Wednesday, January 02, 2008

One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to those Seeking God

Over the holiday, Omaha welcomed an interesting visitor. And I don't mean Santa Claus.
Rock star legend and humanitarian, Bono (of U2 fame) came to town to visit with members of billionaire Warren Buffett's family who work together on various global philanthropies.

While in town, Bono sat down for a Sunday morning late breakfast at my favorite restaurant- the Dundee Dell. The waitresses still haven't gotten over the excitement! I know; I ate there for lunch today with a good friend. "Where did he sit?" I asked the hostess as I came in for my favorite meal of fish & chips. "Over there against the wall, in booth number 4", she said.

"Come over with me," I said, and we walked over to where Bono sat. I sat down, put my hands against the wall, put both palms firmly down on the table top, leaned back in my seat, closed my eyes, and told the hostess, "I'm just chanelling his spirit and energy!" She laughed and so did everyone around me.

Over Christmas I've been reading a couple of Bono/U2 related books that share something of the restless energy and world encompassing spirituality of Bono and U2. One book is by
Christian Scharen, a theologian at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and it's titled:
One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God. It's a wonderful exploration of the music and spirituality revealed and concealed in the lyrics of the large U2 catalogue of rock songs and ballads that have propelled them to world wide celebrity.

Scharen's book is a marvelous examination of the unconventional faith of U2 and Bono, from the perspective of the central icon of Christian faith- the Cross. Here's a quick summary of Sharen's approach:

"The theology of the Cross fits U2 because it avoids the all too common proclamation of faith, hope, and love that ignores the present realities of doubt, despair, suffering, and injustice.
It is a tradition that looks at the world and speaks the truth about what it sees: the good, the bad, and the ugly...One need not ignore or be surprised by the many difficulties and sorrows in life. Rather, such faith allows us to take life's challenges straight on knowing that in our struggles we are not alone. Jesus, the crucified and risen one, has already faced the worst of life."

Sharen's book explores how U2 and Bono sing that kind of honest faith. I heartily recommend it if you are a passionate U2 fan, like me. Even if you aren't!

As I was sitting there at the Dundee Dell eating my lunch, our waitress came by again, and I asked her for another Bono anecdote. Here's one she said. She told us that Bono came in with a great big, Russian looking fur hat on, with flaps down around his ears. He was really friendly she said. She offered him a taste of their famous Scotch single malt whiskey, the best anywhere in
town, but he politely declined, saying he' partied enough the night before.

He then got to talking and told about a recent concert in Dublin, where he was singing "Sunday, Bloody Sunday". Bono told her how he stopped singing and started clapping his hands, and told the crowd that everytime he clapped a child died in Africa from AIDS or hunger or war.
"Then stop your bloody clapping," Bono heard someone shout out! And our waitress laughed, but I could tell, that for all that was going on in churches in Omaha that Sunday morning, this was where the unconventional Spirit of Jesus spoke most provocatively.

Our waitress then said she told her 5 year old grandson who she had met later in the day, and he said, "But who is that?" She replied, "He's like God and Santa Claus". He comes to sing and to love children, bringing them gifts of love and hope.

"Wow!" I thought to myself.

Here's a quote from Bono himself, about what's going on with his music:

"There's two kinds of people, there's those who are asleep and those that are awake. I've used my music to wake me up and if it wakes other people up on the way that's okay because we get used to the sound of a bomb going off in Belfast and to the roll call of bad news on television, we get used to the fact that a third of the population on earth are starving. We get used to all these things and we eventually fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom."

The second book I've been reading is On the Move, by Bono himself. It's a small little book that contains the speech he gave in 2006 at the Annual Washington Prayer Breakfast, with the
most powerful political figures in town. Little did they know that they had invited a prophet for breakfast. It was an angry, audacious, hopeful, prophetic address to self-styled movers and shakers.

Here's just a taste of that prophetic speech by Bono:

"God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."

"This is what happens when God gets on the Move!" - Bono

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

On Celebrating New Year's 2008

Moments to savor as the New Year begins.....

  • A leisurely beginning to the day.
  • Feeding the ducks and geese at the small lake out behind our home, with stale bread that's been collecting for a week or so. Wondering why in the world these birds content themselves to swim round and round on a shrinking pool of water as the lake freezes over. What seems like a couple hundred birds flap towards me as the slices of old honey wheat bread get tossed left and right.
  • Sitting in the chair by the fire to watch the Mizzou Tigers win the Cotton Bowl, and getting calls from my two oldest sons who are Mizzou students, back on campus for work and school commitments
  • Sharing a bowl of ham & bean soup with my wife, along with the homemade cornbread I've baked!
  • Taking a drive to Lake Manawa over the Missouri River from Omaha to Council Bluffs to see if we can spot nesting eagles around the lake
  • Watching someone ski out on the lake propelled by a parachute overhead that catches the wind and sends him flying across frozen Lake Manawa
  • Back home a freshly brewed cup of Nicaraugan coffee in front of the fire
  • Relaxing and enjoying P.D. James novel 'The Lighthouse", an Adam Dalgliesh detective mystery. The British seem to feature very thoughtfully constructed murder mysteries; where else but in a British detective series would the protagonist be both a poet and son of a Church of England priest?
  • And here toward early evening, I can smell fresh banana nut bread baking in the oven; time for more coffee....
  • A perfect beginning to a new year, and not single resolution made, except maybe to enjoy more days like this!