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Old 02-08-2002, 10:25 AM   #1
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U2's Superbowl Performance...A Christian Rave Up?

Are you asking me? Oh yeah!!!

Coming Up at the Half: Jesus and Bono
U2's performance at the Super Bowl was a Christian rave-up

Paul O'Donnell

The war against terrorism isn't supposed to be a battle between Christianity and Islam, but no one seemed to have told the Super Bowl organizers, the ones who booked the rock supergroup U2 for the halftime show. As it turned out, the country's first high profile National Security Event was the biggest Christian display at a gladiatorial show since "Ben Hur."

For most Americans, U2's performance, featuring lead-singer Bono's stroll through an on-field crowd to a heart-shaped stage and his display of Sept. 11 solidarity when he flashed open his black leather jacket to reveal an American flag, was just another tribute to the American victims of terrorism.

But many Gen-Y Christians look to U2 as the standard-bearers of a passionate, think outside-the-church faith. To them, Sunday's performance was perhaps the band's most strident confirmation yet that they accept the charge. U2 also injected religion into our remembrance of Sept. 11 in a way that hasn't been seen since immediately after the
attacks. "This is the first tribute I've seen that has brought in the souls and heaven. It gave a whole new context to that event," says Cameron Strang, publisher of a soon-to-be launched Christian magazine, Relevant. "It's going to be a moment that our generation shared."

U2's religious connections have been subjected to a kind of rolling reality check, administered by Christian fans and mainstream press alike, since their spiritually preoccupied second album, "October." With the release of their 1987 album, "The Joshua Tree," in the United States, however, Christians adopted them unconditionally as heroes. That album's radio hit, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," a seeming plea for redemption, became a Christian anthem. "You loosed the chains," Bono sang, "Carried the cross, and my shame. You know I believe it." Another track, "Where the Streets Have No Name," was
cited as a reference to heaven.

But religious references from a band from Ireland could be nothing more than poetic allusion, and Bono has spoken frequently about his faith, without allowing himself to be nailed down about precisely what he believes. Last year, Bono told Beliefnet he'd "like to be a Christian," but added, "I sometimes feel more like a fan, rather than
actually in the band. I can't live up to it." Even Christians have objected that no one sold on Jesus could say he hasn't found what he's looking for. Other critics have come up with competing interpretations for "Where the Streets Have No Name." Couldn't Bono be imagining a world undivided by hatred based on racial and ethnic labels- a Belfast without a Shankill Road?

Sunday's performance of that song, though, seemed to favor an explicitly Christian reading. Reprising a segment from their recent arena show, the band played a song from their new album, then launched into "Where the Streets Have No Name" while a screen behind them scrolled the names of those who died on Sept. 11. "I thought it had never been connected more closely" as an image of heaven, says Strang.

What's more, Strang says he and a friend slowed down a videotape of the show to understand a phrase Bono muttered in the transition between songs. "He quoted Psalm 51:15," Strang says, "'O Lord open my lips and my mouth show forth thy praise.' Then he said, 'Yes, America.'"

Despite the "Paul is dead" vibe in such frame-by-frame sleuthing, Strang's antennae aren't the only ones quivering. It's not uncommon for Bono to quote the Bible from the stage, but since U2 began touring in the fall, Christians have sensed a new Christian surge from the band. Some have reported feeling more inspired by the two hour concert than any church service in memory. "There's been a very noticeable return to a focus on spiritual things, or more accurately "Christian" things," says Wendy Lee Nentwig, a former editor at CCM magazine, the Rolling Stone of Christian rock. " My take is, Bono is settling into his faith, feeling like he has less to prove, getting tired of playing characters on stage and more content to be himself."

Doubtless, the NFL and its party planners had no intention of turning the halftime show into a religious blowback to those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. (If anyone took offense at Bono's appearance, it was because the star had flown straight from New York, where he had lobbied against the evils of global capitalism at the World Economic Forum, to New Orleans, where he performed at global capitalism's high holiday.) Christian kids were likely too busy bouncing off the walls to think of the geopolitical implications, and Al-Qaeda probably didn't notice. But just in case: with baseball season coming up, is
Muhammad Ali available to throw out the first ball?

[This message has been edited by spanisheyes (edited 02-08-2002).]

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Old 02-08-2002, 12:34 PM   #2
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Originally posted by spanisheyes:
"There's been a very noticeable return to a focus on spiritual things, or more accurately "Christian" things," says Wendy Lee Nentwig, a former editor at CCM magazine, the Rolling Stone of Christian rock. " My take is, Bono is settling into his faith, feeling like he has less to prove, getting tired of playing characters on stage and more content to be himself."
You know this rings really, really true to me, but...

(I have to add a but.)

I just want to say that I am very glad that part of Bono's "being himself" is to deal with all the ambiguities of life up front, and to create art that you do not have to be a Christian to relate to and find yourself in. I happen to think he is the most subtle theologian in pop culture, and I am regularly stunned by the fluidity and depth of his use of Christian themes, and his sincere obsession with Jesus puts me to shame.

But it's one thing to be an artist who uses art to advance religious slogans and party lines. It's another to be an artist who makes universally accessible art that can't help but be influenced by his thoroughgoing Christian worldview and by the felt presence of Christ. Thank God Bono is the latter and not the former. *So* many more people have been touched by U2 because of it.


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Old 02-08-2002, 10:18 PM   #3
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I just *love* Bono. He is someone I really look up to, someone who is so open and bold about his faith, yet he doesn't cram it down peoples' throats--it's simply a part of who he is, like his eye or skin color (we'll skip over the hair color). I hope I can be that way some day...ever day for me is a bit of a struggle, and I publicly do very "unchristian" things that make me want to kick myself later. I think his own "growing up" has giving his faith a gentle maturity that makes people want to really listen to what he has to say, rather than him trying to force people to hear him.

He's the coolest.
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Old 02-09-2002, 03:25 PM   #4
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I don't think anybody has settled into their faith quite yet. Especially Bono. It doesn't seem as though he's at home yet. Although he's noticeably more comfortable than in previous years (i.e. POP), he isn't showing he's comfortable necesarily. And I think that's a good thing. He's showing that he has figured a lot of stuff out but he doesn't know what it is he's working toward right now. Look at "Peace on Earth," when he flat out says that he's sick of hearing it. How you hear ir "every Christmastime" but obviously forget either a)about it or b) to do anything about it. Another thing he said in there is that "hope and history won't rhyme" now that is not a statement that would have been made by a religiously comfortable man. He's still working on it and that's good. I love that he writes about it because it helps me a lot in my search for spirituality. It provides evidence that I am not the only one who has gone through what I'm going through (which I know is not true, but it's nice to hear him talk about it). It also provides quiet solace. I don't really like explaining my spirituality, like Larry, I think it takes away from what I believe. Listening to music means I don't have to explain anything AND I get responses to my questions. Oh, I love U2.

It's the puppets that pull the strings.

*You're very kind. Most people laugh when they see my googly eye.*


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