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Old 09-10-2002, 10:55 AM   #1
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The Prestigious Hewson Lecture

The Prestigious Hewson Lecture
@U2, September 08, 2002
Angela Pancella

"I always wondered who would show up to hear a lecture about my favorite rock and roll band," Nathan Tiemeyer told the people gathered to hear him speak at a Borders Bookstore in St. Louis. "Now I've finally got my answer."

The crowd (Tiemeyer later estimated there were fifty to seventy in attendance) was at the bookstore on a mid-July evening to hear the Covenant Theological Seminary student expound on the topic "When I Look at the World: Reality and Longing in the Music of U2." It was, he confessed early in the talk, the fulfillment of a long-standing dream. Years ago, Tiemeyer and some other U2 fan friends had considered creating their own lecture series on the topic they all felt was their area of expertise. "We even decided to give it that university feel by christening it 'The Prestigious Hewson Lectures,'" he told his audience that night, "which was an in-house nod to Bono's real name and a more than slightly ridiculous attempt to be clever."

Tiemeyer's presentation at Borders was not under the sponsorship of The Prestigious Hewson Lectures, but the Francis Schaeffer Institute (FSI) Lecture Series. FSI (which is affiliated with Covenant Theological Seminary, an evangelical college just west of St. Louis City) intends its summer lecture series to examine topics of interest to the culture at large -- say, Harry Potter books or Woody Allen movies -- from a Christian perspective. Originally, the talks were given at the Institute and so are still known as "Friday Nights at the Institute," even though they now take place at bookstores.

Since "there are often those in attendance that don't share the same worldview as the person speaking," as Tiemeyer put it in an e-mail, "FSI does ask that anyone who gives a Friday Night at the Institute lecture be respectful in how they communicate -- both in presenting their material and in answering questions and/or objections." Apart from this directive, Tiemeyer had a free hand for putting together his 30-minute talk -- although he did have to title it long before it was written. He explained that soon after he had brought up the idea of a U2 lecture, "FSI needed to alert Borders of what they had coming up with regard to lecture topics," so Tiemeyer and JoEllen Borgos, coordinator of the series, brainstormed titles to match the themes he considered addressing.

Armed with a title, Tiemeyer wrote a lecture that proposed "candidness and hope" as the twin pillars of U2's appeal. He explained what he meant by candidness by referring to a description by Bill Flanagan in U2 at the End of the World: "U2 are by nature truth tellers, and Bono, the man who is largely responsible for the lyrical content of the music, is by nature a big mouth. The result of this is a transparency...a vulnerability that gives us access to a singer and his band as they honestly grapple with the reality of the broken world in which they live. It is a task that can prove harsh and unsettling." He cited "Running to Stand Still" and its portrait of heroin abuse, "Stuck in a Moment" and the argument against suicide, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and the frustration of the Troubles as just a few examples of U2 confronting "the empty, tragic, and the otherwise painful experiences of life."

Balancing out the darkness, Tiemeyer believes, is the way U2 "also drag us up off the ground to keep going, buoyed by the belief that hope is still legitimate." He sees "40" as a counterweight to "Sunday Bloody Sunday," setting the earlier cry of "How long must we sing this song?" within a psalm of confidence and trust. He pointed out how the luckless character in "Beautiful Day" is directed to see "how the colours came out" after catastrophe. At the end of his talk he gave special emphasis to an Elevation concert memory: the disjointed, desperate monologue of "Bad" segueing through a hint of "40" to the exultation of "Where the Streets Have No Name."

After the lecture Tiemeyer invited questions from the audience. They came tentatively at first (quick enthusiasm is not a common trait of St. Louis audiences), but soon the question and answer period had gone on nearly as long as the lecture. Topics of discussion ranged far beyond the scope of Tiemeyer's thesis to other Big Questions concerning the band:

"How much of U2's message does the broad U2 fan base actually 'get'?"

"If U2 came on the scene today, would they be put on the 'Christian music' shelf?"

"Any comments on 'Wake Up Dead Man'?"

"What is your take on the Passengers album?"

When Tiemeyer admitted he hadn't actually listened to Original Soundtracks 1, another audience member stepped in with an impassioned critique of the U2/Brian Eno collaboration: "This is complete experimentalism at its apex." He also gave a mini-history of the inspiration behind "Miss Sarajevo."

"It's the ever-present danger when you do a topic like this -- that there are going to be people in the audience who know a lot more than you do," Tiemeyer commented when he had the floor again.

Those who may be returning to school might find inspiration in Tiemeyer's experience of working his U2 fandom into his academic life. In e-mail correspondence, he estimated he spent 25 hours researching his talk-reading books, studying lyrics, surfing the Web -- but "all that, of course, was a labor of love, and so the hours spent doing that went by a little faster than some of the other hours I've spent in research!"

He lamented the lack of time to delve into many more topics related to the band. For example, he would have liked to explore Bono's characterization of Zoo TV as "judo," fighting against your enemy utilizing his energy and strength.

He is deeply curious about audiences' responses to the seemingly more blatant hope/redemption currents in the Elevation tour. All this may be held off until the Prestigious Hewson Lecture Series receives its funding. Perhaps other students will take independent initiative in the meantime. There is exhaustive research waiting to be conducted.

© @U2/Pancella, 2002.

I really enjoyed this article, and thought it how cool to start a Lecture Series on the spiritual impact of U2 music and lyrics. Almost like what we have here with The Goal is Soul. I've highlighted parts of the article that may make for good discussion.


"The truth is when that singer is saying something that comes from right down within him, and it affects you right down within you. That's when you start talking about great music, as distinct from nice music." -- Bono
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Old 09-10-2002, 12:06 PM   #2
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Nice Article Chris.
Bono is a only a man, a brilliant man, and tremendous performer, w a genuine heart.


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Old 09-10-2002, 12:15 PM   #3
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Originally posted by diamond
Bono is a only a man, a brilliant man, and tremendous performer, w a genuine heart.

Nicely put Diamond, and I wholeheartedly agree.

"The truth is when that singer is saying something that comes from right down within him, and it affects you right down within you. That's when you start talking about great music, as distinct from nice music." -- Bono
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Old 09-10-2002, 02:53 PM   #4
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I went and looked up the Francis Schaeffer Institute. It's at a Presbyterian seminary in St. Louis.
...if anyone is interested.

What really caught my attention though, was some previous lectures' topics:

"Why God, Why Anything?: The Projected Life of Woody Allen"

"Rings and Wizards: The Spell of Middle Earth" (A Look at J.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings)

"From Water Pistols to Tennis: Play in the Game of Life"

"Why Paul Simon and the Beatles Are in God's CD Changer"

"Does the Universe Groove?: Aquinas Through the Eyes of a Drummer"

Kind of makes me wish I lived near enough to go!
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Old 09-11-2002, 04:25 PM   #5
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what a cool article! my friend had emailed it to me, but I've erased my original reaction to it.

However- I agree with all of it. Years of study of U2 wouldn't be enough for me. I remember in college trying to incorporate them into my classes (being a CS & Math major it was difficult..) but my media & english classes saw their share of U2. It's amazing what music can do for people- and what U2 have done is nothing short of miraculous IMO. The best thing about this- is that they know they could never have done it on their own, either.

mebythesea- those classes sound v, v. cool! I wish I had more opportunities to take classes like that. What seems like "rubbish" to older, more traditional generations could actually be turned into a great learning tool about the generation the music was played in, as well as the music's messages itself.

(sorry if I wrote this confusing- my head is sort of on backwards today)

thanks for sharing Chris
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Old 09-12-2002, 11:40 AM   #6
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It would be great to read a transcript of the entire lecture ! I agree with others that it would be wonderful to see a theology course here in North America about faith and music or faith and the arts(film-literature-music-etc.) For U2 content there is plenty of material now with Stockmanís book along with U2 interviews / Bonoís Introduction To The Psalms / Bonoís Jubilee & DATA campaign / articles on U2ís spirituality / etc. I remember reading about a woman that was giving a lecture about U2 and faith in the New England region last summer or fall. I wonder if there is a transcript of it somewhere on the internet ? It is interesting to read a similar story from last week.


The Western Mail Ė September 7, 2002
By Steve Dube

There may be doubts about whether Elvis is God, but it seems he was at least godly.

The rock legend is one of the stars in a college course that aims to encourage students to study the word of God in its less obvious manifestations.

The course, called Rock of Ages, has seen student numbers at a West Wales college double this year as they turn their attention to the likes of Elvis, Johnny Cash, U2, Robbie Williams and Bob Dylan.

Theology lecturer Chris Deacy also runs a course called Holy Hollywood at Trinity College, Carmarthen, where students scrutinise classic films for their religious content.

Scholars are also encouraged to use the internet to study religion with a course called God in Cyberspace.

The 13-week courses form part of a year-long study of theology that is part of a BA degree in Religious Studies.

"We started last year and this has proved to be a really popular course," said Dr. Deacy, who studied for his PhD in religion and film at the University of Wales, Lampeter. We had 12 first-year students last year, which was double the previous year, and this year we have between 25 and 30 -- and people are still applying."

The unmistakable sound of modern music can be heard emerging from lecture rooms at the college as students listen for evidence of the influence of religion in sounds that might once have been described as the Devil's music.

"Elvis was heavily influenced by gospel music, and even though Robbie Williams professes to be a Buddhist he sings songs with titles like Jesus in a Camper Van and Angels," said Dr. Deacy.

"Johnny Cash is always singing of sin and redemption and Bob Dylan recorded a couple of albums after converting to Christianity, and also refers a lot to Judaism.

"There are all sorts of music that deal with universal human themes, though I don't know about Steps."

Dr. Deacy agreed there was a danger in reading too much into some things and not enough into others.

"Dylan has some pretty deep music but people don't necessarily connect it to the influences of Christianity and Judaism," he said.

"We find it good to introduce students to themes in popular culture that they would normally find in manuscripts and religious texts.

"It shows that religion is not marginalised in human society but an integral part of it."

Dr. Deacy's specialism is films. He says Hollywood has always had a strong Christian dimension and the internet can be looked at as an omniscient force. He believes the study module will be relevant to students' future careers as teachers, social workers, ministers or even journalists.
© owned by or licensed to Trinity Mirror Plc, 2002.

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