U2's Bono Challenges Christianity

Legendary rocker to open Washington office, funded by Bill Gates, to help fight AIDS


One of the rock music industry's biggest stars is challenging Christians in the U.S. to live out their faith by coming to the aid of the world's needy. On May 22, singer Bono of the Irish rock group US was in the middle of a 10-day tour through Africa with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. The tour was designed to demonstrate the need for American aid to the poorest continent on earth. "The aim of the trip is to show Secretary O'Neill effective aid and what it can do," Bono said. "These people in Africa don't have much time for us to dress up for the debate, as important as that may be."

In March, Bono told a group of evangelicals gathered for a meeting on Capital Hill that he is a believer and has faith in Christ. Bono, who has aggressively lobbied world leaders-including those in Washington-for U.S. aid to Africa, has encouraged evangelicals to lead the fight against AIDS and poverty, which have decimated much of Africa.

Bono raises an important question, "A third of the earth's population is incarcerated by poverty. It is, as they say, the drive of the Scriptures. Why isn't it the drive of the churches?" His challenge to Christians echoed one made by Franklin Graham in February. Graham called on those attending the Prescription for Hope AIDS conference sponsored by Samaritan's Purse, in Washington D.C. to reach out to AIDS patients worldwide with compassion "rather than condemnation."

Bono is planning to open a Washington office for his new organization, Debt, AIDS, and Trade for Africa (DATA) with funds provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In related news, a recent book by a Presbyterian minister in Ireland recounts the journey of Bono and U2 from its members' early days as part of an evangelical fellowship in Ireland to the band's place as a respected voice-both in secular and Christian circles-for social activism.

Many evangelical Christians see U2 as nothing more than a loud and raucous rock band singing for (and acting like) the devil. IT is well documented that the behavior of some of U2's members has often been more in keeping with the lifestyle of worldly rock superstars than witnesses to Christ's transforming power. Yet, argues the Rev. Steve Stockman in The Spiritual Journey of U2, the band's faith in Christ, particularly that of frontman Bono, has consistently been the driving force behind its work. Stockman attempts to explain the struggles of the band members as Christians in light of their music and interviews they have done over their 20-plus years together.

Bono once said, "Christians are hard to tolerate," quickly adding, "I'm one of them." In his book Stockman demonstrates through the evolution of U2's music that the band has been working out its salvation over the years. He argues that the depth and maturing of the band's faith can be tracked through its albums, from War, to Joshua Tree, to its latest, All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Stockman addresses the band members' contradictory behavior-the excessive drinking and partying-realistically, pointing out that the members who confess Christ-in particularly Bono-have ultimately persevered in the faith, and have not caved in to the excesses that seem to characterize the lifestyles of many rock stars. In fact, Bono has used his prominence to speak out on social issues that the church should be facing.

Stockman said, "I think the excessive living of some other pop stars has distracted them from the issues of the real world. But I don't think Bono has ever been distracted; he is still pretty well plugged into that. I think his faith has kept him away from excessive living and has also given him a mission."

Stockman also challenges other contemporary musicians, both Christian and secular, noting that Bono and U2 have done more than most to use their music to battle issues such as exploitation, AIDS, and global poverty. "When people look back at U2 they will have to say, at this period of rock music, they are the band that contributed the most socially, spiritually, and politically." Stockman asserted. "They will be remembered as more than just a rock band, but as a rock band that was good for something."

Bono told Beliefnet in 2001, that one of the central tenets of Christianity is that "everybody is equal in God's eyes. So you cannot, as a Christian, walk away from Africa. America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of this day. What's up on trial here is Christianity itself. You cannot walk away from this and call yourself a Christian and sit in power. Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world-and stop being its apologist."

Bono said that the "most powerful idea that's entered the world in the last few thousand years-the idea of grace-is the reason I would like to be a Christian."

Reprinted by permission, Charlotte World.

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