Friday, April 25, 2008

Gimme the Bird, Bono

I couldn't get this document to paste in very well here: no links, lotsa errors. Sorry!

Welcome to rough draft of Part 3 (parts 1,2,4 at a theological roundtable (table guests range this time from the classic theologian Woody Allen to genius professor Wolfhart Pannenberg way of Don Quixote and an M.D. or two..and of course(!) Aristotle (hint: NOT a punk band from Toledo)… around the explosive “Bomb” U2 dropped in 2004. In this episode, we find the chief lyricist of the band is a Slinky Bird; and thus a master of prophetic-priestly metaphor. And we note that the “arc from fear to faith” is not only one you can feel; but is congruent with ancient theological... and recent neurological ...evidence for the primacy of feeling. Which keeps us from accidentally joining the First Church of Binitarian Bibliolaters. Thus U2 proves once again...via flamenco and carnival... that we can embrace all variety of psalm-songs; especially the laments that heal. Especially the ones with forbidden and colorful four letter "F-word" (not the F-word you think, I bet!)... And you can dance to them!..or at least kneel!



There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.

Bono is the bomb, amen? Of course, I am writing as a fan; so of course I think he is, as the kids say, “the bomb” (meaning something or something “really cool”). I also think it’s partly true that he himself is, by how own glad admission, the “bomb” of the album title (in addition to his standard interview answer...that his dad is the “Atomic Bob”....which is often an intentional subterfuge; slyly pressing one to guess at the second and more correct answer), in need of defusing and dismantling (more on that in Part 2).

Bono is the bomb indeed. Which is why he’s also, in the language of the poem above, also the bird. Bono is the that particular brand of bird who can uncannily “sing very close to the music of what happens.” Indeed, one of a small and elite handful of singers who are true birds (I would include folks like Bruce Cockburn, Bill Mallonee, Nick Cave, Sinead O’ Connor and Steve Taylor/Chagall Guevara among this elite class). And I don’t mean just songbirds who can carry a tune with style. I mean one of those rare and amazing purebred birds that Bono’s favorite poet and fellow Irishman Seamus Heaney has snapshotted for us in the above stanza of his multilayered poem, “Song” .

Many singers/writers have their moments. But the genius and genus of bird that Bono is, is evident in that the holy “moment when the bird sings very close to the music of what happens” happens startlingly and disproportionately often in Bono’s song.

In the liner notes to a box set of the early 77s CDs, a Christian music journalist (likely John J. Thompson ...but I can't find the document) tells how Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones used to say "Any band in the world can be the greatest band in the world on a given night." To which the journalist responds something like "On most nights, the 77s are that band." (Detour: If the 77s are unfamiliar to you, hear this high praise from respected Christian review site, The Phantom Tollbooth: "Let the Rolling Stones boast as much as they want, but when the rubber hits the road the title of the world's greatest rock n roll band goes to the 77's and you can take that to the bank").

On any given song, on any given night, Bono's prophetic words, if not his voice, are among the "closest to what really happens," in addition to fronting what is many folks choice for "world's greatest band." He speaks reality, he sings in synchronicity, he truth-tells with authenticity. In a priestly role, he says/sings; gives words, tone and color to things we feel, but cannot express; or even things we didn’t know we felt until we heard his lyric, heart and song, and only then recognized and resonated with the truth. Which is of course not only definition of a priest, but job description of artist; or a prophet; even a worship leader. ("I believe being a worship leader is the highest of all art forms,” he told a group of Christian journalists, “to worship and call people into the presence of God.")

The one born Paul Hewson was born to sing; to become interpreter and intercessor of reality; of life; of feelings; of the things of God. He gives us voice through his voice, like any priestly bird at his best and most urbane and arcane.

Like many profoundly gifted artists, he admits often to suffering from a “messianic complex, which he regularly defuses and detoxes by:

· a)coming home after tour (“Honey,” his wife reminds, “You are not in front of 40,000 people tonight. Feed the dog!”)

· b)admitting and confessing said complex often and publicly.
He even directly confessed his favored mode of self-exorcism rite upon detecting the presence of the complex: “Letting Monty Python take me to the life of Brian,” he laughs. This is a reference, he explains, to the Monty Python film, where when Brian is confronted with worship, his mother hangs from the balcony and warns the crowds:
“He’s not the Messiah; he’s a very naughty boy.””
"Didn't you think it was a bit inappropriate to take Lennon's part in 'Sgt Pepper' on stage at Live 8 ? ," he was once asked. "Oh, I don't think like that; I have the immodesty of foolishness. I was proud to stand in his shoes."

And his demeanor is humble and his awe is Godward when he simply states to his “Sixty Minutes” interviewer what may at first read sound like visions of grandeur, but may well be the thesis statement of this whole chapter:
“Our songs occupy an emotional terrain that did not exist before our band did.”

True, it is a band thing; a corporate gifting. Even Time magazine pays homage to The Edge’s “swirling epiphanies” on guitar. But the accompanying words of The Bird instantly create epiphanies and theophanies chillingly close “to the music of what actually happens” in a human heart and a fallen/God-haunted world. Something one cannot articulate about what Birdman articulates; it feels as if he is touching reality at its core and base.

I believe that like few others of our time, he is.

And since by God’s design, life at its very base is paradox/metaphor....and as Leonard Sweet would summarize physics of string theory: "Life is at base music" (p.63, Eleven Genetic Gateways to Spiritual Awakening), maybe (good) music and (healthy) paradox are interchangeable. Which is why Bono at his best when he can in a priestly-prophetic way, express and sing paradox for us; offering it as intepretive intercession for us, to us, and to God.

Eugene Peterson is on track:

“Prophets are characteristically masters of metaphor. Metaphor is the witness of language to the interconnectedness of all things visible and invisible….When prophets use metaphor, we get involved with God whether we want to or not, sometimes whether we know it or not…. If we are lucky, a prophet, one of the descendants of Hosea, or Jonah, or Habakkuk, shows up and with the simple expedient of a metaphor, said or sung, drags us outside into the open air when all the stuff we are studying is alive and moving and colliding with us. For many these days, it is U2 that shows up.”
-Preface to "Get Up Off Your Knees : Preaching the U2 Catalog "

As is fellow theologian Woody Allen:" Eighty percent of success is showing up." Perhaps the other twenty percent is showing up with prophetic metaphor, as U2 certainly does "for many these days."

For those wondering if I am overpainting the foundational nature of metaphor to reality; let alone the significance of U2 in modeling it:

What did no one less than Aristotle suggest was “the greatest thing, by far”?:

“The greatest thing by far is to be master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the simiiarity in dissimilars.” (Poetics, 1459 a 5-8, "The Basic Works of Aristotle")

All right, I'll pull out the big guns: a certain Jesus...who, Matthew 13:34 plainly claims, "did not even open his mouth without a metaphor." ( !!)

It is largely because Bono follows Jesus, that he follows this rabbinic technique. But also largely because of the Jesus-factor, Bono's a prophetic metaphorist not just of words, but with life. Beyond the words themselves, his very nonverbal language and stage manner (even antics at times) are prophetic acts, his whole life as metaphorical media.

No, I do not think I am overstating.

This curriculum and storehouse of wise metaphor/paradox, constructed partly of "the mud-flowers of dialect" (could it be that Bono's "Zooropa" lyric: "put flowers in the mud, baby" were a nod to this Heaney line?), is the domain of all worthy teachers...whether they literally sing or not. At a recent conference, Leonard Sweet held up a toy slinky. It was a prophetic prop, which he used to challenge the church to embrace and celebrate paradox. Just as a slinky moves by transferring its weight from end to end through a weak middle; so do we; so does life. We live most naturally in “both ends of a paradox...any valid paradox. Balance is out. Movement is in; paradox is reality… it's alive."

Bono knows this. Though his usual handhelds are a microphone and (occasionally) guitar (red, three chords, truth attached);
he may well own a slinky. I watched him at a concert grab and blow a fan's bottle of soap bubbles, oblivious to the 20, 000 onlookers . Childlike enough to publicly embrace profound paradox...or at least the "immodesty of foolishness."

“’I thank you, Daddy,’” laughed Jesus joyfully, ‘that you have hidden your secrets from the professional and the religious; and entrusted them to children and the childlike.’” (Luke 10:21)

Anyway, the secret to navigating postmodern life is a slinky-like bringing together both ends of paradox and holding them in mind simultaneously, Sweet said. Transferring its weight from end to end through a weak middle.

Sounds like that Slinky Bird Bono Vox to me.

Back to the Heaney poem. In classic postmodern form, we have saved the first stanza for last; to highlight just where the reality-bird is perched:

A rowan (re- berried ash tree) like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes

"Between the by-road and the main road." Hmm, sounds like a choice between roads; or a choice to live liminally; to stay on both. Sounds like "right in the middle of a contradiction, that's where I want to be." (as Bono often quoted Sam Shepherd in the 1990s). Actually it sounds like:

"There's cathedrals and the alleyway in our music. I think the alleyway is usually on the way to the cathedral, where you can hear your own footsteps and you're slightly nervous and looking over your shoulder and wondering if there's somebody following you. And then you get there and you realize there was somebody following you: It's God."
-Bono, New Tork Times, 2004

If we sing anywhere "close to what really happens," there is no sacred/secular distinction; one can find God and be found by God in the alleyways near the intersection of Main and Church Street, right smack in the middle of a contradiction; or at least a paradox; definitely a metaphor.

That's not being stuck in a moment you can't get out of; that's being positioned in the middle of what God is doing. I don’t want out of that Place.


“Follow your heart,” the singer told the guitar player. And he walked away, confident that this advice was clear and self-authenticating enough to wrestle the player through. It was.

In fact, we owe the very existence and strength of U2 these twenty some years later to that godly risky advice Bono gave to the Edge…who was considering following not his heart; but his church’s advice, about breaking up his new and exciting band because rock and roll was too “worldly.”

The Edge eventually decided he didn't have a problem reconciling his art and faith. "It was mostly other people's problems."
Or as Bono recalls:

"There was a moment where myself and Edge sat around and we thought: 'Well, maybe we should knock this group on the head. Maybe it is frivolous, maybe these people are right, maybe this is just bullocks, this being in a band, and maybe it's just ego, and maybe we should put it behind us and just get to the real work of trying to change our own lives, and just get out into the world. There's much to do there.' For a couple of weeks, we were at that place. Then we came to a realization: 'Hold on a second. Where are these gifts coming from? This is how we worship God, even though we don't write religious songs, because we didn't feel God needs the advertising.' (laughs) In fact, we ended up at a place where we thought: 'The music isn't bullocks. This kind of fundamentalism is what's bullocks.'"

It was a tougher choice than we know, as obvious and validated as it looks through hindsight. "It was a baptism of fire...We went down into the water," Bono looks back, “And we almost drowned."

Embracing this baptism with passion, angst and persisteverance, the Edge spent weeks of not only following his heart, but following it into his guitar, creating the gut-wrenching, freedom-affirming sounds that became what we now know as "Sunday Bloody Sunday." (Highly ironically, U2's most "Christian" song yet!)

What more heartfelt guitar riffs exist out there, I don't know. They ring like what the hymnwriter could only call "music of the spheres," and reverb frighteningly close "to the music that actually happens." If life is at base, music; this is base.

And heartfelt.

Note, one never says "headfelt."

Let alone "wear my head on my sleeve."


Which is why we now jump immediately into a thesis currently being substantiated across disciplines: from neuroscience, by way of philosophy, to theology (Which of course, must involve U2). It has to do with the validity of (that's enough of a heresy for some church folk); even the at times primacy of (!) feeling/emotion/heart/subjectivity in the human…well, base. In neuroscience, this postulate has become common, in part due to the findings in the study of synesthesia. See, for example, the below from Dr. Richard Cytowic's "The Man Who Tasted Shapes", noting that this is not some free-spirited hippy advocating "touchy feely-ism," but an MD succinctly summarizing years of cutting-edge neuroscience research with “consciousness is a type of emotion” (188):

I proposed that subjective experience and emotion form the quintessence that is
uniquely human. Perhaps individuals just feel it is the right thing to do. And
increased sensitivity to the Other and a belief in realism larger than oneself is
not a rational attitude that people vote on or deliberately decide to adopt. It
is an emotional one. (188)

Recall again Bono's quote about their music "occupying an emotional terrain" so extraordinary and ex-nihilo that it simply "didn't exist before our band did."

That's nothing you vote on, it's something you receive.

Yet the Church in the West is obsessed with "voting rationally" (or "head-feltly"):

"I, ___________, being of sound mind, hereby make this rational transaction/decision to be justified by faith." ("Sound mind." Why is it never "sound emotion"?)

Or, as it was famously put by Bill Bright in “The Four Spiritual Laws" tract, and thus immortalized and canonized:

The promise of God's Word, the Bible - not our feelings - is our authority. The Christian lives by faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Word. This train diagram illustrates the relationship among fact (God and His Word), faith (our trust in God and His Word), and feeling (the result of our faith and obedience) (John 14:21).
The train will run with or without a caboose. However, it would be useless to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, as Christians we do not depend on feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word.

On one level, this is a good and helpful reminder. On another level, it primes us to caboose ; to jettison and jetsam our emotions, feelings and experience. Of all people, evangelicals speak of a "personal relationship with Jesus." How in the world do we have a relationship...let alone a "personal" one....with someone we never experience, feel for, and have emotions about?

I once challenged a church leader who had just claimed that there is no place for experience in the Christian life; with:

“Let me ask a question: Do you ever experience your wife?”

He didn’t answer.

Another conservative Bible teacher recently told me “I really like your church, but it also seems like it’s a bunch of people chasing after and experience with God.”

I am evangelical in training; I might even be able to rattle off the Four Laws, and the “ caboose clause.” I knew that the sin of “people chasing after an experience with God” was supposed to be the unpardonable one. But in recent years I have retrained myself (And no, that doesn’t mean I became a Pentecostal!) aned have emerged in some ways as what Dave Tomlinson calls a “post-evangelical.”
So after genuinely thanking the man for the observation, and agreeing that if it’s all about “experience as God,” then we were in deep trouble. But then I responded with a straight face:

“A church full of people chasing an experience with God? And the problem with that is?”
I told this story to an artist friend, and he suggested his answer was: “The only alternative is people chasing an experience without God. Is that what you want?”
Yet it’s not only the church which fears experience/emotion:
"What you knoe as your conscious mind is not the arbiter of whnat is real and true. It is not even the agent in the driver;s saet that wqe unthinkingly call tehs elf…the carnival amgiaivian who preteneded to be the SWizard of Oz soutyed, ‘Pay no attention to teha aman behind the curtain!’ Hw wanted all attenrion focuse on the powerful apparition he had created. Similarly, Wesytern cultures iedentify self with the seemingly powerful, ourtawrdly projected rational mind. However, the truth is that the irrational part of ousreves, the emotiponal, heuristifc mind, is the man behind the curtain and the one really in charge. (185)
(Limbic system research) sees conscousness, language and higher mental functions as The consequences of our ability to express emotion. hEmotion is fundamental to mins, and what we call consciousness (196)

Emotional affirmation strikes a chord precisely because it does speak to the heart instead of brain. This is perhaps why the filmmaker, artist, writer, an even the psychic (ed. note: Bono is the first three of these, and been accused of being the fourth!) are so popular in our culture .They are the cultural champions of the individual emotional needs (ed. note: If the church...and/or U2) is not the champion of emotional needs in our culture, someone else will be)….

A pervasive distrust of our irrational intuitions and emotions is evident in stock phrases like “Sorry, I wasn't thinking.” I have never heard anyone say, “Sorry I wasn’t feeling.” (Cytowic, 218-219)

But that is exactly what I involuntarily say/confess (very emotionally) when U2 music and lyric hit me…I repent (a very different response than "voting") of not feeling. Not Experiencing. Of worshipping the Rational Man behind the curtain. I longingly return...better, am returned… to the "emotional terrain." And I am healed. (And I’m sorry, Mr. Bible Scholar, there is no other way to receive a healing but experientially.)

Even as I, especially as I, question God...emotionally and loudly.
Cytowic, again; with U2 lyrics inserted:.
We may feel, when situations are contrary to our desire, that unless we do something we will go out of our minds---which is exactly where we need to go…Such is the effectiveness of letting go and trusting (Ed. Note: Or as the message U2 literally projects in concert: “The Secret is Letting Go”).

As Pascal said in “Pensees,” “The heart has its reasons, which reason knows not.” Reasons are nothing more than the endless paperwork of the cognitive mind, which always hunts for explanations…If we really want to enter the emotional mind, we have to let go of our belief in reasons, including such beliefs as (note: I find all these false beliefs counteracted at a U2 concert) we are not creative, nobody loves us, we will never get ahead, that we cannot express who we really are, or that all there is is what we see on the surface (“Sliding down the surface of things,” U2 sang)….The only action we have to take is to decide whether we are going to stay closed or open up, accept experience as it is or to rationalize it to death. This is what Joseph Campbell meant when he said that what we seek is not the meaning of life, but the ‘experience of being alive.’ (“I’m alive…All because of You.”( 224)

It is only in emotional questions; as opposed to rational answers, that I am allowed to be truly human, whole/holy, and emote-ional.

And taste the “experience of being alive,”…questions, fears, doubts and all.

"It is (in) the constant questioning in Bono's voice where the band stakes its claim to humanity," Bruce Springsteen astutely observes. "Bono's voice often sounds like it's shouting, not from over the band, but from deep within it: 'Here we are, Lord.'"

In additional to Cytowic’s seminal work, I also recommend an exploration of such questioning as crucial, especially through Anthony Damazio’s well-documented and well-written "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain,” and Jospeph LeDoux’s landmark (and landmine) “The Emotional Brain.”
Or just stick to rock bands as we make our case.

Aerosmith didn't sing the praises of "Sweet Intellect." That would be oxymoronic and moronic. The Rolling Stones didn't beg (God?) for a "Rational Rescue." Rescue is inherently experiential and inextricably emotional. And the one hit-wonder was not “Thinkings…Whoah, whoa, whoa…. thinkings.” Finally, BJ Thomas was never "Hooked on a Thought."

But enough discursus from theologians who punctuate their dissertations with "Oooga-Shakka."
And back to Bono who suggested that when writing what became the band's centerpiece of emotional/spiritual high ("Where the Streets Have No Name") song he was "after a feeling".
What would've become of that explosive orgasmic apocalypse "experience" of a song (during which, as Beth Maynard offers: "{it's} like the heavens have opened, while Bono appears for all the while to be actually experiencing the beatific vision over at stage right" -"Get Up Off Your Knees,” p. 134) if the writer had settled for being "after a thought"?
Thank God that writer-bird has concluded, in song ("Vertigo") and in many interviews (see below) that "a feeling's so much stronger than a thought."

“People think I tell the band what direction to go in. The truth is, they tell me. The singer has to put into words the feelings in the music. A feeling is so much stronger than a thought."

As we are beginning to grasp, that provocative thesis is not just a nice throwaway way for Bono to rhyme "bought" in a catchy pop song; and to pepper his interviews with quotes that conveniently interlink to his songs. This thesis, the arguing for the legitimacy and even partial primacy of emotion, is not only a profound truth that modern neuroscience and physics are proposing , in fact, it actually predates the explosive findings of modern neuroscience. We will suggest it is even traceabable to Scripture; and thus central to Christianity at its best and most de-compartmentalized (de-caboosed). But watch what the church does (or at least did in the 17th century. Thank God we we’re more enlightened…right! to one who even flirts with this thesis:

With the judgment of the angels and of the saints, we excommunicate, cut off, curse and anathematize (this man), with the consent of the elders and all this holy congregation, in the presence of the holy books: by the 613 precepts which are written therein, with the anathema wherewith Joshua cursed Jericho, with the curse which Elisha laid upon the children, and with all the curses which are written in the law. Cursed be he by day, and cursed be he by night. Cursed be he in sleeping, and cursed be he in waking, cursed in going out, and cursed in coming in. The Lord shall not pardon him, the wrath and the fury of the Lord shall henceforth be kindled against this man, and shall lay upon him all the curses written in the Book of the Law. The Lord shall destroy his name under the sun, and cut him off for his undoing from all the tribes of Israel, with all the curses of the firmament which are written in the Law * * * And we warn you that none may speak with him by word of mouth nor by writing, nor show any favor unto him, nor be under one roof with him, nor come within four cubits of him, nor read any paper composed by him.’” (recounted in Damasio, 253)

I know this judgement sounds remarkably akin to pronouncements that contemporary church "squeakies" have made upon U2 (see this for one well-meaning [?] but well wide of the mark attempt to issue such an edict). But it is the official statement of excommunication (that's an understatement, how about "damnation") of one Spinoza. Whose heresy was offering for suggestion in the arena of ideas the radical thought that...

...well, everything we've been saying so far: There is a place for feelings, emotions and experience in the Christian life. Denying such basic truth opens footholds of "tribalism, racism, tryanny and religious fanaticism"(Demasio, 289).

Spinoza knew how to experience his wife.

And he was only being “evangelical” ahead of his time in his “personal relationship with Jesus.”


It has been called "the worst Grammy acceptance speech of 2006 ."

And it might have been.

Even though it came from the mouth of our man, Bono.

Who, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, "indulged in a cryptic acceptance speech about elephant dung."

But in the midst of Bono's rambling, prophecy (which in our day and age is always "in part," just as the Bible predicted) almost always happens. He compared being in a rock band with running away to join the circus: "You think you’ll be the ringleader," he said, "but sometimes you end up serving as the clown, the freak, even cleaning up the elephant dirt.”

Bono has long been fascinated by the circus (recall the song "Acrobat," partly about juggling Romans chapters 7 and 8), and its cousins Mardi Gras (witness the "Achtung Baby" album art and videos) and "carnival” (Bono has called their 9o’s songs "techno carnival" and participated in Brazil's 2006 Carnival as a guest of Brazil's Minister of Culture..,who by the way, moonlights as a pop star!).

“If the carnival is a metaphor for existence, then it is emotion that brings color to the pageant. Emotion is an artist’s palette for each of us, supplying tints for mood and memory…We share our moods, we enjoy them, we suffer them. We trust our moods as an intimate part of the self. " (Dr. Peter C. Whyburn, "A Mood Apart," p.254)

Intriguing connection between emotions and colors. First of all, studies in synesthesia (Cytowic) do suggest an inevitable link between emotions, colors, and what we might call "sacramental carnival.” Also, Bono has often spoken in songs ("Electrical Storm””s "Let's see colors that have never been seen"), concert asides ("We’re restless...still looking for new
sounds, new colors"-Pop Mart Mexico City DVD), and interviews ("Many bands have one or two colors….we want all the colors!"-CBS Special: "U2: The Year in Pop") his mind (heart?) about all the emotions/colors as valid and valued in the artistic and songwriting palette.

Until, of course, the day “the colors all bleed into one.”

A maxim in counseling is "There is no value judgement on how you feel." We feel what we feel, that is not (at least inherently) right or wrong, it just is.

Just is. And whatever "just is", is somehow tied up, then, with the fundamentals and fundamental-ness of reality. I feel; therefore I am.

And I AM.

But most church folk have a hard time imagining the I AM at a carnival.

Or a U2 concert.

Or having feelings His Holy Self.

On this last point of God's "feelings" being foundational to who he is (and who "I am"), no one is more lucid than Jurgen Moltmann in the astounding (and emotional) chapter 2 of "The Trinity and the Kingdom." This making room for "emotions" in God is "not out of (his) deficiency of being; rather out of the superabundance of his creative fullness …On the contrary , the lack of any creative movenment (feeling, passion) would mean an imperfection in the Absolute." (45)

“All this constituted the scandal of Christianity
This was the scandal of Christianity among Jews and Greeks, among
and Stoics, and this, which was its scandal of old, the
scandal of the Cross, is still its scandal to-day, and will continue to
be so, even among Christians themselves--the scandal of a God who
becomes man in order that He may suffer and die and rise again, because
He has suffered and died, the scandal of a God subject to suffering and
death. And this truth that God suffers--a truth that appals the mind of
man--is the
revelation of the very heart of the Universe and of its
mystery, the revelation that God revealed to us when He sent His Son in
order that he might redeem us by suffering and dying. It was the
revelation of the divine in suffering, for only that which suffers is

I am well aware that in spite of my warning that I am attempting here to
give a logical form to a system of a-logical feelings, I shall be
scandalizing not a few of my readers in speaking of a God who suffers,
and in applying to God Himself, as God, the passion of Christ. The God
of so-called rational theology excludes in effect all suffering. And the
reader will no doubt think that this idea of suffering can have only a
metaphorical value when applied to God, similar to that which is
supposed to attach to those passages in the Old Testament which
describe the human passions of the God of Israel. For anger, wrath, and
vengeance are impossible without suffering. And as for saying that God
suffers through being bound by matter, I shall be told that, in
words of Plotinus (_Second Ennead_, ix., 7), the Universal Soul cannot be bound by the very thing--namely, bodies or matter--which is bound by
The work of charity, of the love of God, is to endeavour to liberate God
from brute matter, to endeavour to give consciousness to everything, to
spiritualize or universalize everything; it is to dream that the very
rocks may find a voice and work in accordance with the spirit of this
dream; it is to dream that everything that exists may become conscious,
that the Word may become life.

We have
but to look at the eucharistic symbol to see an instance of it.
The Word has been imprisoned in a piece of material bread, and it has
been imprisoned therein to the end that we may eat it, and in eating it
make it our own, part and parcel of our body in which the spirit dwells,
and that it may beat in our heart and think in our brain and be
consciousness. It has been imprisoned in this bread in order that, after
being buried in our body, it may come to life again in our spirit.

And we must spiritualize everything. And this we shall accomplish by
giving our spirit, which grows the more
the more it is distributed, to
all men and to all things. And we give our spirit when we invade other
spirits and make ourselves the master of them.

All this is to be believed with faith, whatever counsels reason may give

may God deny you peace, but give you glory!

And also makes room for the full palette of emotions and colors in us.

Especially in worship. Sacraments even.

Bono told his interviewer (Assayas, 119)"It's almost like the two sorts of sacraments are music and friendship."

Music and friendship. Isn't that how carnival....and life...feel; in essence? And even if literal carnivals (especially the excesses built into Mardi Gras/Brazilian variety) can allow emotions to drive the train, no questions asked (Bill Bright had a point), the concept of colorful and emotional carnival is inextricably a Kingdom connection, and insufferably sacramental. Carnival is church.

The problem is sometimes church is carnival.

Or how about switching metaphors slightly to "fiesta"?

As another amazing book, "Living on the Border: What the Church Can Learn From Immigrant Cultures," would have it:
The Eucharist is a type of fiesta...also in the sense that Gadamer uses the term. It is a dramatic act whose nature is a repitition-with-a-differeence:
"From its inception-whether instituted in a single act or introduced gradually--the nature of a festival is to be celebrated regularly. Thus its own original essence is always to be something different...even when it is celebrated in exactly the same way (Hans Georg Gademer, "Truth and Method,” p.12)
Every time the eucharist is celebrated, its at once a unique event and an identically reenacted one. And as a dramatic event, its draped in a festival like mantle that according to Gadamer, covers even the act of interpretation itself. (Interpretation is, after all, just such a repetition with a difference...There is ample warrant, following Gadamer, to regard most of what the church does in worship and common life as being festive.)" (169)
That excerpt is so loaded with Bono-connections that there is no doubt he would personally amen it. First of all, by his own confession to Rolling Stone Magazine (a great priestly source to hear confession…as are talk shows, according to a famous Bono lyric) his life and music are inherently sacramental: "If feels (Note that word again) like there's a blessing on the is a kind of sacrament." On "repetition with a difference,” Bono has said of concerts and his conducting, singing lead: "The hard part is making it look spontaneous." Beth Maynard has called helpful attention to the liturgical flow of U2 concerts. Dennis Hopper, in the previously quoted TV special said of U2, "U2 is still writing 'Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,' it's just that this time around it's called 'Please." Catholic clergy desperate to breathe life and variety must inject variation, induct re-writes and infuse creativity at prescribed places only (or in inflection and gesture. Hello, Father Bono!) , as some portions of the Mass (set list) are mandated and standardized by the Vatican (fan popularity decides concert staples).
The hard part must indeed be making it look spontaneous.
Which by a real-time miracle and rugged insistence, U2 can manage extraordinarily well after nearly two decades and thousands of performances (masses) of "Where the Streets Have No Name." Every fan (congregant) worth their admission ticket price (offering) knows what's coming as the haunting keyboard intro (introit) stirs. And we know more or less what to expect in the first two minutes from the singer (priest/celebrant). But it is spontaneously planned liturgy; by the Book AND by the Spirit. Whatever shape, style, feeling or color the spoken or sung psalm/death wail/glossolalia takes, it does NOT look hard for Bono to "make it look spontaneous." Even though we have the lectionary memorized.
Where the people of God gather, there is order; St. Paul said. But this same saint also insisted "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom".

Carnival. Fiesta.
Ironically, but appropriately, Bono may well plan on a given night to announce "The Spirit is in the house tonight."
The story is told of a pastor of a congregation not used to liturgy. He wanted to introduce the folks to a bit of it through the classic response:
"The Lord be with you."
"And also with you."
So for several weeks, they practiced. "Remember, now, when I say, 'The Lord be with you,'" you all respond with 'And also with you.'" They decided they would show off their newfound expertise in liturgy to all the guests at Easter service.
Week after week, they were catching on. They perfected through practice.
Finally came the big Sunday, when they would officially incorporate this new liturgy without any rehearsal or instructions. The crowd was large; the Easter expectancy palpable.
The pastor smiled in anticipation as he rose to the pulpit to announce "The Lord be with you," knowing the people would be primed and prepared.
They were.
But at the precise moment the pastor was about to begin, he noticed there was something wrong with the pulpit microphone.
So he said just that: "There is something wrong with this microphone."
To which the people perfunctorily and proudly responded: "And also with you."
There is nothing wrong with Bono's microphone.
But there are two things true of all of us:
The Lord is with us.
Something is wrong with each of us.

We often even “want to get it wrong.” As Bono startlingly and unabashedly admitted (“Ultaviolet”).
Which is why we need honest liturgy, drawing from the full range of emotions.
Including “blasphemous” ones like "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
Or as U2 equally liturgically and emotionally correct form ...have cried:
"Jesus, help me. I'm alone in this world; and a f*#%ed up world it is, too…Wake up, Dead Man!”
Don’t call the censors or the heresy detectors or the Feeling Police. Don’t bother complaining to Bill Bright.
The boys have simply paraphrased Psalm 44.

And also with you.

But more of it.
To append and update Dennis Hoppers astute observation: “U2 is still doing Psalm 44, it’s just that now it’s called "Wake Up, Dead Man”
Or as the boys even more recently sang/psalmed in “A Man and a Woman, "you are gone and so is God."
I make the case that both the dramatic postmodern carnivalesque and "secular" Zoo TV U2 of the 90s ("Wake Up Dead Man"; as well as the more positive, less ironic celebratory praises of the next decade's discs and concerts are both church as carnival, and equally allowable as sacramental.
U2 is still doing Wake Up Dead Man,” It’s just that now its called "A Man and a Woman.”
We dare not deny baptism of and place for ruthless honesty, genuine feeling, and well, relationship in the faith-walk, both "in church" and "in the world."
For a good time, try tracing the usages of the word “feel” in the 90’s U2 material; connecting dots to the same term in the current decade’s catalog, and note how U2 have simply updated and re-contexted (“same thing with a difference”) their poetry and liturgy to better fit the times; and well, how the band currently "feels":
""Do you feel loved?" becomes "Do you feel anything at all?"
"I feel numb" morphs into to "I feel your love teaching me."
"I feel I'm drifting out to shore." shapeshifts into "Sky falls; it feels like it's a beautiful day."
Excuse me?
How could any day in which the sky falls be filed under "beautiful"?
Only in the Kingdom Carnival.
As U2 friends Switchfoot have captured by their album title: "The Beautiful Letdown." And as Sixpence None The Richer have likewise caught by their disc title: “This Beautiful Mess.”
Too honest; too paradoxical, huh?
Switchfoot, by the way, has said “We are Christian by faith, not by genre.”

Important point. One of the reasons that Switchfoot, Sixpence and U2 are among the select class of Heaney’s “bird(s) who sing close to what really happens” is that they realize like few others that:
"God is interested in truth, and only in truth. And that's why God is more interested in Rock & Roll music than Gospel... Many gospel musicians can't write about what's going on in their life, because it's not allowed …If you can't write about what's really going on in the world and your life ...and doubt... because it's all happy-clappy... Is God interested in that? I mean, 'Please, don't patronize Me! (laughter) I want to go the Nine-Inch-Nails gig, they're talking the truth!" (-Bono, as if you couldn’t have guessed!)

To tweak the carnival/fiesta a little more, it might even become flamenco. More specifically: “holy duende”. In a perceptive article in “Pop Matters” (indeed!), David Kootnikoff finds that:
At their best, they achieve what very few artists in any genre can: they create work with a sustained intensity that transforms the particular into the universal. U2 has that rare ability to communicate what the late Spanish writer, Frederico Garcia Lorca called 'duende'; that "mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains" (In Search of Duende, 1998, New Directions.)
Popularly associated with flamenco dancing, the concept of duende originated in the south of Spain centuries ago and has since migrated over to the English language. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary gives its meaning as "the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm", but it's much more than that. In 1933, Lorca gave his famous lecture, La Teoria y Juego del Duende (The Play and Theory of the Duende) in Buenos Aires detailing his conception of duende:
"I have heard an old master guitarist say: 'Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.' Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action."
the exuberance of what could be, the limitless possibilities inherent in what Lorca called "newly created things" that duende conveys and U2 embodied.

Live form? Ancient culture? Must be U2. Bono once (in the “Elevation” tour program “U2 on its own is a very interesting group and all, but U2 with its audience is a culture.” Remember Bono at Brazil’s Carnival, appearing with that nation’s Minister of Culture and popstar. Bono of all people knows that being both is not only not a contradiction in terms, but perhaps required.
Another writer has seen U2 not just as a culture, but a corporation..,as anything corporate inevitably defaults and backslides into:
"At one level, U2 is just these four guys making some music. But they're also not that at all. They're so huge that it becomes something else entirely. They're like Coca-Cola. As a commodity, as a corporately manufactured and distributed entertainment commodity, they — to me — become totally legitimate targets and you don't have to worry about what their feelings are or ask permission or anything." ( "Suits, Lawsuits, and Art: Negativland Takes On The Man" by Deuce of Clubs )

U2 have no border problem.
Bono once blew off a question about the origin of the Edge’s nickname with “He’s always on the edge between something and nothing." More precisely, the band…corporately and corporationly speaking… is not afraid to travel the edge and border between significant somethings and other significant somethings. Which of course is a sacramental thing.
"The church is not an enclave of refugees from the world; it is the sacrament of God's presence in the world by the Mystery of the incarnation. It's not supposed to look as little like the world as possible but as much like the world as it can manage. Otherwise, the world will never be able to recognize, in such a parochial culling of supposedly sinless humanity, anything even vaguely resembling its true face. It will just go on seeing in us the same old unforgiving face that already greets it in the mirror every morning. For the fellowship of the baptized is simply the world in all its sinfulness, dampened by the waters of forgiveness."
-Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart
Maybe Brian’s mom was right: Bono is both messianic AND a very naughty boy.

The “border problem”? We need to, in the great theological phrase of the Taco Bell commercials “run for the border.” Running from the border is only running to stand still.

As I have been recently gathering insights about “centered set” (versus “bounded set” or “bordered set” theory (see this page:, and a studying a cross-cultural theology of borders (the "Living on the Borders” book already quoted); this has made me ponder the probability of permeable membranes in life, and in the Kingdom. Then along comes a surprisingly helpful piece on Chuck Colson's page about the band Green Day (spin their "Jesus of Suburbia" song sometime): which quotes a Catholic about a place that might be "uniquely a permeable 'border' between the mundane and the transcendent, the visible and the invisible, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the human and the divine"

Place Vetigo or the heavenly Place…where strrtes have no name” Both. Precisely. Bordelandsa we run…

Jesus walksed the boder jonm 4

”Thats a Green Day gif, betteyt ye U2 worship ecep. Shoukd be church. IF itw ernt mystem faulre.

Very good connections By the way, the last lines of the Matrix, before Neo's "ascension," which serve as a Great Commission recruitment are: "SYSTEM FAILURE: Welcome to a world without rules, borders and boundaries" means several things, in typical postodren and prophetic fashion.

First: the old religious system/matrix/wineskin has failed. Now is the time for the church to bless (in certain areas, granted) what it always considered heresy: permeable membranes, boundarylessness, another Matrix connection, in the 2nd movie, the Trainman serves as the only person allowing entre into the Matrix or the real world. He serves in a no man's land, literally "living on the borders". he is very guarded about who he lets on the train to move from one world to the other...but in positive spin, could be a border guard who gives up the old rules and allows the membrane to be permeable..

tARIN mAN BiLL bRIGHT, discerning which feelinsg can be riddena ll the wy, And as the end of the first Matrix movie portrays, we have often been told "the sky's the limit." that sounds good, optimistic and a Jesus kind of thing. But it's too small. Lindell Cooley sings "Open Up the Sky!" Click over to Len's Next Reformation website( and put your mouse over the archway picture at top to read the wave-over text that's related
No we don’t. e sgoudl and could Don’;t. Norm or form of most church meeting



The presence in feeling of a life totality that transcends the present moment is a presupposition for the behavior of a living being .

(Compared to thought...)Fundamental feeling is stronger.(261)
Pannenberg's massive missive "Anthropology in Theological Perspective""

Uh, Bon reading pammeberh "A feelig's so much syronfer tahan a thoughtr. Cponfess
up the eante and evoidence

The feeling of being seized and empowered becomes intelligible, a feeling that at the same time is accompanied by a letting oneself be seized, by a feeling of being elevated above the everyday, and by the acquisition of hitherto unspusected powers.(265)

Ckear connections; typival U2 gig "acheives liftoff" trth leeting go elevation rabbliv prayer techiue

There is certainly a danger here that the object of passion may be taken to represent absolute fulfillment, so that onbsseiona nd bondage are the fresult But passion can also be a response to the call of God (wjo remains transcendent) in the concrete situations of the world of every day life, a response to a call that elevates indivudaula bove the everyday and renfer tem capable of extrdeaordinary dedication, witjiut caising ftehm to be blinded by sfalse absolutes

Peterson uw qualms ptrophetic music too much:

Feelings are the scourge of prayer. To pray by feelings is to be at the mercy of glands and weather and digestion. And there is no mercy in any of them. Feelings lie. Feelings deceive. Feelings seduce. Because they are so emphatically there, and so incontrovertibly interior, it is almost inevitable that we take our feelings seriously as reputable guides to the reality that is deep within us--our hearts before God.

But feelings are no more spiritual than muscles. They are entirely physical. They are real, and they are important. But they are real and important in the same way that our fingernails and noses are important--we would not want to live without them (although we could if we had to), but their length and shape and color tell us nothing about our life with God. To suppose that our emotions in any way give us reliable evidence of the nature or quality of our life with God is to misinterpret them. They are wonderful and necessary and glorious. They are part of the rich and stunning complexity of the human being in the image of God. We must value and develop and share them. But they are not prayer.

But how do we both affirm our feelings and detach ourselves from them? Through liturgy. We pray not when we feelk like it but when someone, the pastor, the priest, the choir,aster (or Bono) says “Let us pray” (unoffesive way bloffgegd ). We lose nothing of our emotions except theiot rtraynny. The gamut of emotions experienced in our human condirion is given full exporession in the psalms. We pray through easch plasm and hit every note, sound every tome of feeling…But th feelings do not have the firsty and controlling word. The feelings are incorporated in the prayers, not trhe prayers in th feelings. LKiturgical prayer misse not a sungke heartbeat of feelings, but refuses evena hint of doirection from them (87-088)

Through liturgy..whiuch is sacramental..metaphorival infoirmes

“Coroptrate liturgical worship

“In prayer the task is not to rarify language into an abstract spirituality but to thicken it with the metaphors of weather and geography and enmity into a spirituality of honest and actual experience.”
He then talks about the tendency to make spirituality more spiritual than material.

Full circle
“…for metaphor is an affront to their gossamer immaterialities and inner-ring whispers, a loud fart in the salon of spirituality.”

Psalms and Metaphor (hmmm synonymous)conquers gnostisma, and the by definition, “music of what reallky jappnes” “harmonies not natal but achived”
“actual ecperience

In a later book by Eugene Peterson, “Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading,” Peterson makes intriguing, contrasting and “paradoxing” observations about translation. These comments are highly germane as eucharistic priests (like Bono) and songwriters (like Bono) are inevitably translators .
First, he quotes, Franz Rosenzweig:
“Every translation is a messianic act, which brings redemption nearer.” ( p. 119).
Then he compliments JB Phillips, by saying that for him:
“Translation (is) a pastoral act.” (174)
And he admits, translator that he is, that “Translation is betrayal” (170).

So, which is it? Is translation inherently messianic or betrayal.

The only answer is “yes.”

Which is why Peterson can talk about metaphor being simultaneously so holy that it “signals transcendence and encounter with the One who speaks everything into being’ (98), and simultaneously call it “literally a lie” (94).

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