono. He, like me, seeks to love God and people like Christ does, but he also admits that he often feels more like he doesn't deserve the high calling of Christian. Additionally, he, like me, remains fascinated with Christian spirituality and its intersection with life and art. Reading interviews with U2 has introduced me to writers, singers, and artists which have helped me better understand my world and purpose, like CS Lewis, Bob Dylan, Saint Francis, and Dostoevsky. When I read that I’m not the only one who has dug into theology and philosophy to better understand myself and God, I feel a little less alone.

In the Orthodox tradition, there is something called the holy fool, and I think this may be part of why I'm so fascinated. Christians who did things that were foolish and silly to emphasize the maxim that God chose the foolish to confuse the wise were referred to as holy fools. Although I don't think it is intentional, the band and Bono's sometimes ridiculous appearances are part of what endears me to them. It makes them feel approachable and relatable. As I relate to their music and thoughts, I can let down my guard and fears. I can let go. I can recognize my brokenness and wayward heart, rather than deny it. My skittishness in church sometimes makes this kind of honesty difficult. I know that I should be this open and willing to reveal, but as I shared before, I still struggle to trust others. By playing the fool, U2 invites my trust and willingness to listen. Perhaps I am a fool as well, but I am very grateful to have had U2 in my journey.

Offline 73October

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Re: U2 and my faith journey
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2019, 07:50:20 AM »

This is a really good experience to talk about. 

I got into U2 again because of their spirituality. I grew up in a church and got into the band when The Unforgettable Fire book came out (by Eamon Dunphy) as I read a excerpt in a magazine that explained their Christian backgrounds.  I wasn't aware of a Christian music scene, so U2 straddled both secular and sacred music in my teenage mind.  The first album I got was Rattle & Hum and then worked backwards, meticulously saving pocket money and buying each album in their back catalogue in turn. 

As I grew up just across the Irish Sea on the banks of the Mersey, I tried to relate my experiences of growing up with theirs.  Liverpool/Merseyside and Dublin City/Dublin County are similar on many levels.  The main difference is that Dublin was still highly Catholic in terms of churches and 'religion'.  I grew up in a Protestant background/family where Catholic teaching was seen as some kind of 'abomination'.

It sounds like the experiences you had were, in some ways, similar to those of Bono at least in his younger days (around the time of Boy, October and War) - making a decision about the sacred and the profane.  We know how that ended!  Thanks for being so honest about your experiences.

Bono, in my opinion, really struggles with organised 'Christianity'.  He doesn't like things neatly placed into holes.  I think we can see this through some recent interviews and videos (the one with Eugene Peterson stands out).  I admire his attempts to wear his heart on his sleeve, and his acknowledgement that it's not easy being a Christian in his profession (or professions!) and that's one of the aspects of his multi-faceted personality that I find warm and fascinating.  I've heard of the holy fool - the fact that we can be so foolish in trying to find Godly wisdom.  Bono has long held a sense of 'calling' to play the fool - one of U2's very early songs (1978-79) was The Fool.  But, you know, Bono's acting skills are pretty fine.  In the Protestant culture, you might hear of being a 'fool for Christ'.  The two philosophies intersect because you know that it is human to be foolish.  Just that some of us are more foolish than others!

Interestingly, on my own personal journey of Christian spirituality and U2, I have just reached another milestone.  I met my Christian husband in part through a shared strong appreciation of U2.  We've continued to follow U2 as a band through our marriage.
Very recently we have moved to a new area - not far from where I grew up on the banks of the River Mersey, close to Liverpool. 
My husband has recently been appointed pastor of a small church - with a Protestant background.  The last pastor was very conservative and fundamental in preaching style.  I've heard anecdotes about the lack of TV (I can believe this now - we have one and are waiting for a new connection to go in so that we can watch it) and other things like telling his children at a very young age that Santa Claus is a fake idol of Christmas.  I kid you not.  I've found out within the last week that there was some initial opposition, and still considerable wariness, about my husband - and both of us.  Because we wear U2 merchandise and that is seen by some church members as making an idol other than God.  People have even gone to lengths to question if we are Christian or not.  Wow! So we've moved into the pastors house, and a neighbour - who is a church member - questioned if we were Christians because we look and act a bit differently to, well her expectations.  We've slowly started to mean that she has to take a look at things a little differently.
But maybe Bono has something, well almost, prophetic to say.  When he says he finds it hard to identify with Christians - I think he is saying he is very wary of those that are judgemental toward others.  What will happen in our situation remains to be seen.

Offline shineinthesummernight

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Re: U2 and my faith journey
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2019, 03:43:20 PM »
   I was initiated into the U2 fan base in 1983, when my college roommate played "October" on repeat.  I didn't like it initially, but eventually was fascinated by the very evident spirituality in songs like "Tomorrow" and "Gloria".  I then got my hands on pretty much every album they put out, as well as other bands Bono recommended like INXS, the Call, Simple Minds, Sinead O'Connor, Clannad, etc.  There is a strong spiritual thread running through most of this music, though it is not usually overtly Christian like "October" was.
    I have been a fan of the band for almost 40 years now.  For me, Bono is able to articulate Christianity in a way that is simple, direct, and from the heart.  I'm a Catholic, yet I'm not sure I could have stayed faithful if not for the steady witness of this man and his music.  That's how integral to my faith journey this band has been.  Much of the current church's agenda and preoccupation with abortion and right wing talking points is cringeworthy to me, yet I find I'm able to stay faithful somehow, and I do believe that Bono has been a huge part of that.  His manner of spiritual discussion just appeals to me in a way that priestly discourse does not. 
    Lately, I have to admit that I've been concerned about Bono's enormous accumulation of wealth.  What do they do with all this money at this point?  Do they donate to causes which we aren't even aware of?  How many luxury homes can one own before the rot sets in?  Why are we paying so much in ticket prices and still admonished to give more when most of us basically go broke paying the exorbitant cost just to get in the door to concerts?
    I know Bono is sincere when he shares his journey, yet these thoughts do concern me.

Offline 73October

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Re: U2 and my faith journey
« Reply #3 on: Today at 04:51:03 AM »
I'm pretty sure all the band members give away more money than most people would ever know. Not in a lofty way. But quietly and almost in code.
I have long been interested in a now small Christian rooted festival in the UK called Greenbelt. It's not exclusively Christian, but has formation at that level.
So, U2 played vertually unannounced in 1981 and Bono turned up in 1987 and was (badly!) disguised as a steward on site. Willie Williams has a long held link with the festival.  Willie used to come straight off U2 tour and do visuals for stages at the festival, including LOO TV (which was a cut down festival version of, well, you'll guess what!), complete with festival toilet confessional booth.
Then there's U2's current tour chaplain, and features editor, Martin Wroe. He's long had an input into Greenbelt.
So what's the link with U2 and finance.
In 1999/2000, Greenbelt Festival was very shaky and nearly went under.
In 2001, I was told by a third person involved with Greenbelt (whom I won't name because he's not involved with U2's business) that Greenbelt Festival very nearly closed down. Ticket sales and voluntary donations weren't enough to keep it going. Then just as things looked doomed, some - and I quote - "Irish money" came over and it was able to put them back in the black and continue trading. A number of us that were there and heard that message put two & two together and came up with Bono.

So there you go. A long story, but I'm sure he bailed out a festival that he'd previously contributed to, and had key road crew that were also part of the festival's DNA.
« Last Edit: Today at 04:52:55 AM by 73October »