Monday, April 10, 2006

The Worship of U2, Part One

I am not sure anyone really knows yet what exactly post-modern spirituality is, for the whole phenomenon strikes me as being like someone who takes a photograph of a raging river -- as soon as the picture is snapped, the subject has already changed. But one characteristic that experts in the field point to is that post-modern spirituality involves a rejection of institutionalized religion in favor of a more open, less constrained spirituality.

In this sense, I suppose U2 represents a form of post-modern spirituality. Their lead singer, Bono, once commented that religion is what's left over after the Spirit has left the church. Of course, much of this sentiment derives from the highly charged political context in which the members of U2 experienced religion growing up in Ireland. Regardless of the cause, the result has been that Bono turned to his music as his form of worship to God. Their concert tours over the past half decade have increasingly taken on a worship feel to them, prompting Bono during at least one concert to comment, "This is church." It is hard to argue his point when Bono's quotations from Scripture merge with U2's songs to the point where sometimes the two are indistinguishable.

But there is a danger here as well. It can be a moving experience to watch Bono live, vocally praising God to a chorus of 15,000 cheering people. Yet that is also the point: at what moment does the worshipper become the worshipped? Bono no doubt sees himself as a worshipper when he sings his songs to God, but that's a distinction that can be hard to maintain when 15,000 fans are screaming his name.

I lay this foundation here because, in my next post, I want to address the double-edged sword of Christian appropriation of U2 in worship.


At 10:35 PM, Blogger Brian Rasmussen said...


Do you believe that Bono and the other Christians in U2 have done anything wrong?

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Greg said...

I'm not sure I understand what you are asking specifically, so my answer may not be exactly what you are looking for. Personally, I do have some problem with their rejection of organized religion as a whole, although I understand how they come to that conclusion given the religious climate of their homeland and I certainly see validity in their criticisms of organized religion. I see nothing wrong with them using their music as a vehicle for expressing their faith. Primarily, the concern I raise is not about what U2 is doing as it is about how Christians sometimes respond to what they are doing. We need to be aware of the tenuous line between music directing worship towards God and music as object of worship itself. There is a reason why we refer to rock stars and movie stars as "idols." Perhaps my next post which continues this discussion will help clarify things.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Brian Rasmussen said...


I think you will agree that each member of U2 has the responsibility to not accept worship from their audience. They should actively direct their audience to give all of the glory to Christ.

I've never been to or seen a U2 concert, so I really don't know what goes on. Do they direct their audience to give all of the glory to Christ? If not, do they seem to be unaware that not directing their audience to do so is de facto acceptance of worship?

At 11:21 AM, Blogger KMiV said...

Greg and Brian,
Good observations. I think that there is a danger in U@. I forget the comedian that commented, as Pope B. walked out to adoring crowds that the Pope must have said, "This is what it must be like to be Bono!"

Although U2 has a good message for our kids. "Beneath the noise below the din, in all the science and medicine, I hear a voice its whisperin, 'I was a stranger and you took me in'..." I am glad that those guys are putting popular music out with a positive message (compared to Papa Roach) about oppression and our response. Rage Rock says--"kick *** of those who hurt you" but U2 seems to say, "do something for those who suffer..."

If you haven't had the chance to read this book I think it is a good commentary on U2 and worship.
Religious Nuts, Political Fanatics: U2 in Theological Perspective, by Robert G. Vagacs can be found at

Ron Clark

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Although U2 has become more overt lately in injecting spiritual aspects to their music and concerts, as well as singing choruses of "Hallelujah" and thanking/praising God directly at times, they do not really direct the audience to do so. They just do their thing and the audience gets caught up in it. As Bono has said in the past, their faith is present in their music for those who want to see it, but for those who don't want to see it, they are fine with that too.
Ron, Thanks for the helpful comments as well.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Brian Rasmussen said...


I believe that it is improper for U2 to, de facto, accept worship from their audience -- particularly since Christ is (we presume) their Lord and Savior (with one public exception if my memory servers -- I believe one of the members publically renounces Christ).

I'm glad to hear a spiritual message come from the group. It's never wrong to try to help the poor. But I don't know if I would want to support the group with the money the Lord has entrusted to me.

Having said that, I know that this is a diversion from your larger point, so I'll leave it at that.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Brian Rasmussen said...


Good observations. Thank you for taking the time to read my comments.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Bruce said...

I am not near as concerned about people worshipping U2 as I was about Bono sporting the Mr. Mephisto outfit. Man, talk about your heretics. I felt uncomfortable watching it. Like I had crossed some kind of line, "you can't seat at the table of demons and the Lord!" Having said that, I so love their stuff. Is that worship? I hope not. I think most fans don't think of themselves as worshippers either. I do think you have to keep it in check though. It is the danger with any worship leader who is effective, be it singer, pray-er, or preacher.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Bruce said...

I would like a clarification on post-modernism and science. Now in my way of thinking, classic science would be anti-postmodern as science is a by-product of the Enlightenment and definitely a modern component. However, I have noticed who we would normally dub as post-moderns being huge advocates of science and placing their hopes in it.

For example take U2 in "Miracle Drug." You will not hear a more pro-modern song. "In science and in medicine I was a stranger you took me in." Bono's hope for Africa is in science and it comes through so loudly in this tune.

Brian McLaren is another example of this. He is a big pusher of the Big Bang and scientific discovery. Somehow though he doesn't see this as being modern. "Hello, excuse me ... what was the 20th cent. about?" I just think its because they are inconsistent in their philosophies. For all their talk of postmodernism their hopes are in modernism as much as any of the secularists. I think they hope spirituality manifests itself in scientific advancment. They have not gone pessimistic on science. I think we need a new word for them besides post-modern for they are not.

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Julie said...

I think Andy Kronenwetter worships U2.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger KMiV said...

Look at my comment above. I quote the section of the song you refer to. Bono's hope is not in science and medicine--it was Jesus and accepting the poor.



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