Monday, April 27, 2009

U2's Most Theologically Interesting Song

To claim anything as U2's most theologically interesting song is a bold one given their long history of theologically interesting songs. But I will nonetheless throw one up for consideration: "Wave of Sorrow." This song hails from the band's Joshua Tree period, though it did not appear on that album originally. There is nothing particularly novel about it in that it mingles several standard U2 themes: spirituality, lament, and social justice. But somehow the combination in this particular song hits me in the right spot. 

I am a big fan of modern lament psalms in the guise of popular music and this fits the bill. The song begins with a lament of human suffering ("Souls bent over without a breeze, Blankets on burning trees, I am sick without disease"). In this song, Bono identifies with the poor and the suffering who seek a deliverance that may never come. Bono even seems to question whether lament itself is sufficient when he sings: 

Son of shepherd boy now king
What wisdom can you bring?
What lyric could you sing?
Where is the music of the Seraphim?

It's as though he wonders if David himself could find the words to bring healing to such suffering. In this song U2 begs us to identify with the downtrodden and the marginalized, to in essence see the world through the eyes of Jesus. As such they conclude the song with their own version of the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt
For they shall inherit what's left of the earth
Blessed are the kings who have left their thrones
They are buried in this valley of dry bones

Blessed all of you with an empty heart
For you got nothing from which you cannot part
Blessed is the ego
If it's all we got this hour

Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power
Blessed is the sex worker who sold her body tonight
She used what she got
To save her children's life

Blessed are the deaf who cannot hear a scream
Blessed are the stupid who can dream
Blessed are the tin can cardboard slums
Blessed is the spirit that overcomes