Monday, February 21, 2011

Bono on justice, mercy, faith and narcissism

U2 are currently touring South Africa. It brings their work on behalf of Africa into particular focus, especially when they face the media in Africa. A few days ago, Bono was interviewed by Redi Tlabi on Talk Radio 702 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The interview ran for about 35 mins. It is a wide-ranging interview that covers music, marriage, justice, mercy, faith and narcissism.

There are some great quotes (transcribed by me, but I’d suggest if you want to use the quotes, then do check the sound recording for yourself):

On justice vs charity:

When it comes to One and Data, people see us as bleeding hearts. We do have hearts, but we’re very tough minded people. Justice matters, not charity. These are monies owed by the poorest to the richest. The grand children are held to ransom.

On the fight for justice:

The World Bank just put out figures that African leaders who qualified for debt cancellation. Between 2005 and 2011, there are an extra 44 million children going to school as a result of debt cancellation. These are World Bank figures.

On his relationship with Africa:

Africa seemed a long way away for a boy growing up in Dublin. Our music has always been influenced by social justice. It was while working in Africa that you start to think about the structural issues of poverty. We raised 200 million (in Bandaid) and then we realised Africa spends that much on debt repayment a month.

On himself:

I am definitely capable of narcissism. I’m a rock star.

On whether aid to Africa positions them as victims:

We all needed aid. Ireland did. Germany did. Get over it. We are thinking what are the obstacles in the way of justice, equality and freedom.

On whether Bono is religious:

I’m a believer. I have a deep faith but I am deeply suspicious of people who talk about their faith all the time. It is utterly a part of my life. I try to read the Scriptures.

On his upbringing:

My upbringing made me suspicious. Faith is a very beautiful thing but religion can be a very ugly thing. My faith has helped me in that struggle.

For the full interview as a sound file, go here.

Posted by steve at 06:00 PM

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

when non-priests pray – as Spirit making a world habitable

Here in an excerpt from my recent paperWhen non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer.

Yet at the heart of the incorporative pneumatology of Romans 8 is that of the Spirit at work in all creation, in spaces and places both inside and outside ecclesial. Such Spirit-ed activity makes sense of a number of “non-priestly” stories within the Biblical narrative. Consider Melchizedek in the Abrahamic narrative (Genesis 14), Balaam’s blessing of Israel (Numbers 22-24) and the worship of the Magi (Matthew 2). All of these are moments in which people outside the faith community offers public prayer. All can be claimed to be some expression of the activity of God’s Spirit.

Bono has often been called a prophet. Yet the argument that “Mysterious ways” is a call to worship suggests that Bono, arms raised, is serving as a contemporary cultural priest.

Bruce Marshall in The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings, conceives the Spirit as the One who works to make the world “habitable.” Such an approach to pneumatology provides one final way in which to analyse the U2 concert I experienced.

It is significant that at a number of points throughout the concert, Bono invited those gathered to pray. They were invited at the beginning of the song “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,” to listen to a recording of Radio Tehran. Such can be framed as an invitation to lament.

They were invited during “Walk On” to send prayers to Aung San Suu Kyi in her quest for freedom. This invitation comes in the form of a bodily action, to touch our heart and to send our love.

Using liturgical language, in “Mysterious Ways” Bono called those gathered to worship, to “move with her.” During “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,” those gathered were invited to engage in lament, while during “Walk On” those gathered were invited to “pray for others” and finally to make an “Offering” by texting their support for the One campaign.

Is this not the work of the Spirit, inviting all of creation, those inside and outside the church, to participate in a world made habitable – in which people say yes to the divine, hear the cry of the oppressed, pray for those held captive and offer ourselves in the quest for justice?

Posted by steve at 08:14 AM

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono

Today I delivered my paper – When non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer.

In sum I was holding a conversation between the evolving performance of a U2 song, Mysterious Ways, and exploring themes around what it means to talk of the Spirit present at a pop culture event like a rock concert. While Bono is often called prophet, I began to trace some lines by which he might be called priest, not in a captured by church way, but in the sense of a Melchizideck in Genesis or a Balaam in Numbers or the Magi in Matthew, all outside the church yet offering blessing.

The paper stimulated some energetic and thoughtful conversation, so that was encouraging. In fact, the whole 2 day conference has been a delight, with Sarah Coakley a delightfully engaged listener as we talked about her work. The only surprise, for me, was the absence of many Anglicans – Sarah is both an Anglican priest and Systematic Theologian at Cambridge University, UK, and I really thought her presence would have seen them out in droves.

In light of my current interest in Wordle, here is my paper “wordled”.

Update 1: A highlight for me of the conference was the excellent papers by two younger women theologian; both so poised, so respectfully engaged, so clear in their articulation. It was a delight to behold and a real sign, for me, of hope for the church.

Update 2: An excerpt from my paper is posted here – in which I explore how a theology of Spirit allows the Christian to celebrate pop-culture artifacts.

Posted by steve at 04:30 PM