Wednesday, February 4, 2009

U2 and American Evangelicals

U2 has had it's issues with American Evangelicals...and American Evangelicals have had their issues with U2. I think I have come to understand some of the tension from traveling and speaking in Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic). There is a real difference of emphasis between many evangelicals in Ireland/Northern Ireland/UK and evangelicals in America. In America, evangelicals tend to emphasize the gospel ethics of Paul's Epistles. This leads to an emphasis on issues of the religious right such as abortion, gambling, drunkenness, language, how we stand with respect to homosexuality, etc. These are very important spiritual and ethical issues, but they can become exclusive to other issues that are important as well. I describe this emphasis as a focus on the "dirty dozen, the filthy five, the sinful six, the awful eight, the nasty nine," etc. In Ireland/UK/Europe, however, they tend to emphasize the gospel ethics of Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So, there you see more of an emphasis on mercy and justice, peace and poverty and global issues. Now obviously these are generalizations, but they are generally true. All you would need to do to prove this is talk, as I have, to American Evangelicals and Irish/European Evangelicals about the last 3 presidential elections. By and large, American Evangelicals were strongly vocal in their support of Bush and recently, McCain. It's a much different picture in Ireland/UK/Europe...people over there were incredulous that Christians would be for Bush!; and Americans were incredulous that people across the pond didn't get it!! Now, when it comes to U2, the shoe still fits. American Evangelicals tend to condemn Bono because drops the F-bomb at the Grammy's, and immediately conclude, "He can't be a Christian." Now let me say, I do follow Paul where he says, "Let no unwholesome word come from your mouth." We are to obey ALL of God's Bono was out of line. However, I can easily hear Bono saying, "Wait, Jesus said we're to remember the poor, that He came to preach good news to the poor. We're to be people of mercy and justice. So, American Evangelicals, what are you doing there?" How can YOU be Christians if you don't do much in the way of mercy and justice? By the way, do you know that Bono is highly responsible for the most developed/wealthy countries of the world forgiving hundreds of millions of dollars of developing countries' debt and for the care of AIDS victims and other mercy and justice issues. So, which is worse, to allow unwholesome speech to come from our lips; or, to fail to remember the poor and the sick and the needy? Obviously both are important...but it's interesting that we all DO tend to judge other peoples' spirituality by our standards. Instead of falling into an "Either/Or" mentality, we need to pursue a "Both/And" perspective. Its before our own Master that we will all stand or fall.


Traylor Lovvorn said...

Well said, Bob! You need to go get the book "Sin Boldly, A Field Guide for Grace" by Cathleen Falsani. She quotes Bono all through the introduction and the first 2 chapters and she (so far) seems to be a decent waltzer.

James said...

I loved reading that as I am also a big U2 fan and follow them closely. (I bought the Complete U2 when it came out with the special edition iPod and have gone through every song at least once)

But anyway, I think it is really interesting when people apply critical analysis to popular culture. A lot of people listen to U2 and just hear 'good music' and, if they are insightful, pick up spiritual themes. But to really understand what bands like U2 are saying, and therefore understand their message to the world, we have to figure out why they think what they think.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find good articles or writings on modern culture, especially pop culture, from a Christian perspective. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading you take on it Pastor Flayhart!

Larry Fischer said... the f-bomb has never passed my lips. Hmm... great post Bob.