Wednesday, February 08, 2006

E. Peterson: "I think that's just the way Irish Christians talk"

To trainspotters of prophetic influence in the "secular" culture...any serious study of which must mention U2 and Eugene Peterson (the man behind The Message Bible)in any top ten listing thereof...the new interview with the latter about the former
is one of the sweetest coups yet...and best yet, it's on a

"secular" U2 website. Thanks to the amazing Scot Calhoun , news editor of for the vision to actually sit Peteson down to listen to some of the U2 canon (he admits to being a fan of U2, not necessarily their music), and comment. I don't even know where to start reponding regarding impilcations for church/culture, so I'll shut up and let the master speak (OK, I'll first simply note that so much of this conversation reminds me of Walter Bruggemann's "The Prophetic Imagination" which I have woven extensively into the context of U2's dismantling of death here).. Let me clarify the photos in case some are uninitiated:
one's Bono of u2 preaching, one's of Peterson preaching(:
Anyway, some excerpts from the new Peterson interview:

If it's not their music, then what do you like about U2?

I guess what really
impresses me about U2 -- what I like, what I respond to -- is the way they have
used their position in the world. They seem to me a very ingenuous group of
people, without pretension or pose, who live out their convictions in a way
which has nothing to do with their fame.

How so? How are they acting without
regard for fame?

Well, I don't know the world of rock and roll music at all, but
songs like "Peace on Earth" and "Yahweh," I can't believe they could anticipate
that people would like those songs. [The lyrics] are words that I use in the
pulpit and classroom, not the common vocabulary of the extra-church crowd. But
they are used in such a way, said and sung, so that their meaning is conveyed in
a way that reveals their truth: they commune and not just communicate, they
evoke a responsive intimacy that can't be extracted from a dictionary. This is
what art does, it gets beneath or within essential aspects of our lives.

Why do
you call them prophets?

U2 doesn't seem to be calculated in what they are doing.
It just comes out of who they are, and maybe that's why people respond to them,
because they are so unconventional in the rock music world. And then there is
the social passion they have evidenced in the African world, and the effort that
they go to to speak to people of influence in order to try to convince them that
pain and suffering and impoverishment are the responsibility of those who are in
positions of influence and power -- such people are not to just make war and do
public relations and win elections and develop strategies to get people to be
better consumers.So I've used the word prophet for them. Walter Brueggemann
describes prophets as uncredentialed spokesmen for God. Well, I think that fits
them pretty well. They don't have any authority in the world of faith.But many
people of faith respect U2.

What do you mean "they have no authority"?

In the
professional world of faith; in the conventional, established world of faith.
They say unconventional things and use unconventional language. When the Rolling
Stone interview came out (People of the Year: Bono,
November 2001
), one of my former students sent it to me. My friend told me I
was in there someplace, so I read it through and I was hoping that when he got
to me, he wouldn't use the f-word on The Message. [Laughs.] My daughter was
reading it too, and she said, "I thought they were Christians?" and I said,
"Well, I think that's the way Irish Christians talk."

That's funny, but you know
that is a question which in one way or another has followed them their whole
career: Are they capital "C" Christians or not? Do you think that's even a valid
question to ask?

No I don't. I don't think it is.What is the right question to
ask?Maybe we shouldn't even be asking prophets questions. They are asking
questions of us. Maybe the question we ask should be, "Is God using these words,
this stance, to say something to me, to my society, to my neighborhood?"

A prophet, almost by definition, doesn't fit into the categories you expect, which
is what gives them bite, and clarity, and the sense of grabbing us by the scruff
of our neck, and saying, "Listen to this: this is truth, this is what's going
on." The whole authority of prophets comes not from what people say about them
or the credentials that they have, it's from the truth of what they are saying.
This is true of the Biblical prophets and of prophetic voices all through
history. Often prophets use the name God but sometimes they don't. It is
interesting to reflect that no Hebrew prophet ever was referred to as "messiah,"
but the pagan Persian king Cyrus was. God used him in what I would refer to as a
prophetic way to free the Hebrews from their exile and return them to their
homeland, but Cyrus had no idea that he was issuing edicts under the sovereignty
of God.

It is my job as a pastor and professor to speak the name of Jesus and
proclaim the news of the gospel into whatever reality the prophets expose and
call attention to. If they also do it, that's fine, but if they don't that
doesn't mean that they aren't speaking/acting on God's behalf.

If that's not enough to get you to click here yesterday to read the whole thing, what will?

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!