Below is an interview by U2's Bono republished in Modern Reformation Magazine. It originally appeared as the introduction to "Selections from the Book of Psalms: Authorized King James Version" (Pocket Canons). We make no claims about Bono's orthodoxy, but we find his own words a fascinating take on Scripture and the Christian faith. Note his comment, "I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me; now it is a source of great comfort." Many men I pastor could relate to and be encouraged by that honest sentiment. Scripture pulls no punches when it comes to its sinners and scoundrels.
Explaining faith is
impossible...Vision over visibility ... Instinct over intellect ... A
songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one
in his head.
One of the writers of the psalms was a musician, a
harp-player whose talents were required at 'the palace' as the only
medicine that would still the demons of the moody and insecure King Saul
of Israel; a thought that still inspires, if not quite explaining
Marilyn singing for Kennedy, or the Spice Girls in the court of Prince
At age 12, I was a fan of David, he felt familiar ...
like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as
poetic as they were religious and he was a star. A dramatic character,
because before David could fulfill the prophecy and become the king of
Israel, he had to take quite a beating. He was forced into exile and
ended up in a cave in some no-name border town facing the collapse of
his ego and abandonment by God. But this is where the soap opera got
interesting, this is where David was said to have composed his first
psalm - a blues. That's what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the
blues. Man shouting at God - 'My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me?' (Psalm 22).
I hear echoes of
this holy row when un-holy bluesman Robert Johnson howls 'There's a
hellhound on my trail' or Van Morrison sings 'Sometimes I feel like a
motherless child'. Texas Alexander mimics the psalms in 'Justice Blues':
'I cried Lord my father, Lord eh Kingdom come. Send me back my woman,
then thy will be done'. Humorous, sometimes blasphemous, the blues was
backslidin' music; but by its very opposition, flattered the subject of
its perfect cousin Gospel.
Abandonment, displacement, is the stuff
of my favourite psalms. The Psalter may be a font of gospel music, but
for me it's in his despair that the psalmist really reveals the nature
of his special relationship with God. Honesty, even to the point of
anger. 'How long, Lord? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?' (Psalm 89) or
'Answer me when I call' (Psalm 5).
Psalms and hymns were my first
taste of inspirational music. I liked the words but I wasn't sure about
the tunes - with the exception of Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. I
remember them as droned and chanted rather than sung. Still, in an odd
way, they prepared me for the honesty of John Lennon, the baroque
language of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the open throat of Al Green and
Steve Wonder - when I hear these singers, I am reconnected to a part of
me I have no explanation for ... my 'soul' I guess.
music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could
never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an
experiental sense of GOD. Over art, literature, reason, the way into my
spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result the Book of
Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes,
the Song of Solomon the book of John... My religion could not be fiction
but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical
and definitely not ritual ...
My mother was Protestant, my father
Catholic; anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable. The
'Prods' at that time had the better tunes and the Catholics had the
better stage-gear. My mate Gavin Friday used to say: 'Roman Catholicism
is the Glamrock of religion' with its candles and psychedelic colours
... Cardinal blues, scarlets and purples, smoke bombs of incense and the
ring of the little bell. The Prods were better at the bigger bells,
they could afford them. In Ireland wealth and Protestantism went
together; to have either, was to have collaborated with the enemy, i.e.
Britain. This did not fly in our house.
After going to Mass at the
top of the hill, in Finglas on the north side of Dublin, my father
waited outside the little Church of Ireland chapel at the bottom of the
hill, where my mother had brought her two sons ...
I kept myself
awake thinking of the clergyman's daughter and let my eyes dive into the
cinema of the stained glass. These Christian artisans had invented the
movies ... light projected through colour to tell their story. In the
'70s the story was 'the Troubles' and the Troubles came through the
stained glass; with rocks thrown more in mischief than in anger, but the
message was the same; the country was to be divided along sectarian
lines. I had a foot in both camps, so my Goliath became religion itself;
I began to see religion as the perversion of faith. As to the five
smooth stones for the sling ... I began to see God everywhere else. In
girls, fun, music, justice but still - despite the lofty King James
translation - the Scriptures.
I loved these stories for the basest
reasons, not just the New Testament with its mind-altering concept that
God might reveal himself as a baby born in straw poverty - but even the
Old Testament. These were action movies, with some hardcore men and
women ... the car chases, the casualties, the blood and guts; there was
very little kissing.
David was a star, the Elvis of the bible, if
we can believe the chiseling of Michelangelo (check the face - but I
still can't figure out this most famous Jew's foreskin). And unusually
for such a 'rock star', with his lust for power, lust for women, lust
for life, he had the humility of one who knew his gift worked harder
than he ever would. He even danced naked in front of his troops ... the
biblical equivalent of the royal walkabout. David was definitely more
performance artist than politician.
Anyway, I stopped going to
churches and got myself into a different kind of religion. Don't laugh,
that's what being in a rock 'n' roll band is, not pseudo-religion either
... Show-business is Shamanism: Music is Worship; whether it's worship
of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes
from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex,
whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire ...
the smoke goes upwards ... to God or something you replace God with ...
Years ago, lost for words and forty minutes of
recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still
looking for a song to close our third album, War. We wanted to put
something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and
the romance of it; like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought
about the psalms ... 'Psalm 40' ... There was some squirming. We were a
very 'white' rock group, and such plundering of the scriptures was taboo
for a white rock group unless it was in the 'service of Satan'. Or
'Psalm 40' is interesting in that it suggests a time
in which grace will replace karma, and love replace the very strict laws
of Moses (i.e. fulfil them). I love that thought. David, who committed
some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it.
That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards,
adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me; now it is a source of great
'40' became the closing song at U2 shows and on hundreds
of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size
and shape t-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from 'Psalm 6':
"'How long' (to sing this song)". I had thought of it as a nagging
question - pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we
glimpse only when we act in love. How long ... hunger? How long ...
hatred? How long until creation grows up at the chaos of its precocious,
hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the
vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort; to me too.
to get back to David, it is not clear how many, if any, of these psalms
David or his son Solomon really wrote. Some scholars suggest the royals
never dampened their nibs and that there was a host of Holy Ghost
writers ... Who cares? I didn't buy Leiber and Stoller ... they were
just his songwriters ... I bought Elvis.
If you're interested in some other things Bono has said about Jesus, CLICK HERE