The reason I am going to blog about this now is because this goes far beyond someone criticizing Bono or U2. It really has to deal with something I have very little tolerance for - "Christians" publicly criticizing and calling into question the faith of another Believer.
Recently my son came home telling me about a video he had seen where a well-known Christian speaker was criticizing other believers, among them, Charles Stanley, Joel Olsteen, and, Bono. I know the organization that puts this video out does so in the name of exposing lies and promoting Truth - a noble thing to do, except that it is often done without grace. But that's a different post. Sometimes though, their "Truth" is based on something that is not true at all, as I will show in a moment.
I know nothing of Joel Olsteen except that there are a lot of Christians out there flocking to buy his book, which I've not read and that his church took on the monumental task of taking care of hundreds of Hurricane Katrina refugees which seems to me to be a gracious act of servanthood. And I rarely listen to Charles Stanley preach although I have been to see the Passion Play his church does each year at Easter. I have always respected him and felt that he was one of the good guys. As far as I know neither of these men are preaching anything that would lead anyone astray. But I don't listen to either of them and so I really just don't have the information to defend them.
But as anyone who reads here with any regularity knows, I do listen to U2. A lot in fact. I am a fan - not only because of their music, which I do like, but because of what they stand for. I love that God has used a rock star of all things to call the Church to get with the program and start acting like the Church when it comes to the world's poor. I think it shows God's sense of humor. I also think that this particular rock star is a Believer who tries and sometimes fails to follow Jesus Christ just as the rest of us who claim Christianity. He has said as much, so I have no right to question his relationship with Christ.
The thing that Bono was criticized for in this particular video was that he has supposedly said that Muslims, Christians, and Jews are all the same - the all roads lead to God thing. Others have also questioned what Bono really believes about these religions. Does he really believe that they are all one and the same? Relevant Magazine did an article "How to Dismantle and Idolized Bono" where the woman who had attended a concert on the Vertigo Tour reported this,
About five songs into their set, Bono stopped the show and strapped on a
headband with writing on it. I stared up at the JumboTron to see that the
handwritten lettering said: COEXIST.
Coexisting sounds like a great idea. I fully support the peaceful philanthropy that Bono has encouraged, and this seemed like another way that he was trying to spread the message. Except, it started to feel like more than a political message. The “C” in “coexist” was the Islamic crescent moon, the “X” was the Star of David, and the “T” was the cross of Christ. Bono pointed at the symbols on his headband—first to the cross, then to the star, then to the crescent moon—and he began to repeat: “Jesus, Jew, Mohammad—all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammad—all true.”
So is it true? Does Bono really believe they are all equally true - that all roads lead to God? I admit, when I saw this concert on DVD for the first time it struck me as odd and I can see how someone could easily misunderstand the message Bono was trying to convey. In concerts it's always a bit hard even to understand what someone is actually saying. Words can easily be misunderstood and theatrics such as Bono uses can also be misunderstood. Even songs can be misunderstood. Listen to a song sometime and you will find other people who believe that song is about something different than what you thought it was about.
Here is a 25 second clip of the portion of the concert where the misunderstanding happens...
And here is what he is actually saying.
"there's some graffiti written on a wall not far from here. It says CO
Jesus, Jew,Mohammad it's true.
Jesus, Jew,Mohammad it's true.
All sons of Abraham.
Where are you now
look what you've done
you've turned your son against your son
So he's really saying, "IT'S true". Not "ALL True".
It's also worth mentioning that he does this in the middle of the song "Bloody Sunday", a song about a massacre in Ireland and a plea for an end to the violence. In Bono's home country of Ireland, religion is at the root of much of the violence and hatered and I believe he is pointing out that much of the fighting in the Middle East has religion at it's root. He goes on to finish this chant with the familiar "No more. No more" ending to Bloody Sunday. His message is, I believe, that we have to co-exist in peace - not that we all have to agree or follow the same religion.
Now that's a whole different message than saying that all religions are the same. In fact, all of Bono's statements are true statements that if any Christian denied, they would only be showing their lack knowledge of Bible history.
Funny how things can get twisted around and we hear what we think we hear without really listening or considering context.
So does Bono really believe that all religions are the same? Well, here is what he said in the book U2 by U2 about an invitation he received from the Dalai Lama.
We had a request from the Dalai Lama to participate in a festival called
Oneness. I love and respect the Dalai Lama but there was something a little bit
"let's hold hands" hippie to me about this particular event. I am in awe of the
Tibetan position on non-violence but this event didn't strike a chord. I sent
him back a note saying, "One — but not the same."
The real issue for me is not that someone has misunderstood Bono. It happens. People misunderstand each other all the time. I've been misunderstood and I imagine you have too. It doesn't make me angry that someone is criticizing Bono.
What does make me angry is that there are "Christians" out there who think nothing of blasting away other Christians in the name of Truth. That they go even further by questioning the condition of someone else's soul is really stepping over the line. It makes me very angry. Truth without Grace is no longer Truth. It becomes something else entirely. Something unholy and demonic.