U2: Seeking An Ecclesiology | Sojourners

U2: Seeking An Ecclesiology

By now you have heard that Apple gave you music. Free music. From U2. Now, they paid U2 a lot of money for those tunes and it's pretty clear that it's not the first time that someone paid a U2 a lot of money for their music so that you could have it for free as long as you were a loyal customer.

The U2 back catalogue has done pretty well this week.

Some of us are rather peevish customers, it would seem. There have been numerous articles on the betrayal by either U2 or Apple. Don't they know that our iDevices are private property? Don't they know that we have put a fence around our little corner of the cloud?

Sadly the tech doesn't really work that way and the agreement you checked - we all checked, really - makes it pretty clear that they own the cloud and you merely lease space there. Your iDevice is a portal, no more, no less.

In my cursory review of the new album, I mentioned that Apple and U2 were trying to do something new. And I said, in short, that the real news is about music distribution and not the album itself. As strange as some of the news has been, it seems that I was right (kinda).

The music has been overshadowed by the delivery system. Who cares about the music? I mean, other than David Fricke (loved it) and Sasha Frere-Jones (hated it).  We want to know how the hell the Ghost of Jobs managed to get music on our phones. What is he, a Jedi? He dies but not really?

No. It's just the cloud. This is where the information goes. You have the iDevice Air, then all your data is in the cloud and the owners of the cloud can add or subtract from that data rather easily. Thus, this Columbia House-like scheme on steroroids is possible. But that's not why I'm writing.

What I want you to see is this post from the New Yorker. Do we truly have a "Church of U2" and is it in the cloud as well as the arenas around the globe? Can they send their sonic tracts anywhere they want? With 33 million downloads, is this a form of evangelism or is it simply "offering something beautiful?" It is so wed with making money to support the mammoth (and fading) music industry, that it's hard to know where the market begins and the ekklesia ends.

Of course, trying to disentangle those two is always a right mess. Ask Henry VIII. It ain' easy.

But this is why I'm so damn curious about it. Even the New Yorker gets it:

The story of U2 might be this: having begun as a band that was uncertain about the idea of pursuing a life of faith through music, they have resolved that uncertainty. Their thin ecclesiology has become thick. Today, they are their own faith community; they even have a philanthropic arm, which has improved the lives of millions of people. They know they made the right choice, and they seem happy. Possibly, their growing comfort is bad for their art. But how long could they have kept singing the same song of yearning and doubt? “I waited patiently for the Lord,” Bono sings, in the band’s version of Psalm 40. “He inclined and heard my cry.”

Yeah. There it is. And the connection to the new album? Here: "It expresses a particular combination of faith and disquiet, exaltation and desperation, that is too spiritual for rock but too strange for church—classic U2."

Right. There.

There is our "authenticity." There is the new ecclesiology that we see emerging. It is not an institution in the brick and mortar sense. No, it is an aesthetic. It is "authenticity' that is too spiritual for rock (the pure market) but too strange for church (sorry, Pope Francis).

What we're seeing is four guys from Ireland with way the hell too much money showing us what we have been wanting all along: a new way of being the institutional church.

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Unionin Berkeley, Calif., and is Director of Admissions at American Baptist Seminary of The West. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

Photo: Helga Esteb/shutterstock.

 
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