Dec 29, 2005

yes, u2 can be bono-fide

So you probably know from earlier in the year that U2 frontman Bono was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This was largely due to his tireless work campaigning against poverty and raising awareness of AIDS and HIV in Africa, placing him on a list of 166 nominees. The awards happened on December 10th, and he got bumped by Mohamed ElBaradei (because, I believe, his name is harder to say out loud).

But at least it was cool that he was nominated, right? I mean, when was the last time Bruce Springsteen was up for the Congressional Medal Of Honor or Peter Tork from the Monkees was asked to receive a Purple Heart? Rock stars being praised in noteworthy circles just doesn't happen that often, so this should be a big deal.

Only... it isn't.

What you may not know is that this year had the largest list of nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize ever. What you also may not know is that anyone can be nominated.

Yes... anyone.

Want to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize? All you need is a Congressman or a university professor to submit your name. That's it! You don't need to have accomplished anything, nor made a major contribution of noteworthy status. If your old buddy from junior high happens to be in Congress these days, call him up and say, "Hey - remember when I let you drink out of my Orange Soda bottle without wiping it off? Yeah... so nominate me for the Nobel Peace Prize, chump."

I share that not to take anything away from Bono, but instead to highlight the fact that we often live under the illusion that certain things have more prestige than the actually do.

I saw this on The Apprentice a few weeks ago when George (the whiny old guy who sits next to Trump) was chewing out a contestant for not letting some celebrities get on stage during an "Autism Speaks" fundraiser. He said something like, "Don't you tink dat dem bein' celebrities gives dem the right to be on stage?" I'm sorry... I didn't know that if someone makes a half of a billion dollars a year that they need something from the little guys.

Anyway... the point is that way too often we give things value that may not necessarily be reality. Sometimes we dream of a job being the answer to all our needs when it is actually full of lots of imperfection just waiting for us to unfold. Or perhaps there is a relationship we feel that if we had (or had fixed) then "everything" would be perfect in our lives. "One more raise or bonus... one more thing for my collection... one more concert or movie... one more person to say they like me... one more _______"

There is only one thing we truly need. The good news is that it is freely offered to us... the love of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't come to establish another religion - He came to offer us real life... not just when we die but even now.

Imagine that - EVERYONE gets nominated to receive it. And it's real... yet so few show up to collect the award because it requires bowing a knee to Jesus Christ.

I feel bad that Bono missed out on his award. Or... has he?

"Being a Christian hasn't given me all the answers; instead it's given me a whole new set of questions." - Bono
Hmm... then again, there was this account from someone else who went to a recent concert of his.

About five songs into their set, Bono stopped the show and strapped on a headband with writing on it. I stared up at the JumboTron to see that the handwritten lettering said: COEXIST. Coexisting sounds like a great idea. I fully support the peaceful philanthropy that Bono has encouraged, and this seemed like another way that he was trying to spread the message.

Except, it started to feel like more than a political message. The “C” in “coexist” was the Islamic crescent moon, the “X” was the Star of David, and the “T” was the cross of Christ. Bono pointed at the symbols on his headband-first to the cross, then to the star, then to the crescent moon-and he began to repeat: “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true.”

He repeated the words like a mantra, and some people even began to repeat it with him. I suddenly wanted to crawl out of my skin. Was Bono, my supposed brother in Christ, preaching some kind of universalism? In just a few seconds, I went from agreeing with him about Christlike “coexistence” to being creeped out by the ungodly, untrue thing he was saying. What’s going on here? What if he believes that all ways are the same, and he just thinks of Christianity as his particular way? Aren’t universalism and true Christianity mutually exclusive?

I’ve heard the urban legends of amazing things Bono has said about his faith, I’ve read the books, and I’ve peered deep into everything he’s said hoping to find something that makes his beliefs clear. For years, I’ve adored him and clung to the notion that he is believer, too. After all, he identifies himself with Christianity, doesn’t he?

When he stated that lie so boldly, it devastated me. It was, without question, the most disturbing experience of my life; I felt like I’d been covered in bile. As I looked around, I saw all the people standing and chanting with him-it was disgusting and beautiful all at once. Unity can be so enticing. It made me think of the one world religion and how that will probably look benign and beautiful from the outside, too. I even started to wonder if universalism just might be poised to be that religion. All these things were running through my head.

After the show, I ran into a friend who had been sitting in the back row. “What did you think of that headband thing?” I asked. “Well, I couldn’t hear what he was saying because it was bouncing off the wall behind me, and I couldn’t read the headband, because I wasn’t near a JumboTron. But honestly, I felt like I was witnessing an antichrist.” I stood frozen as she spoke. I’d had the same feeling.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that Bono is the Antichrist. Perhaps he’s just guilty of being overzealous about his politics. But I hope that if he is a believer, the Holy Spirit will convict him that equating Christianity with other religions is false prophecy. 2 Timothy 3 tells us to avoid people who have a form of godliness but deny the true power of God. And I believe that the most deceptive thing of all is to identify yourself with the truth and preach a lie.

For a long time after the show, I couldn’t talk about it. And I still don’t know what to think because I don’t know Bono’s heart. All I know is what he said from that stage and how it shook my footing. God used that to show me something ugly in myself that needed to be fixed. It felt like He was saying, “If you’re looking to Bono, you’re looking to the wrong place.”

The reality is that Bono held too high a place in my heart. And I don’t think I’m alone there. I’ve wrongly held him up as the heroic ideal-the cool representative for Christianity; he may have been my “Christian idol,” but he was my idol nonetheless. And that’s not OK. Yes, it should bother me to think that Bono might not be a believer; but it should not bother me any more than if a random guy on the street does not believe.

I pray for Bono more lately, and I pray for the hearts of the millions of people who he impacts on a daily basis. He is, without question, the most influential person in the world, and he has an unparalleled opportunity to speak the truth to the lost world. This year alone, he was nominated to be the president of the World Bank, and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And by the time the Vertigo Tour ends in April, it will have grossed twice as much as any political campaign anywhere, ever. If Bono has a saving faith in the one true God, I can only hope that he would speak the Truth without ambiguity. I pray that the name of Jesus would grace his lips, without being equated with Judaism or Islam or any other religion. And I’m praying that God will help me to put things in the right place in my heart.
Maybe we've put Bono too high on our list... or maybe it's something else that doesn't belong there. You know what it is for you, don't you?

Maybe it's time we bend a knee (again?), believe, and receive the only prize that really matters.
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:9)


Dakotaranger said...

How can we coexist with an enemy that doesn't believe in forgiveness? It can't be done. Do I want peace yes. But I refuse to pray towards Mecca.

bigwhitehat said...

Wisdom comes with age. Somtimes age comes alone. Man, Bono is getting old.

Anonymous said...

Why do you care so much about other people's beliefs? Shouldn't you just be content in what you believe in and allow others to do as they please and worship as they please? The only "idol" you should have is God, and he would be the one to judge others...not you. So stop pointing out other people's flaws and focus on your own. Bono is not perfect and will probably change or re-invent himself and his beliefs again. Hollywood does that. Publicity does that. Society does that. At the end of the's his business and he doesn't care what you think. So why care? Care about someone worthwhile...yourself.

Tony Myles said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I really wish you would have felt confident to share your name.

In any event, I appreciate your thought that I should care about myself. I do, and the core of who I am is rooted in Jesus Christ. Since Bono is often labeled a Christian, I am (in a sense) caring for myself when I examine him (as I do myself) in light of the Scriptures. Which again, if I am to be true to myself, I must fully follow the Lord's commands:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:15-16)

"How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Luke 6:42)

I'm not looking for flaws. Rather, I'm looking for ways to help others from stumbling into them (as I would shout to someone walking on a road - "HEY! Look out for that hole you're about to step into!")

I know it's popular to not say anything about anyone and hope that tolerance is the key to all our problems. Unfortunately, true tolerance would mean I can say what I want and it shouldn't bother you (which it has or else you wouldn't have posted).

I don't expect perfection out of Bono or anyone else. That's why I stated (if you read the post) we must be careful who we elevate as a role mode. I do, however, believe that the only one who is perfect - Jesus Christ - belongs in that spot.

I hope you discover that as you pursue the path of enlightenment you are currently on.

Michael said...

I just read this article and I really enjoyed it. The idea of this universal truth is a very complex idea. It seems to me that besides some different uses of language that we are all looking at the same thing through different philosophical and cultural lenses and sometimes we tend to confuse our sunglasses with our eyes. I just finished a book called "Be Here Now" by Ram Dass, I thought it would be just a drugged out crash course in Hindu philosophy but a lot of it really resenated in me it just gave me sit back and say "wow". Its a short read and its deffinitly worth your time.

Also the anonymous post wasnt me, its seems like you kinda refered to me in your response, but it wasnt me.

Mac said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mac said...

Very interesting post. I have followed Bono career for twenty some odd years. Interesting guy.

I agree that there is only One Who deserves to be the focal point, and it would do us well to get back to that in an open and fresh way.

I know you read my small article where I mentioned Bonhoeffer's Ethics.

Bono could be making the mistake of Universalism. It is also possible that given the practical matter (increased bloodshed and hostilities) that he is concerned more with the "secondary things" (penultimate). He's a very "hands on" guy. And let's face it, in order for open discussion of Jesus to occur it really helps if we stop killing each other, particularly over religious issues.

There is also the incarnational aspect. When E. Stanley Jones went to India, he adopted their clothing and observed many rituals not offensive to his own conscience in order to truly meet people.

I can show tolerance for neighbor regardless of belief. I do not have to bow towards Mecca to respect his desire for God. And ultimately his own relationship is with his Creator. My task is to love my neighbor. Part of that will be to talk about my own faith and about Jesus.

On Bono. He is clearly a believer who wrestles with his faith, as many of us do. He's a bit like James in the way of "showing" his faith by what he does. He is also, at times a decent theologican, but not always (read his forward in the Penguin edition of The Psalms). Like all of us, his theology is ultimately flawed. As Christians we are not "gnostic" in the sense that we have to have all the "right" knowledge. We just really need to trust in Jesus and enjoy Him.

I admit Bono is iconic. But in an age of division, terror and where Jesus has been marginalized, I think Bono's doing a fair job, as unbalanced as that may be.