“Is he a Christian?”
Memories of my junior year of high school include many conversations about whether or not Bono was a Christian. This was due in large part to U2’s album, Pop, which included profanity. Now that I’ve heard Pop countless times, I realize how great a body of work it is. At the time, I only wanted every U2 album to sound like The Joshua Tree (forgive me if you are not a fan and this is starting to sound too esoteric). I hadn’t bought in to the musical and spiritual journey they had embarked on. Joshua Tree felt safer and more familiar; I was not ready to branch out.
The lyrics to the song Wake Up Dead Man were they catalyst for much of the commotion about Bono’s faith:
Jesus, Jesus help me
I’m alone in this world
and a fucked up world it is too
Bono’s use of profanity in a prayer song that will be played on public radio was enough for many Christians to remove him from the list of famous people who we could point to and say, “He’s with us!”
This isn’t 1997, but that list still exists. I know, because I’ve asked the question about whether or not a famous person is a believer many times, just wondering aloud if they are in “our fold.” What’s behind this spiritual query regarding the soul of someone I don’t even know? Why does it matter?
I think we ask that question because of the validation we will feel if we find out he or she happens to go to church somewhere and claims to be a Christian. We are looking for respect in the world, and we all know how much there is to gain in our culture by linking up with a popular figure in good standing.
Sure, famous people provide a sense of affirmation of our faith, but it’s an empty affirmation that carries serious dangers. The biggest issue is that stars can lose their buzz and popularity as quickly as they found it (you may remember someone by the name of Mel Gibson?). They can easily fall to a sin that gets posted on every news outlet on the internet, leaving us trying to explain why this person was our banner man for Christianity.
We don’t need the latest hotshot, big pop star, guru captain of the army of drones to be a Christian to feel good about being a followers of Christ. That’s why it doesn’t matter if Bono was a Christian in 1997. The way of Jesus’ does not include enthrallment with the spotlight or those standing in it. Instead, we are to be fully present where God has placed us, aware that God shows no special respect of those in certain societal standing.
(Okay, now we can talk about whether Pop was U2’s best album…)