U2 in Seattle
“One day you will look back and you'll see -
You were held by this love.
You could stand there or you could move on this moment -
Follow this feeling”
Last Saturday marked the third time I’ve seen U2 in concert and every time I see them I take something different away. Yes, it is a rock and roll show with world class production like nothing else on the planet. Yes, the catalog of songs they have to draw on is stunning. And I doubt there has ever been a band that could make a crowd of 60,000 feel like a small club show the way U2 can. But this time around, I was struck by the spiritual dimension of the band. I grew up in a Christian subculture that assumed that the only legitimate art forms are the ones that beat you over the head with “biblical principles”. But yet – as I looked around Qwest Stadium on Saturday night, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was at some kind of Pentecostal rally -- hands raised, dancing, surrender, and talk of justice, grace, compassion, and love. Bono told the fans gathered in Seattle, “…if this band has stood for anything, it is the idea that there are second chances.” My friend Tom who was at the concert posted on his Facebook page the next morning, “I went to a praise and worship service last night and a U2 concert broke out.”
In recent years, I have come to recognize the powerful effect that U2 has had on shaping in a positive way Christian spirituality in our culture. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who refer to their U2 concert going experience as “inspired” or “divine” or even “the high point of their spiritual journey.” In Rob Bell’s most recent book, he poses a question about both the necessity and the difficulty of responding to Jesus. He writes,
…It is about how you respond to Jesus.But it raises another important question: Which Jesus? ... When one woman in our church invited her friend to come to one of our services, he asked her it if was a Christian church.She said yes, it was. He then told her about Christians in his village in eastern Europe who rounded up the Muslims in town and herded them into a building, where they opened fire on them with their machine guns and killed them all. He explained to her that he was a Muslim and had no interest in going to her Christian church. That Jesus? Or think about the many who know about Christians only from what they’ve seen on television and so assume that Jesus is antiscience, antigay, standing out on the sidewalk with his bullhorn, telling people that they’re going to burn forever? That Jesus? (“Love Wins”)
In this regard, it may be that U2 may be the best advocate for way of Jesus in our culture today. U2’s Jesus looks a lot like the Jesus of the gospels – a dangerous outsider calling out the greed and corruption of the rich and powerful. The draw to this kind of Jesus is powerful. For people like myself who are church insiders, it is humbling to recognize that it is not usually the preaching that I am used to doing that changes the world.In the biblical narrative, it is the artists and poets, like U2, who are the ones imagining a new world, a new reign of the Kingdom of God, Shalom. I love the way Walter Brueggemann describes it:
The poets of the Bible use a shattering, evocative speech, the kind of speech that breaks fixed
conclusions and presses us always toward new, dangerous, imaginative possibilities…These poets not only discerned the new actions of God that others did not discern, but they wrought the new actions of God by the power of their imagination, their tongues, their words. New poetic imagination evoked new realities in the community. (“Finally Comes the Poet")
Yeah, it rocked. And yeah, there were several times (like when Bono cried out, “uno, dos, tres, catorce”) that I thought 60,000 people were going to jump out of their skin in unison. But I also think there is something deeper going on. Something pretty significant.