Bono on Jesus, Religion, and Grace

Frank Viola wrote a post recently about a book about Bono, lead singer for U2.

bono Jesus religion graceI have been a U2 fan for nearly 25 years, although the more recent albums have not really been my favorite…. but whatever.

In the book, Bono had this to say about Jesus, grace, and religion. I don’t know much about the rest of Bono’s theology, but if these statements are any guide, Bono gets it!

My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace. You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

That’s [the stupid stuff] between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says:

“No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this.”

So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched

If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Good stuff! If this quote represents Bono’s theology, then his thinking is better than most of what comes from America’s pulpits and seminaries.



Comments

  1. says

    Unfortunately theologies have complicated Christ beyond belief! Do you realize that the early church fathers didn’t seek scripture to prove Christ but used their experience of Christ to authenticate scripture and then used scripture to further expand on their experience. The opposite way that we do it in seminaries nowadays.

  2. mark b. says

    “In the name of love,
    What more in the name of love?”

    Just an quote from the bygone years and one of U2′s songs. I’m not totally sure, but I think that song was mostly about some atrocities “the Church”/religion has done “in the name of the Father”.

    Thanks for the post, Jer. I’d like to share this with quite a few!
    -M.

  3. says

    Great comment, Yuri Wijting! I think we have exchanged the Holy Spirit with the Bible so we are no longer receptive to the Spirit’s unction’s. I love Bill Johnson’s quote, “It’s difficult to expect the same fruit of the early church when we value a book they didn’t have more than the Holy Spirit they did have. It’s not Father, Son and the Holy Bible. No, this is the word of God, but you’ve got to understand… it is the Spirit of God that makes it living.” I think to piggyback off your saying, Yuri, is we need to go back to how the early church received the Truth, allowing God’s Character, His Goodness to expand/interpret scripture rather than scripture defining God. If we ONLY let the Bible define God, which Paul says, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives Life”, we are stranded in a field of opinion. Hence, the enormous amount of denominations created on quite possibly “only by the Letter reading.” I know that’s probably a bold statement…but think about it… I don’t recall any early church Father prioritizing Bible Study above all else. Anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 Christian denominations are currently counted…I wonder if only because we have elevated the Bible over the Holy Spirit…I have found in my past circles of friends and even with family now a sense of Bibliolatry. It’s more pervasive than we think.

  4. 5 says

    Why don’t you like their recent albums there more personally and spiritual and better? I thought the book came out in 2005.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>