Life Meets Faith: The U2 Church

One of the nice moments for me at the U2 concert this past July in Toronto was running into John. Although we were both 2,000 kilometers from our home in Nova Scotia, Canada, there he was, just a few feet over. I knew he'd be there, but without having planned an exact rendezvous, I was surprised to wind up almost next to him.

Later, John texted that U2 concerts for him are church. I've been thinking about his comment and his connecting U2 with the Christian tradition. Having followed the band off and on for some time, I can guess five reasons for seeing the band and the Church as having some things in common: community; the sacred world; the value of each person; the word; the journey.

Community. Christians value their communities. U2 fans are a tribe, a community, each person committed, some very strongly, to the story and the music of U2. The person in a 60,000 seat venue next to you might be a stranger, but not a complete one. You are both there for the same reason.

The sacred world. In Christian worship, people are encouraged to see the world as a sacred place of beauty. During the 360 Tour, U2 had audiences listening to astronaut Mark E. Kelly speaking from the International Space Station. From his vantage point, he was able to see our planetary home, all of it. He suspended paper cut-outs of the words "It's a beautiful day" and recited the lyrics to the song of that name.

Christians are taught that all persons are inherently valued — that God has created all persons as sacred, made to reflect his glory. This is foundational to the human rights tradition around the world. For the 360 Tour, Bishop Desmond Tutu, international human rights activist, introduced (on video) the song "One." And Burmese political activist, Aung San See Kyi introduced (also on video) "Scarlet." Bono compared her to another champion of human rights, Nelson Mandela.

The Word. This probably won't come as a surprise to most U2 followers, but the band has spun lyrics out of many Bible stories, themes and phrases. Two quick examples: the title of the song, "Rejoice" — and its message — come straight from the fourth chapter of Philippians; the story in "Until the End of the World" is that of Judas who betrayed Jesus.

The Journey. Finally, consider the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." There are probably a number of ways to experience it. But I think the one that makes the most sense is as an affirmation that life is a spiritual journey. In the Christian understanding, there is a tension between what is affirmed and what is yet to come. Jesus Christ is affirmed as creator and restorer. On the other hand, there is a longing for what is still to come — a world of healing, justice, love and unity, the "kingdom come" when "all the colours will bleed into one." God calls all persons to journey towards this new day, to await its dawning and act in hope while the journey lasts. This longing, this hope, continues to haunt the music of U2, and it is what more than anything else can make your heart stop to hear their songs.

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