Bono: David Sang the Blues and Jesus Did Some Punk Rock

Photo courtesy RNS/Focus on the Family.

Bono exchanged Bible references in a recent radio interview. Photo courtesy RNS/Focus on the Family.

U2 frontman Bono exchanged Bible references and bantered about music, theology, and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview with Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.

Growing up in Ireland with a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, Bono imitated C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, where Lewis argued that Jesus was a lunatic, liar or Lord.

“When people say ‘Good teacher,’ ‘Prophet,’ ‘Really nice guy,’ … this is not how Jesus thought of himself,” Bono said. “So, you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case.”

Protest Songs, Revisited: New Campaign from ONE Features Mumford & Sons, U2, and More

U2 performs in Milan, Italy. Photo courtesy Valeria73/

The ONE Campaign, co-founded by music legend Bono of U2, has launched a new platform to promote global messages of social justice, women’s rights, and putting an end to apartheid, war and poverty — just to name a few.

The campaign, agit8, features new covers of famous protest songs throughout history by contemporary musicians ranging from Mumford & Sons to Greenday.

With the stated goal of ending poverty by 2030, agit8 is timed to coincide with the upcoming G8 summit next week. Noting the impact protest music has had on American history, agit8 encourages artists to “get on their soapbox” and amplify “the voices of those who spoke up for social change throughout history.”

Hugging Bono, Engaging Critics, and Wishing 'The Frontman' a Happy Birthday

Bono outside the Vertigo tour show in St. Louis, photo by Andrew Smith

Bono outside the Vertigo tour show in St. Louis, photo by Andrew Smith

I don’t know how I feel about liberalism or capitalism beyond the degree to which I participate in both by necessity. But I do know what I perceive as the source of my activism and Bono’s: Jesus and the Bible; spirituality and scripture; the new commandments of radical love and service taught by the carpenter from Nazareth. What’s been called the preferential option for the poor. Bono’s lack of economic literacy, or worse, allegiance to wrong-headed economic mentors, may make me and others uncomfortable and may play into the hands of the problem-creators rather than the problem-solvers, yet Bono’s Biblical, musical, and poetic literacy remain on target in my eyes and heart.

In 2005 just after How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, as much as I loved that record and the subsequent Vertigo tour, part of me wanted to give up on Bono for his self-imposed public silence on the Iraq War, for hanging so intimately with people like George Bush and my then least favorite Tennessean Bill Frist. That year, I picked up Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. Not only does the front man answer all his critics in a nuanced manner, he diminishes and self-deprecates his own significance. The alleged egomaniac also has a streak of deep and deferential humility.

But more than that, he speaks ever so elegantly and evangelically about his faith in Jesus and how Christian religious perspective, spiritual practice, and central Gospel narrative inform everything he does. Like Bono, I am no economist, but also like Bono, I take seriously the Biblical teachings about poverty and justice.

Marcus Mumford and the Trouble With Labels

Marcus Mumford in Verona, Italy. By Andrea Sartorati /

Marcus Mumford in Verona, Italy. By Andrea Sartorati /

Labels can be helpful when, for instance, applied to cans of soup or barrels of toxic waste. But they are less so when affixed to human beings – particularly when labels are meant to summarize, indelibly, one’s spiritual identity.

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Marcus Mumford, the 26-year-old lead singer of the wildly successful British band Mumford & Sons, raised the hackles of religious folks (in some quarters) when he declined to claim the “Christian” label as his own.

You see, Marcus is the son of John and Eleanor Mumford, who are the national leaders of the Vineyard Church in the U.K. and Ireland, an arm of the international evangelical Christian Vineyard Movement. Last year, he married actress Carey Mulligan, whom he’d met years earlier at a Christian youth camp.

And the music of Mumford & Sons, for which Mumford is the main lyricist, is laden with the themes and imagery of faith – often drawing specifically upon the Christian tradition. They explore relationships with God and others; fears and doubts; sin, redemption, and most of all, grace.

Bono Preaches the Gospel of Social Justice at Georgetown

Bono speaking to Georgetown University students Monday night. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

"Do you think he'll sing?" the girl in the row behind me wondered aloud.

"I hope so," the young fellow beside her said before continuing, "My dad would freak. He was a big fan of U2 when I was growing up. He used to play this one album, The Joshua Tree, over and over again."

His father was a fan.

I am a thousand years old, I thought to myself, as more Georgetown students filled the seats around me at the university's 111-year-old Gaston Hall, the main lecture hall on campus named after Georgetown's first student, William Gaston, who later served as a member of the U.S. Congress.

The hall, decorated with stunning art-deco-era frescos and the crest of every Jesuit institute of higher learning, has hosted many dignitaries over the years, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to name but a few.

"So if he's not going to sing, is he just going to talk," another student asked, with a distinct whiff of disappointment in his voice.

"I hear he's an awesome speaker, though," still another student said.

The students who packed the auditorium, many of them from Georgetown's Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business and more than a few donning black t-shirts with the insignia of the ONE Campaign (of which Bono is a co-founder), weren't sure what to expect from the famous Irish rock star and humanitarian.

A concert? A lecture? Another boring speech?

I'm fairly certain none of the students present for Monday night's event, sponsored by the Bank of America and The Atlantic magazine, anticipated hearing Bono, the 52-year-old lead singer of U2, preach.

But preach he did.

Happy Mandela Day: Madiba, Ubuntu and Vertigo


African schoolchildren celebrate Mandela's 94th birthday today in Soweto. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages

Back in 2005, Africa was a recurring theme of U2's worldwide Vertigo tour, where Bono’s campaigning for debt relief, trade justice and immediate intervention in the AIDS pandemic — each fueled by his following of Jesus — met in his music in indelibly powerful collision of faith, justice, and art.

When Bono and his bandmates played “Where The Streets Have No Name,” the most amazing mass of colors dropped from the rafters as millions of Willie Williams-designed, light bulbs descended from the rafters to form stage’s back drop and a modern-mosaic high-tech screen. Then came the flags of each African nation in the most moving light show I’ve ever seen.

During the razzle-dazzle on stage, Bono made his claim,

“From the swamp lands of Louisiana to the high hills of Kilimanjaro, from the bridge at Selma to the mouth of the Nile…AFRICA…AFRICA…AFRICA…the
 journey of equality moves on, moves on…AFRICA…from town centers to townships…sacred ground, proving ground…”

The link between the Martin Luther King Jr. (the Doctor of the Deep South of America’s inequality) to Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela (the Archbishop and President of Africa’s inequality) was particularly potent art.

Bono to the G8: Transparency, 'We Won't Have Food Security Without It'

Bono addresses the G8 symposiumon food security Friday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

In a room filled with African heads of state, captains of industry, leaders of international development and countless executives from NGOs at the G8 Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, D.C. late last week, stood one Irish rock star — Bono, the lead singer of U2 and co-founder of the ONE Campaign.

At first blush (to the uninitiated, perhaps), Bono's presence might seem incongruous, but most of the folks in the room at the Ronald Reagan building a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue know the Irishman more for his tireless humanitarian efforts than his closet full of Grammy awards. For more than 25 years, Bono, 52, has been involved deeply and effectively in international affairs as a champion for the poorest of the poor.

"Can we manage the oil as well as the farmland? Manage it properly, responsibly, transparently?" Bono asked the audience. "Because when we don’t, you know what happens. Hundreds of billions of dollars got lost to oil and gas corruption in Nigeria. That’s what the watchdog groups are telling us. Just mind blowing. Huge numbers.

"Crops need sunlight. So does resource extraction. Both need sunlight’s disinfecting glare. Isn’t transparency the vaccine to prevent the worst disease of them all? Corruption. Everybody here knows that corruption kills more children than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. So that’s what I want to leave you with. That very simple word. That very simple concept. Easy to say. Much harder to realize, especially in law. The word 'transparency.'

"We won’t have food security without it," he said. "But we will have oil riches without it but those riches will be held and hidden by very few hands."

Watch: Live Feed of President Obama and World Leaders at G8 Global Food Security Symposium

The Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, is set to begin soon with the following leaders in attendance:

  • President Barack Obama 
  • Dr. Yayi Boni, President of the Republic of Benin & Chairperson of the African Union
  • Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia
  • John Evans Atta Mills, President of Ghana
  • His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary, United States Department of State
  • Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Bono, Co-Founder of ONE and (RED)
  • Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, UN World Food Programme
  • Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • Ms. Josette Sheeran, Vice Chairman, World Economic Forum

Watch live streaming video from thechicagocouncil at