Sarah, remember that terrible Christianity Today article about U2 that I said I'd rebut? Well here is a rebuttal, admittedly a poor one. Give me your thoughts (even if you're not saintcheney).
By André Axver
An article appeared in the March 2003 issue of Christianity Today (CT) entitled ‘Bono’s Thin Ecclesiology’ (it may be found online at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/003/29.37.html). Sadly, this article is filled with a litany of errors that build up to create a false impression that is sold to readers, and many of them simply don’t have the knowledge of U2 to recognise this. As both a Christian and a U2 fan who considers himself reasonably knowledgeable about the band, I feel it is my duty to clear up these errors and provide a rebuttal to this poor article. I shall present the whole article, inserting my own comments when they are relevant. The article is in italics, my comments are in normal text.
‘During the Heart of America tour in late 2002, which he organized to raise awareness of aids in Africa, rock singer Bono of U2 took a radical step: He pleaded directly with his fellow Christians.
Between visiting truck stops, high schools, and daily newspapers, Bono also dropped in on a few megachurches and Wheaton College. Bono has declined to speak with American evangelicals' mass media for years, and we're thankful that the urgency of his cause has changed that—see this issue's cover story (page 38). But Bono's excursion into American evangelicalism was missing one crucial element: a sense that he felt much respect for the evangelical culture he was lecturing.’
The big question here is why Bono should even respect the evangelical culture at all. Why should he respect the culture that has sat back and led AIDS run rampant? Why should he respect a culture that waters down Christ’s commands so that they are comfortable to the masses? Why should he respect the culture that has allowed middle class Christianity to become a comfortable debating society and gossip club? This man’s trying to get people’s attention away from their comfortable lives for a second and show them that there is a terrible crisis in another part of the world, and all CT can do is pick up some sense – that I personally didn’t pick up myself – that he has a lack of respect.
‘In the more purple of his prosaic moments, Bono claimed that the church:
• Will be "made irrelevant" if it does not respond adequately to Africa's aids crisis.’
He’s right, too. Christians are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and are told that “whatever you did for the least of these, you did for Me … whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for Me” (Matthew 25:40, 45), and if they just sit by and fail to respond adequately, they will be forsaking what God has said and make their faith irrelevant.
• ‘Practices a "hierarchy of sin" that condemns people with aids as deserving the affliction because of sexual promiscuity.’
This has occurred, so why is there an issue with Bono bringing it up?
• ‘Has "pervert[ed] the gospels and the Holy Scriptures since they were first written."’
And you’re trying to tell me mainstream Christianity doesn’t water down the demands and call of Christ to make it seem acceptable and comfortable? Give me a break and go read some Soren Kierkegaard.
‘MacPhisto, a satirical onstage character that Bono adopted during U2's concerts in the early 1990s, claimed that Pope John Paul and the Archbishop of Canterbury were doing Satan's work. Bono has taken a kindlier view of the pope since they talked about mutual concerns on Third World debt. Perhaps he will lighten up on the Archbishop of Canterbury now that Rowan Williams, a man of the Left, has ascended the throne.’
This statement holds no weight whatsoever. Having been a fan of MacPhisto for a good few months and having conversed with other fans about him, I am not aware of any instance where MacPhisto mocked the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury – he was sending up the world, fame, and was the “ultimate washed-up rockstar”, so I don’t imagine he ever would’ve done such mockery anyway. CT really should provide references if they’re going to make such claims, and they’ve missed one simple thing: MacPhisto was satirical. What he says can be taken with a grain of salt.
‘Bono's full-throated judgments on the church prompt this question: Just how would he know? He has, after all, avoided the church since breaking with Shalom, a Watchman Nee-inspired group in Ireland, in the early 1980s.’
What would he know? Quite a lot. This man is from Ireland, a deeply religious country where it’s hard to ignore the church, he spends a great deal of time dealing with the church, and he is known to frequently read the Bible and have an understanding of Biblical teachings. If anyone is qualified to make a judgement call on the church, it is him. One does not have to attend church every week to understand it. If anything, the author’s question is derogatory and insulting, coming from a flawed and biased perspective intent on dragging down the character and person of Bono.
‘This arm's-length experience of churches leaves Bono with a paper-thin ecclesiology that measures the church's mission (or its "relevance") almost exclusively in geopolitical terms.’
This assumption is nothing short of stupid. The author does not appear to understand how familiar Bono is with the church at all, and Bono is not a politician, he is a man with a vision and a passion. He doesn’t want to view the church’s – or anyone else’s – mission in a way that serves his own needs and desires, but in an honest way that serves the greatest good. He is a selfless man, after all.
‘Bono seems unaware of the aids relief work that has been done in Africa for years, both by missionaries and by indigenous Christians (CT, Feb. 7, 2000).’
This is misleading. Bono is very much aware of what’s going on, and he is very much aware that it is not enough and it is not involving the everyday Western Christian, but by a very small minority.
‘Never mind that many Christians were bringing relief to suffering Africans in the same decade that U2 poured millions into its bloated Zoo TV and PopMart tours (keeping the latter on the road cost $1.3 million a week).’
This too is misleading. U2 are a rock band, they are meant to go on massive tours. The author has also successfully ignored the fact that U2 donate much more money, time, and energy to charity than most, and also have various ventures to fund. Bono has often used U2’s tours as a means to bring attention to the plight of people around the world, and to argue against them defies logic.
‘If Americans fail to persuade the Bush administration to increase foreign aid to the percentage of gross domestic product that Bono finds acceptable, then Bono finds the church guilty of standing by, like Germans watching Jews being hauled away to the death camps.’
The church does have the resources and influence to get things done.
‘Bono has shown a clear compassion for suffering people throughout his career. He has performed at global benefits like Live Aid and has made quieter efforts to relieve people's suffering (such as spending a month in an Ethiopian refugee camp in the 1980s). We understand why Bono feels angry when he believes the church is sitting by in complacency while thousands of Africans face a daily threat of death.’
At least CT isn’t totally oblivious to the facts …
‘Bono has said repeatedly that Christianity without an element of social justice is empty. We agree.’
‘But a Christian's pleading for social justice without worshiping God regularly within the community of the church is little more than activism for its own sake.’
So now, for Bono’s activism – or anyone’s activism – can only be done legitimately if the person regularly attends a particular church? That is quite possibly one of the stupidest assertions that could be made. Bono is a man of the Bible who prays regularly – even in the middle of concerts – and I don’t see why any demand should be placed on him to attend a particular church. It’s not a requirement of faith, and after all, God does not live in a building.
‘Any person can stand outside the church and critique its obedience to the gospel.’
That doesn’t make their critique any less valid.
‘Part of God's call on a Christian's life is to walk inside and die to self by relating to other human beings, both in their fallenness and in their redeemed glory.’
Wow, two unrelated things strung together along with one thing placed in God’s mouth! True, God calls Christians to die to self, but where does he say we must relate to others? We are told regular communion with other believers is a good thing – and Bono does that, even if not within the normal confines of a church – but it’s not any onus placed upon a believer, and it has nothing to do with dying to self.
‘God may very well be using Bono to challenge the conscience of American evangelicals.’
That’s pretty obvious.
‘It is well within God's frequently evident sense of humor to use a brash rock star in the causes of justice and mercy. If that is so, we hope that God also uses this time to draw Bono into a deeper sense of what it means to be a Christian.’
I love it when people make me sick with their conclusions. Bono has a very deep sense of what it means to be a Christian. One has to wonder whether the author has ever read any of his lyrics, because the themes are very deep and he’ll tussle with any issue thrown his way. Bono has an admirable faith, and the judgement placed upon him by the author is deplorable. The reason question is: does the author have the deep sense of what it means to be a Christian that they assert Bono doesn’t have? Also, I’d love to know if they did any research or if they just got ticked off by a statement Bono made that made them feel uncomfortable. The glaring errors in their article seem to imply the latter.
Nothing much spectacular happened in my life today. In a disturbing twist, I had an Eminem song stuck in my head earlier this evening, with the most warped lyrics: "My name is Zooropa and I eat red pavement." India defeated Australia in the cricket - set a target of 304 (303? I forget) and Australia, although they were going along very nicely at one point (needed 98 runs off 96 balls with 5 wickets in hand), crumbled to be all out, falling short by 20 runs. I laughed.
Tomorrow I am having my hair cut at around 9am. Wibble. I like my hair the way it is, sort-of-becoming-afro-ish, all curly and fun. But we'll see what happens. I wonder what the hairdresser wil say, heh. Afterwards we're going to get my watch fixed - somehow, this WATERPROOF watch got water in it and isn't functioning quite well (light is dead, screen is hard to read, especially the seconds) - and then I might go spend my music voucher that I got for Christmas. Hmmm ... I'll probably get Evanescence's Fallen.