Sunday, January 08, 2006

Discussion on Bono and "coexist" continues

I have a site tracker on my blog so I can see where hits come from and how people get here. Its lots of fun to see what generates hits on search engines. My posts about Jessica Simpson got me a fair number of hits and, to my surprise, the review of the Rita Springer album gets a lot of hits, perhaps because there just isn’t a whole lot on the web about her. Too bad I wasn’t crazy about the album. By far, though, the largest percentage of hits from search engines come as a result of my previous posts about U2, Bono and the Coexist headband that Bono wears. I also get more comments on that post than any other. So I thought that, as long as I’m still thinking about it, I’d write a bit more.

Two of the recent comments are quite long and written by someone who apparently goes around commenting about U2 in other places as well – she mentions that she has been banned from some other U2 sites. This is a topic that obviously gets some people pretty excited. I disagree with most of what a recent commenter writes for a number of reasons but I don’t want to do a point by point response to her. I’m not sure it would accomplish much anyway.

I will admit that I was puzzled by the symbols of Christianity, Islam and Judaism on the curtain during the song “Yahweh” when I saw U2 in Chicago last September. I thought about it for quite a while and talked to some friends about what they thought the band was trying to accomplish. I get into that a bit more in my previous post about it and don’t want to repeat it here. Truth be told, I wish they had chosen some other way to make the point – I would not have done it this way. Then again, I don’t have nearly as many people paying attention to me so maybe my way isn’t the best way either. I continue to think that Bono is generally on the right track, though. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • The book Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas is a remarkable book. Even a cursory reading of it shows pretty clearly that Bono is a Christian. Not mostly a Christian or even a wacko Christian but a Christian who believes in and reads the Bible. What’s more, his theology is usually pretty good. I found some of his statements to be outstanding expressions of a Reformed world and life view informed by a deep study of scripture. Not bad for a rock and roll star.

  • Bono is an artist and, as such, says things in a way that can often be taken in many different ways. Part of this is just who he is but part of it is something he does carefully. By exploring the different interpretations of art more shades of meaning can be seen, some of which are intended by the artist and some are not. So we need to always interpret artistic statements carefully, realizing that our interpretation is just that – our interpretation.

  • I, and many other Christians, can easily find ourselves thinking that believing in Jesus means that you have to buy into certain cultural things as well. (For example, wearing “dress up clothes” to go to church – this is not scriptural but yet for some people this is an important part of what it means to treat God with the kind of respect he deserves.) Bono doesn’t follow many of those cultural norms of what it means to be a US Evangelical Christian. He has forced me to ask if some of the things he does are not right based on scripture or just based on my idea of what a Christian ought to be like. I appreciate the opportunity he gives me to think about my faith in a new way.

I’m not suggesting that Bono is above reproach or that he does everything correctly – his choice of language sometimes bothers me, for example. But he has a pretty big megaphone right now and he consistently uses it to talk about helping the poor and the hungry. He, like Queen Esther, is being a voice for those who have no voice of their own. He is using his celebrity to try to accomplish a great thing in the name of God. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt – something that Jesus did often during his ministry and something that I think Christians are called to do as well.


Bar Bar A said...

I agree with you 100% on this. You've articulated it much better than I have when I tried to make this point in the past.

o1mnikent said...

Did you read the article in Time a few weeks ago on Bono? It was the person of the year edition.

Bob K said...

I did indeed read the article, Kent. I thought it was very well done. I never would have thought that an outspoken Christian rock singer could be named person of the year by Time magazine.

Nathan Hart said...

Excellent post. Thank you.

c said...


i think that the bullet points you laid out are very well put. i definitely agree that he intentionally does and says things in such a way so that they can be interpreted differently by different people.


derekftaylor said...

Let me just say I've been a big fan of Bono's for a long time. But to me, it comes down to this- as a Christian, all of my actions and words will have the effect of either glorifying God or - well, not.

When you put the cross - the only means by which mankind can experience true peace - on the same level as the symbol of a false prophet, you are not elevating Christ, you are demoting him. Sorry- like I say, I've been a fan of Bono's for a long time, but there is no question in my mind that his message validated in many people's minds that Jesus Christ was essentially a spellbinding, peace advocating teacher, but not the exclusive means of salvation.

Think about it another way - faint praise can be the most effective way to diminish someone.

Jules said...

I'm writing an essay for a college class on the image of Bono wearing the COEXIST headband over his eyes, and I have to say that your blog and all the discussion going on about this topic has helped me out a lot.
My personal opinions on the issue are simply this: Bono is trying to convey that we should simply coexist, not trying to blasphemize (is that even a word?) Jesus Christ in anyway. However, it is easy to have a lot of doubt in someone who is a huge icon in the celebrity world. I guess you could say I'm a simple minded person, but I try to believe the best in people- especially someone who spends his time as well and selflessly as the U2 front man.
I just wanted to leave some input on this matter since I'm doing the essay and the topic is becoming increasingly necessary for me to formulate an opinion on (whether against my will or not). I really enjoy the blog!