Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Great Words, Shame About the Tunes

Bono & Eugene Peterson  |  THE PSALMS

This short film documents the friendship between Bono (lead musician of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) revolving around their common interest in the Psalms. Based on interviews conducted by Fuller Seminary faculty member David Taylor and produced in association with Fourth Line Films, the film highlights in particular a conversation on the Psalms that took place between Bono, Peterson, and Taylor at Peterson’s Montana home. 

The film is featured exclusively through FULLER studio, a site offering resources—videos, podcasts, reflections, stories—for all who seek deeply formed spiritual lives. Explore these resources, on the Psalms and a myriad of other topics, at Fuller.edu/Studio. 

© Fuller Theological Seminary / Fuller Studio 

a Fourth Line Films production, in association with Fuller's Brehm Center Texas and W. David O. Taylor

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Interviewer: Who is Jesus? Bono: Son of God

"If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Romans 10:9

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Musical Missionaries or Satanic Deceivers?

What does the faculty of Eternity Bible College think of the question?

Let's listen in.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Wondrous Incarnation

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

- The Gospel of John, Chapter One, verses one and fourteen

When the God, whose voice created a vast universe replete with planets, stars, galaxies and quasars, chose to breathe His own essence into one of His creatures, Goodness was defined. But when He chose to humble Himself and become one of them just to reveal His deity, Goodness was overlaid and infused with incomprehensible Love. This moment, the birth of Jesus Christ, is the single most amazing moment in history.

Bono, in his conversation with writer Michka Assayas describes the moment when he first understood the astounding beauty of the incarnation like this:

Got home for Christmas, very excited of being in Dublin. Dublin at Christmas is cold, but it's lit up, it's like Carnival in the cold. On Christmas Eve, I went to St. Patrick's Cathedral. I had done school there for a year. It's where Jonathan Swift was dean. Anyway, some of my Church of Ireland friends were going. It's a kind of a tradition on Christmas Eve to go, but I'd never been. I went to this place, sat. I was given a really bad seat, behind one of the huge pillars. I couldn't see anything. I was sitting there, having come back from Tokyo, or somewhere like that. I went for the singing, because I love choral singing. Community arts, a specialty! But I was falling asleep, being up for a few days, traveling, because it was a bit boring, the service, and I just started nodding off, I couldn't see a thing. Then I started to try and keep myself awake studying what was on the page. It dawned on me for the first time, really. It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw... a child... I just thought: "Wow!" Just the poetry... Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it's not that it hadn't struck me before, but tears came down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. Because that's exactly what we were talking about earlier: love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. To me, it makes sense. It's actually logical. It's pure logic. Essence has to manifest itself. It's inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh.
In the oft-skipped second verse of his famous carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Charles Wesley proclaims the jaw-dropping awe produced by this Love becoming flesh:

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

May the wondrous incarnation, poor baby boy/God with us, be the core of your hope and joy this Christmas.

If you are a Bono apologist or cynic, and you haven't read Bono in conversation with Michka Assayas, you should. It's available from Riverhead Books.

And if you love Christmas as I do, enjoy this little piece of Glen Hansard's Christmas Eve busk in Dublin. Bono and Liam O'Maonlai join and make it a Christmas to remember.

Friday, October 28, 2011

They Sold Their Souls...

There are two sides to every coin, every fish, and every argument. Here we see the best of both sides. Dig in and let me know where you stand once you've heard it all.

EITHER Bono and U2 are closet Satanists fooling the world with their holy horseplay...

If video doesn't load, watch it HERE.

OR Bono and U2 actually believe in all that Jesus junk. Who knew?

If video doesn't load, watch it HERE.

"Friday night running to Sunday on my knees." 
- U2, In A Little While 

P.S., I think you know which way I lean so it won't be surprising to you that I appreciated this article by Doug Beaumont about Pastor Joel Schimmer's series on rock music.

P.P.S., I think you know which way I lean, but you might be surprised that I love me some J.T. Chick. Check out his exposé on the evils of rock music in the graphic novel Spellbound.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Acrobat – A Homily for Hypocrites

When I was a kid, my Dad had the odd responsibility (either self or externally imposed) to be happy and hopeful all the time. I think he believed that part of his job as a pastor was to match up his demeanor with others’ expectations. It didn’t matter if he was facing financial trouble, marital disunity, illness, or a crummy day, he needed to arrive at church with a smile on his face and a kind word on his lips. In other words, he needed to wear a mask.
The unfortunate side effect of my father’s pretense was the occasional avalanche of pent-up anger, which would fall squarely onto his unsuspecting little family. I remember riding in the car on some Sunday mornings. My brother and sister and I could sense his mounting anger rising up in the front seat. Then some straw would break his camel’s back and for the next few miles we would receive the brunt of his frustration in shouts and verbal abuse. Then, we arrived at church.
When he climbed out of the car, he instantly became a different man. Gone were the scowls and furious words. All smiles and handshakes now, his mask was back in place.
Looking back today I feel sorry for the man. I know he didn’t want to act that way. He loved us I have no doubt. He hated himself for talking love and peace to his flock while giving rage and turmoil to the sheep he loved the most, his wife and kids. When he reads this, I’m sure the old sting of this will prick him again (not my intention Dad). The sad irony of this story is that the mask he wore was a burden even Jesus did not have to bear.
In the song Acrobat, from U2’s 1991 album Achtung Baby, Bono laments the same balancing act that my father was forced to perform: “I must be an acrobat to talk like this and act like that.” Niall Stokes, the legendary Irish rock champion and Hot Press editor, wrote of the song, “Not for the first time on the record, Bono acknowledges his own weakness and inadequacy. He is more conscious now than ever before of the contradictions in his own position.”
If you are being honest, Bono’s words are your words as well. You have your beliefs and convictions. Your beliefs define you. You are red or blue, anti or pro, Jacob or Edward. In today’s wacky world of pundits and provokers, with comment boxes under everything you read or watch, you have the opportunity to shout your privately held beliefs loudly and viciously at whomever you want. But does what you say you believe match up with what you do?
I doubt it. If you happen to be a human being, duplicity is your nature.
New years resolutions fail because of this. We know we should stop smoking or drinking. We should eat better and exercise. We should be more committed in our job or school or marriage. We should make things right with our parents or siblings. We should stop abusing our spouse or our kids and making them feel small. We should stop stealing, having emotional affairs, and sneaking copious bytes of porn into our homes via DSL pipelines. We say we believe one thing, but when it comes to living what we believe, we most often do something quite different.
For Christians, this self-imposed dualism is particularly painful to live with. We desire to be like Christ, but we are drawn to sin like moths to flame. As the hymn-writer said, we are prone to wander, and wander far. And we hate it.
In Acrobat, Bono paints a picture of this hated wandering. The singer sings something of a rotating monologue to three distinct characters: to his younger self when he was an enthusiastic Christian idealist, to his disenchanted present self who feels divorced from his faith, and to Jesus circa Revelation 3.
When I first met you girl*
You had fire in your soul
What happened your face
Of melting in snow
Now it looks like this
His young self, was once transformed by his faith, happily drawn into a burning light that thawed a frozen heart. The singer sees in him the strength of character needed to resist temptation and to do only good. He begs the boy he was to hold fast to the faith that sustains him, to stand firm in his convictions.
I'd join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I'd break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
'cause I need it now
To take the cup
To fill it up
To drink it slow
I can't let you go
The singer’s present self stands in disbelief that what was once so clear and motivating now seems so distant. He mourns his loss of passion for the things of God and shouts his need to be welcomed at the table of communion. But he cannot drink the cup or eat the bread. Like so many Christians before him, he stands at the table wanting to receive, but knows painfully well that his actions do not match up with his beliefs. Because of his duplicity, he believes his place at the table is forfeit.
The acrobat… er, Apostle Paul wrote about his own struggle with this wire-walk in his letter to the first-century church in Rome. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” In a particularly transparent moment, Paul shares his exasperation with himself for believing one thing and doing another. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Isn’t that the truth! Of course Paul points the finger at the root of this duplicity, his own sinful nature. “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” And it is this sinful nature that the singer, the acrobat, can’t seem to abandon.
And you can swallow
Or you can spit
You can throw it up
Or choke on it
Most frightening to the singer, and any Christian who has faced his double, are Jesus’ words to the church of Laodicea found in Revelation 3. Here, Jesus rebukes this particular church (considered to be the prophetic embodiment of the modern church) for their lack of passion for Himself. Because they have lost their original heat, their passion for the things that once drew them close to Christ, He threatens to abandon them to their own self absorption. Jesus says, “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” My paraphrase goes like this; Jesus cursed them saying, “You make me puke!” I can’t imagine any more frightful words for a Christian who thought he had his religion wired.
And the singer takes this curse on himself. He realizes that what was once a fire in his soul, is now a cold ember hidden beneath an empty façade of contentment and false spirituality. The acrobat walks on a wire of compromise, balancing his talk of doing good to others while his heart is far from the faith that would cause him to do so. He says he loves his neighbor as himself, but the truth is, he loves himself and desires only that which will bring him happiness.
The song ends with the singer emboldening himself to claw his way out of his duplicity and sin, and grasp onto the love for God and people he once held so tightly.
And you can dream
So dream out loud
And you can find
Your own way out
You can build
And I can will
And you can call
I can't wait until
You can stash
And you can seize
In dreams begin
And I can love
And I can love
And I know that the tide is turning 'round
So here he stands looking into the mirror. The singer is unsatisfied with what he sees. He doesn’t want to be an acrobat any longer. He’s getting back onto the path he desires to walk, and cheering himself for the journey ahead.
It won’t be easy. In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan said, “we have to believe it (the Gospel) enough that it changes how we live.” It’s one thing to say that. It’s another more excruciating thing to do it. But we have to do it. Christians have to believe the Gospel enough that, through the Spirit, our actions match up with our beliefs. Then, and only then, will the wire-walking end.
And all the acrobats of the world say, “amen.”

Reader Resources: The Song, The Video (unofficial), The Lyrics
*I believe “girl” is used here as a way to make the characters distinct. It’s also common throughout Achtung Baby for Bono to sexy-up the songs with words like ‘baby’, ‘girl’, ‘honey child’ despite the deeply spiritual and personal nature of the content.