Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Is U2 a Christian band?

Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them"

U2's new CD comes out this week, and it brings up that old discussion among Christians about whether u2 is a Christian band or not. Scripture tells us that all of creation speaks to the glory of God. Mainstream Christians have no problem acknowledging that mountains, flowers, and waterfalls glorify God without actually speaking His name. But we are mistaken if we forget that humans can do the same, simply by walking in their calling. If a country singer, for example, is truly walking in his calling, he can continue to sing about the pain caused by adultery, for example, and it glorifies God every bit as much as biblical tale of David and Bathsheba, which carries the same message about adultery.

If God has created you to be a story-teller (and singers are story-tellers), then be a story-teller, and you will glorify the one who created you. Let others fret about whether your lyrics fit their description of "Christian" or not. You only have to please God, not other people. By the only measure that matters, U2 is a Christian band.

I'm convinced that God has called U2 to speak His truth to an audience that otherwise isn't going to hear it. An analysis of their tunes will consistently lead to a discovery that most of them are about God or about godly truths.

What's sad to me is how many Christians will dismiss their work simply because it sounds secular. Nobody complains about a Christian computer programmer or plumber or fast-food cashier whose work seems, on the surface, to fail to include any Christian elements. But write a song, and it better mention Jesus, or else.

A similar mistake made by many Christians is the idea that if the audience doesn't get the Christian message out of a song whose meaning might be unclear, then the musician has failed. This mindset is based on some erroneous ideas, including (a) singing a song with a message that isn't clearly Christian is evidence that you are ashamed of your faith;, and (b) the unbelievers in the audience need to hear the Gospel from you (the singer), or else the effort is wasted.

The former view is wrong simply because if you are called to write and sing a particular kind of song to a particular audience, then you can do nothing better or more important that living in that calling. Not every one of us has been called to be Billy Graham.

The latter view is more troubling because it is founded in the idea that we must place the Great Commission ahead of the Great Commandment.

There was a movie called "Chariots of Fire" in which the main character, an Olympic athlete, was pressured by his family to be a missionary. Their Pharisaical mindsets wouldn't let them see that this man was created to run, but thankfully, he didn't fail to see it himself. In the film's most moving quote, he tells a family member, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."

U2 is a Christian band, not because their lyrics are parallel to Sandy Patty's. They are Christians who live out their God-given assignment, and there is little doubt that they feel God's pleasure when doing so. How anyone else categorizes them is irrelevant.

Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them"

26 comments:

Jason K. said...

What is a Christian Band?

To me, a Christian Band, is a brand designed for niche marketing to promote a product to a Christian counter culutre.

U2 is a band, that contains Christians, and you see their relationship with Christ permiate through their craft. But they don't have a "Christian" target audience like many other bands do.

So no I wouldn't consider U2 a "Christian Band".

James said...

Jason, I'd still disagree with you, because I think there is no such thing as a "Christian band" any more than there are Christian office supplies or Christian pistachios.

Jason K. said...

I understand what you are saying, that a band cannot be inherantly Christian, any more than you can have a Christian Pen.

But have you walked into Christian bookstore lately? Not only do they sell Christian Books and Bibles, but other misc. trickets as well.

Again, it goes back to the idea of creating a Christian Counter Culture that allows people to think that Wearing the Clever Christian Tee, the cross (or fish, or themed Dog tag) pendant, with a WWJD bracelet, be in the world and not of it.

I agree that a band, a shirt, or a Purpose Driven Coffee Mug are not Christian, but they are marketed that way.

James said...

I agree it's marketed in such a way that that label is applied. I am refusing to accept the label, though.

The Cynical Christ Follower said...

It's not a matter of their lyrics or market or even audience, but rather how they portray themselves. Bono seems to have a bad habit of showboating on stage (and even in music videos) which totally goes against being humble. As a Christian entertainer, one must always live in testimony. It is not about the performers, it's about the music.

Also, I just saw them on an episode of "Entourage". True Christians would not appear on a show of this nature, which promotes an indecent lifestyle and is a very un-christian show. Even if it was just for the money, that doesn't make the decision any better. And I know it wasn't for the exposure, they surely don't need it.

James said...

And I respectfully disagree. especially about your statement about what "True Christians" would do. What defines a Christian is not what shows he appears on, but whether he has established a relationship with God through His Son, and accepted the free gift of salvation made possible by His Son's death.

I haven't seen Entourage, but I can guess it's pretty hedonistic. And while I would agree with you if you would say that it would not be wise to appear on such a show, I think it's a very unwarranted leap to say one is not a Christian if they make such an appearance.

I am a Christian, and I do unwise things all that time.

Steven H said...

I'd have to agree with James on this point. To say a person or group of people showed up on an un-Christian show and using this to lable them as not being Christian is absurd really.

Christ went into the absolute worst areas intentionally. He sat and ate with prostitutes and theives and that, just like it would now, labled him in the same way. He made it a point that Christians should show up at just such a events, not to help promote them, but to influence it.

The one caveat I do have with regards to Bono is his obsessive vulgarity. His language goes far beyond damns and hells and I'm pretty sure that does go against a typical "walking with God" lifestyle.

Who am I to judge.

Anonymous said...

Chariot of Fire was a legendary story about Eric Liddel who was an Olympic champ but he gave up his fame, chose to walk the path of the cross, became a missionary in rural China and died in the concentration camp a few months before Japan surrendered. A Christian value is the value in the sight of God. He who is no fool by giving up what he cannot keep in order to keep what he cannot lose.

James said...

Yes, Liddel did become a missionary, but it as on God's timetable, not that of his family members, which was the point I was making.

John said...

Another band that's carrying on the tradition of U2 in their living out of their faith is Paper Tongues. These guys are right on.

I saw them on tour with Flyleaf. They were great. Check out their stuff:

http://papertongues.ning.com/

Samuel said...

"That sense of satisfaction destroys so many bands. But you're saying that with U2, it's exactly the opposite.

It's the exact opposite: We are not happy. [Laughs] It's like, "How can you be unhappy when you're selling out a tour and your record's doing well?" But it's not that kind of unhappiness. It's a creative dissatisfaction.

We want to do better, we want to compete on the highest level, and that means competing on radio, and competing with people like Britney Spears and all those pop artists who are at the top of their game. The songs that are written for them are pretty spectacular, and we want to compete with that. Why else do this? There's no other reason. None of us need to do it, we're all financially secure, and for a lot of bands, that's a huge turn-off. "I've got the kids now, I've got the money, what do I need this for?" This is revenge for us."

This is a quote from an interview that U2 was in. If he was really a christian would he say "there's no other reason," when asked why else do this?" Isn't his music for glorifying God?

James said...

I don't really understand what you're saying, Samuel.

Anonymous said...

James,
I think you really nailed this. To give my age away, I will say that I graduated from high school in 1980. During my first years in College I began to seek God and U2 was one of the biggets influences that led me to seek Christ. I started buying Christian Music and found all the first U2 albums in Christian book and music stores. U2 was considered a Christian Band by Christians in the 80's and early 90's. U2 infuenced many Christian musicians to start writing about Gods message in their songs and influenced many to start Christian Rock Bands. Their album Joshua Tree changed that because of songs "Still haven't found what I'm loking for". I saw this song different then most Christians did, but questioning the existance of God happens to everyone including the most devoute pastors. Jesus himself was tempted. I agree that U2 is a Christian Band but their message is not for Christians. It is for those that need to hear about Gods Love and U2 has done that. Jesus came to heal the sick and sickness is not only a physical thing. Bottom line. I think U2 needs continue doing what they do and they only have to answer to God for it. Not all Christian Bands sing only about praising God, but they also sing about pain, hurt, sorrow and lack of God experiance. I am posting anonymous because I don't have a google account and am not interested in one.

Brian said...

I think U2 is questionable as a "chrisian band" in that the themes are palatable for anyone, and not targeted solely to a Christian audience. I've never heard, or read of anything "self Proclaimed" from U2 to designate there music as "intended" for Christians only. There may be Christian "themes" found here, yet might we also conclude that "fans" from other religions might lay the same claim upon U2 as ministering to "their" beliefs in as much??

Would Bono be happy to oblige someone who sees "new age" themes or the skin heads who love U2 b/c of their "generic" broad parallel passions behind various causes, which they find stimulating to "their" cause? However Bono truly reacts to those who enjoy his music, determines the authenticity of his purpose for creating it!! Thus proving one way or another whether he's writing general ambiguous lyrics to sell records simply for record profits, or to send a biblical message to "non believers" who rarely have a clue of Bono's semi subliminal intentions..if indeed they are designed to be this way.

I think people rather just "like U2's style of music" and find a way to justify it being "whatever" the listener "wants" it to be..I personally enjoy some of their Music, although I fail to see any specific biblical concepts "in" the songs I enjoy the music to!!

Since the themes are so broad, any atheist, alqaeda terrorist, or Satanic Priest might just as well enjoy U2's broad message of "reality" which loses it's purpose by it's "lack" of defining a target listener. I see U2 as no different than "Cold Play" or "AHA" who had a Christian or 2 who happened to be in the band. Whatever "flavor" a band seeks to market itself "as" is technically defined by the means for what "purpose" the lyrics are written. If Bono "is" a Christian, and he may be...his "all things to all people" lyric style, continues to be questioned. It sure doesn't minister to me, I can at least attest to you that much from my own point of view. This cannot be said about some other Bands who's clear purpose and target is to glorify God, or challenge the non believer with the "opportunity" platforms of talent "they" have. U2 is mega talented!!! Their music just doesn't inspire me to seek God, or challenge me to think "Godlier" thoughts...("michael"!) and I'm certainly not alone according to several of the other posts here! U2 makes great music though!! I would never doubt that, very talented group of musicians, we're just trying to determine if there's actually a lyrical purpose to be rendered here, instead of simply just that great feeling gained from well composed, orchestrated music! It doesn't "have" to be christian music to be appreciated...no more than Classical Music is/was.

James said...

Brian, you make good points, but the reason I am holding to my position is that my definition of "Christian" music doesn't include a requirement for the lyrics to be blatant. Somewhere there's a verse which says that if people won't cry out, the rocks will cry out (my paraphrase). If someone simply does what they were made to do, then God is glorified.

Brian said...

Hey James!! Then I'll beg the question, what "is" blatant about their lyrics?? I see a generic plurality of meanings. I remember when U2 came out with "In the Name of Love"....which everyone at that time said was about Jesus....but later in the song, we see the context! Hey, they're a great band musically, I just need some proof that specifically entitles them to be called a Christian Band...I don't see it, and by the response of many others here, they don't either. Are we even sure Bono "is" even a Self proclaimed Christian?? I'm open to evidence.

James said...

Brian:
Again, I am specifically saying that blatantly Christian lyrics are not necessary. I think that's what many Christians get wrong. God gets glorified in many ways, only one of which is song lyrics like he ones we hear on CCM radio.

James said...

Having said that, here are a few of the more obvious lyrics which point directly to something biblical:

Vertigo:
I'm at a place called Vertigo
Is that You give me something I can feel
You're teaching me
Your love is teaching me how
How to kneel

James said...

Gloria:
I try to sing this song
I...I try to stand up
But I can't find my feet
I try, I try to speak up
But only in you I'm complete

Gloria...in te domine
Gloria...exultate
Gloria...Gloria
Oh Lord, loosen my lips

I try to sing this song
I...I try to get in
But I can't find the door
The door is open
You're standing there
You let me in

Gloria...in te domine
Gloria...exultate
[Glory in you, Lord / Glory, exalt Him]

Oh Lord, if I had anything
Anything at all
I'd give it to you
I'd give it to you

James said...

Sunday Bloody Sunday:

The real battle just begun.
To claim the victory Jesus won,
On a Sunday bloody Sunday,
Sunday bloody Sunday.

James said...

Grace:

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain

James said...

And finally, there's this, not a song, but from an interview:

But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/music/interviews/2005/bono-0805.html?start=3

Jose said...

Man I'm christian I'm a musician my disc is coming soon therefore I think I can give my point of view, :), U2 is not a christian band, they are my favorite band but thery are not, I've known them since I was 10 and I know that all of them Larry, The Edge, Bono and Adam have strong christian beliefs, U2 is a band made by christians not a christian band, ok they have done stupid stuffs like light drugs, swears, etc, but who hasn't?, and maybe you guys are just realising it now, cos until now they really are showing it more, but they have always been christian, bless

josh said...

This is a joke james!!! The bible says if you are luke warm he will spew you out end of descussion ..you can't call yourself a christian and and not preach the most important issue SALVATION ™which Is offered through accepting JESUS CHRIST! as your lord and savior ..point blank period where not her to bring ourselves glory but we our here to bring glory to god and the son of god. We can talk about believing in god all we want amd we can get everyone on bored but without the message of jesus christ whom we must accept as our lord and savior so says the word of god from wich we can not pick and choose. We wil go to hell for if you deny the son unto man he will deny you unto the father.. GOD BLESS

James said...

Josh, I don't normally make snarky remarks about someone's grammar and spelling, but your comment is very difficult for me to read. Do you suppose God is glorified when you pay attention to detail?
At any rate, I find your argument unconvincing. You say a Christian should preach the truth of salvation, and here I have quoted the band's lyrics, saying things like

The real battle just begun.
To claim the victory Jesus won,
On a Sunday bloody Sunday.

Sounds like they are doing exactly what you say they should.

David said...

I think our desire for celebrity dominates our sanctified good sense at times. Setting aside the lyrics issue as a test of Christian orthodoxy, what of the band's public lives? I am no U2 authority, but it seems to me that in many ways you simply see barely Christianized hedonism big on Christian sounding platitudes, and very weak on even basic Christian doctrine. I think U2 are more certainly religious than most rock bands...little doubt about that....but I wonder, is this an expression of the "broad road" or the "narrow road?" In the end, rock star or no, every man meets God, and God has no separate set of expectations for rock stars than from MacDonald's employees.