Their faith was always very important to me, though I saw them as a spiritual force rather than a Christian group. In this key respect, I always viewed them as being on an epic journey, following in a continuum that includes many musical, cinematic, literary, and artistic greats on similar journeys. Having said that, I see spirituality where religion is not mentioned at all, as well as where no specific major religious character is mentioned. We are all on a journey. Whether we identify it as a spiritual journey or not becomes both a personal matter and one that is hard to hide. Bono identifies with the struggle more than the smug, complacent version of rebirth I often witnessed in the few churches I attended. Bono was preoccupied with sex, prayer, struggles, wanderlust, the political world, human strength and frailty, grace, transcendence, and how we are one but not the same.
As he said once around 1993,
"I want Heaven and Hell for this band."
The flesh and the spirit.
Aspirations in the clouds,
feet in the mud. His interpretation of the books he has read,
especially the Bible, has had a major impact on me, though I would not count myself a Christian in any typical sense. It seems to me that U2 irritate a lot of people.
To some Christian acts they are not Christian enough, yet they reach more people on spiritual matters than any Christian act I can recall. Similarly, they have been able to achieve the sorts of real world political gains that a group like The Clash, known almost entirely for being political, could have only dreamed of experiencing. The Sarajevo broadcasts? That was a hyperpolitical moment,
and more importantly,
a supremely human one, and good on them for sticking it in everyone's faces. Rock n Roll talks a big game about being edgy, yet if you're too political, some idiot fan or rag writer pouts about artists just sticking to music. Well, get yourself out to be fucked, Jack. U2 aren't pretenders. They are the real deal. Side note: "Outside Broadcast" was the name of the stadium tour for the outdoor legs of Zoo TV. It was also the name of a remix The Clash did of "This Is Radio Clash" back in 1981. This is not a coincidence. I think Bono was doing what The Clash would have done had they been in the same position U2 was in back in '92-'93. They are spiritual, political, and sexual. U2 can deal with romantic intimacy in a way a Christian act would never dream. Worship? "Your instructions, whatever your directions..." "If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel..." Who knew that kneeling to pray and kneeling to pleasure could be so comfortably conflated into effectively being the same thing? Powerful stuff... In short, that they are spiritual is an inextricable fact of U2. Saying that U2's music is all that matters is nice, but that voice and their voices collectively are matched irrevocably to what they sing. Whether it's spiritual, political, sexual, cornball, despairing, sighing, or calming, U2 manage to make all of life a spiritual experience. Those chills you're feeling when the coda of Until The End Of The World arrives once again to save your soul? That is how you know the spirituality of U2 is undeniable. It is also as good a reminder as you could ask for that we have souls at all, despite what the world might have you believe. The first two minutes of Where The Streets Have No Name is when Christians and atheists alike are born again. That same music has elicited an idiot's grin as well as tears of joy many, many times in my life. I am sure this goes for millions of U2 fans worldwide. I see Bono as a bit like one of the Gnostics. He is not burdened by dogma. He wants the unique, personal experience of God. The Wanderer is the flip side of Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World. What you think was just a man out on the town was always a wise blood looking for God in the neon.