A theologian and a rock star walk into a kitchen. This isn’t a joke.In an event filmed by Fuller Studio, Bono (born Paul Hewson, lead singer for U2) visited Eugene Peterson’s home (author of the Message Bible) in 2015 to discuss their mutual love of the Psalms and what they see happening in Christian culture.
Not only was this event interesting because they’re very different men – one’s a soft-spoken academic, the other’s never left his loud, blue-collar roots – it was also interesting because Bono seemingly has many reasons to avoid religious people.
While Bono’s a Christian, he’s always had a complex relationship to the church. He was born in Ireland to a Catholic father and Protestant mother not long before Catholics and Protestants began killing each other in the Troubles.
In his late teens, Bono teamed up with two Christians and a skeptic to form U2, and initially the three Christians sought Christian mentors and even joined a Christian group called Shalom in the late 1970’s.
Very quickly, things got in the way.
One thing which created friction is U2’s music doesn’t sound like typical worship music – Steve Stockman noted in his book Walk On that U2 songs often have spiritual ideas or themes, but they’re rarely stated in church language. Apparently the Christians who mentored Bono at the time didn’t see this spiritual component, and Shalom members felt being a rock musician was antithetical to being Christian.
Another factor was all four members of U2 had a strong affinity for what Bono refers to as the "surreal" — things like avant-garde art, street performing, and dressing or behaving provocatively for shock value. As Bono explained it in a Rolling Stone interview, Shalom members “pretended that our dress, the way we looked, didn't bother them. But very soon it appeared that was not the case.” Eventually Bono and his bandmates left Shalom, and have generally avoided mainstream Christianity ever since.
What’s interesting is that Bono’s never fully given up on Christianity. While Bono freely admits his disagreements with Christians, he’s also told journalists how much he learned about studying Scripture from those early mentors.
Bono doesn’t attend church regularly, but he’s stated he reads the Bible and prays daily.In interviews connected to the Fuller Studio film, Bono talked about reading psalms with his bandmates before concerts -- an interesting example of God being with people, even where only two or more are gathered in his name.
As his friendship with Peterson shows, Bono’s still willing to seek out Christians he respects and who’ve influenced his spiritual journey.
The Christian life can be hard, especially for those of us who are a little eccentric.
Sometimes our spiritual mentors let us down. Sometimes well-intentioned Christians simply don’t see what we’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to make decisions those other Christians disagree with.
In the end though, the point is to pursue and become more like Christ. We have to be willing to focus on having a strong relationship with God and find ways to achieve that, even in the face of difficulties.
G. Connor Salter is a freelance writer and Content Creator for the Odyssey. He has written for the Evangelical Church Library Association, Christian Communicator magazine, and maintains a regular blog at https://gcsalter.wordpress.com/.