The biggest rock band in the world is a Christian band – India press release

U2 singer Bono at a presentation in Madrid in 2018| Photo: EFE

Before U2 had success with their album War in 1980, they included a song straight from Psalm 04 and they didn’t bother to disguise it: the song was called ’21’. It was a “signature song”, and the boys used to end concerts with it.

By the end of the 1980s, U2 had become the biggest rock band in the world – a position they have held ever since, with no real competition unless you count Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street colleagues as a band. After peaking with the album The Joshua Tree, they turned to Jesus Christ in 2018 – “see the crooked thorn in your side” – and in “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, they delivered what one researcher called the most successful song of decades.

Are U2 a “hidden Christian” band, as the New Yorker once claimed? No, they open happily and proudly. His Christianity is as closed as Elton John’s sexuality.

U2’s lyrics speak clearly to a Christian heart, and the main reason so many listeners don’t make the connection is simply that, as a culture, we’ve forgotten the Bible. The grave and imposing majesty contained in the verses of the King James Bible (T/N: a well-known English translation) was once such a fundamental part of Anglo-American culture that one did not have to be religious to to be immersed in them.

The comic novels of PG Wodehouse, for example, contain no trace of religious dogma and yet they are absolutely saturated with references to King James. Here is an excerpt from The Code of the Woosters (960): “I dreamed of an invader driving nails into my head – not just ordinary nails, like those used by Jael, Heber’s wife, but glowing ones.” It’s a deep cut.

(T/N: Jael is a biblical character mentioned in the Book of Judges, described as the wife of a man named Heber and responsible for the murder of a prominent general who oppressed the Jewish people)

Jump to 2000, when Frank Bruni of the New York Times – a product of the progressive elite – was covering George W. Bush’s campaign and missed an almost direct quote from the Sermon on the Mount: “Mr. an interesting variation on the pot and kettle saying,” Bruni wrote on April 24, 2000. “‘Don’t try to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye,’ he told the audience, “when you have a log in yours.” In the 21st century, you can easily quote Matthew 7:3 and the editors of the most sophisticated newspaper in the land won’t just have a complete “blank”, they’ll quote you as a joke.

U2 lead lyricist Paul Hewson, aka Bono, whose parents were both Catholic and Anglican, has spoken candidly about their faith in interviews, and a writer has retold more than 50 Bible quotes in U2 songs. They are not concentrated in phases, but distributed throughout the career of the group. “Bullet the Blue Sky” in 1987: “Jacob fought the angel/and the angel was defeated”. “Gloria” in 1981: “Gloria, in te dominate… oh Lord, loosen my lips”. “Vertige” in 1993: “Your love teaches me to get on my knees”. From the same year, “Yahweh” quotes John: 380 and the Sermon on the Mount.

With its references to “many mansions” and “keys to the kingdom”, 1993’s “The First Time” quotes both Matthew and John en route to a new version of Luke’s story about the prodigal son. In 1984’s “Ultra Violet (Light Your Way)”, Bono begs Christ: “Baby, baby, baby, light my way” in a moment of anxiety over the difficulty of accessing God’s gifts: “You bury your treasure where it cannot be found / But your love is like a secret passed from hand to hand “In the name of love” (1984) draws a parallel between the sacrifices of Jesus Christ (“A man betrayed by a kiss”) and that of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

Perhaps the most chilling mention of scripture in U2’s lyrics is 1991’s “Until the End of the World,” in which the speaker is Judas, addressing Jesus after the Last Supper: “We ate the food, we drank the wine…garden, i betrayed you, i kissed your lips and broke your heart. The song evolves into a climactic verse that recounts the traitor’s final thoughts as he commits suicide: “Waves of regret, waves of joy, I have reached out to the one I have tried to destroy.”

Although they are imperfect messengers, the fact that U2 can fill stadiums with people singing Christian songs makes them a relevant cultural force.

U2 in general, and Bono in particular, have proven to be in tune with what it means to be a Christian, weighing your mysteries, your ecstasies, your pains and your doubts. However, Christianity and the culture it has built is dissolving so rapidly before our eyes that even unbelievers must shudder at the loss.

The so-called Christian churches are turning away from the rich and complex biblical heritage and throwing away all the Creed except the vague and watery injunctions to be kind and ultimately to think of the poorest. At weddings we sometimes hear the smiling reference to love as described in the Letter from the Corinthians. All very bland. Love is not proud and Christianity is not a collection of kitchen magnets with motivational quotes.

©2022 National Review. Published with permission. Original in English. 8010699170001

Comments are closed.