Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fenelon & Bono Carrying Kitschy Crosses Through K Mart

"Imperfect as we ourselves are; we only know ourselves partly; and the same self-love which causes our failings hides them very subtly, both from others and ourselves...Self-love cannot bear to see itself...but the same light which shows our faults would remove them." -Fenelon, "The Royal Way of the Cross", p. 53

That's not only the second reason why Bono wore sunglasses almost non-stop through the 1990's, but it may be why he allowed himself to unapologetically pick his nose at a press conference.

It was not staged.

It happens at 0:54 if you must see it.

Then on to the other deep

lessons of the conference.

It's exceptionally easy to become proud of your humility.

It's hugely hard to be self-effacing while using irony and wearing pride to poke fun at your pride.

But if wielded well, it eventually works because the model is inherently incarnational and redemptional ("stealing from the thieves," Bono said).

I am rejoicing at finding the complete 1997 U2 press conference at K Mart on YouTube.

It became famous for the following exchange (watch it here):
CBS New York correspondent: "Is there any significance to holding this press conference on Ash Wednesday and staging the first date in Las Vegas?"
Bono: "A-ha - Ash Wednesday! That's very well spotted! I reckon the combination of Ash Wednesday and K-Mart just about sums U2 up, and therein lie our contradiction and the cross we carry.

Fenelon dovetails again. (Come on Bono, admit you have his books by your bedside) He speaks to "the right use of crosses": "The more we fear to bear crosses, so much the more do we need them " (163)

Even when our crosses lead to K mart, carry and follow them.

Bono clarifies the particular shape of their cross in the 9os:

"...Ash Wednesday and K-Mart just about sums U2 up, and therein lie our contradiction and the cross we carry. Carnival means a lotto me, because carnival should be the celebration of the flesh going into the denial which leads into Easter. Unfortunately, in Ireland we tend to forget about the carnival and go big on the denial ! Well, maybe we can be the carnival."

The Edge: "We believe in trash, we believe in kitsch, and thats what we are up to at the moment."

Ah, it is good to learn how to "be and do" church again from some of the masters: Fenelon the mystic, speaking from his prayer-cave....and U2 speaking prayerfully at K-Mart.

In the lingerie section.

If you are not familiar with this highly misunderstood era of theirs...the bombast and irony of one tour leading to prophetic kitsch of the next; demythologizing, embracing contradiction..
read up on it; starting with Beth. Maybe discovering the secret of the sunglasses and the deal with dressing as the devil ("cross-dressing"in the sense of carrying his cross lead him to dress this way) along the way.

Bono: "We still have the same ideals, we've just learnt to look like we don't. We've got a little smarter on that one.",,,

US radio journalist: "That song 'Holy Joe' which you played to us earlier - is that title, together with the album name 'Pop', an attempt to deflate the aura of sainthood which has been around U2 for years and years?"
Bono: (smiling broadly, and heavily tongue-in-cheek) "Ah, it just won't go away, will it ? No matter about all these miracles, all these stadium tours and tinsel and televisions we use, I'm always going to be the fucker with the white flag as far as you are concerned! Isn't that right?"
US radio joumalist: (defensively) "I'm not putting my opinion, just asking
whether you're trying to deflate that perception."
Bono: "Yes. The honest truth is that U2 are still the bleeding hearts club. Our music is still painfully and insufferably earnest. We've just got really smart at disguising that fact and throwing people off our trail. If we'd called 'Achtung Baby' by any other name, I think we'd have been taken out and hung. But here we are, and it looks like you've copped onto us!" link

Fenelon: "One must imitate God's own way of dealing with the soul; softening his rebuke, so that the person rebuffed feels as if it were rather self-reproach,and a sense of wounded love, than God rebuking" (p. 54)

More of the conference:

The Edge comments: "We're here to sell our tour to the world..and I don't see any better place than K Mart to do that." Did K Mart realize they let the band into their store to prophesy against it?" Indeed Bono later expresses (feigns?) surprise (8:45) that the store let them in at all.
But he knows how hard it is to resist a request from the biggest band in the world.

That's the rub.

All prophecy is eventually targeted at some commercialism/prejudice. It's all the Temple Tantrum remixed and reloaded. And there is "no better place" to do it/act it out than in the temple/church/K Mart. There is no other place. There is no other method and wineskin than the risky one that might be called prophetic kitsch. In the middle of kitsch.

K Mart is the temple courts.

Only prophetic, Fenelonian kitsch can turn the tables, and get us out.

We are in KMart, but not of it. In the church, but not of it. Otherwise we just sell stuff for Christ's sake.

Bono (in a section viewable beginning at 2:00) also confesses that in the large spaces of the stadiums, they are "making fun of playing in a very large space."

Anytime I am in a large space (churchwise), I have to lovingly and cruelly kitsch it and make fun not just of the space, but me being there.

"Large spaces...It turns out you can actually do something very special in them; you can turn these concrete and steel mausoleums into.."

Here is where he is expected to say "...into an intimate authentic relationship and encounter."

But watch the suppressed smirk as he finishes the sentence:

"you can actually do something very special in them; you can turn these concrete and steel mausoleums into shopping malls."

Then adds.."That was a joke."

Or was it?

All shopping malls are converted mausoleums.

We pave parking lots and put up a paradise.

Concrete and steel cannot not sell.

And sell death.

Dismantle that!

Any size or style church can be, and inevitably is institutionalized and a " concrete and steel mausoleum." It's not just a megachurch phenomenon. But to catch it we must kitsch it.
To steal it back and redeem it, we must enter its pit, all the while despising its shame and smell. It's exorcism by laughter. It's radical humility that can laugh at system and self, and come out stronger.

Or more honest and broken.

Any attempt to "be emerging " (especially if destined to be the "anti-concrete church") can wind up commercialista; doomed to morph into shopping mall instead of Kingdom relationship.

That was a joke.

Or was it?

Finally the classic at the end of this clip:

CNN reporter: "By holding your press conference in this setting, you surely don't mean to suggest that your music is flimsily constructed from cheap materials and that it's discountable and ultimately disposable, do you?"
Bono: " I agree with every word you just said apart from

P.S. Note Bono picks his nose again at 3:54.

You can't discount that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!