There are many reasons I love U2. Musically, they are adventurous and original. Their songs are always vibrant, melodic and compelling. The Edge is not a virtuoso, but he has fashioned one of the most recognizable and striking guitar sounds in rock. Even his legions of imitators can't get it right. Bono, of course, is an unparalleled performer and a singer of surprising range and power.
But on a personal level, U2 lyrics have always meant a good deal to me. It seems that Bono's spiritual path has so often been in step with mine. When I was more celebratory about my faith, Bono gave us songs like "With a Shout" and "Gloria."
In "Rejoice" Bono sang words that fired my young faith and left a lasting impact on my attitude toward Christians in politics and faith-based initiatives:
I can't change the world
But I can change the world in me
If I rejoice
I can't change the world, but I can change my heart. That's what those words said to me then. And if I can change my heart, make it a little less selfish, a little more caring, then maybe I will treat my brother better and maybe I'll have fewer and fewer enemies. And if I am more considerate of the people I meet in my day-to-day struggle to breathe my next breath, then maybe the people I have a nice word for, or open a door for, or loan a dime to — maybe those people will do something nice for another stranger, and so on, and in effect, I will be doing my small part to change the world.
I don't vote for Christian candidates, necessarily. I don't believe in a Christian "agenda" in politics. Look at the Joe Bob Briggs piece on "What Would Jesus Do" to get some thoughts on this same theme. My charity begins at home. Bono donates time and money to all kinds of worthy causes, but I have neither time nor money these days, so I do what I can, which is pathetic, but I try.
Yes, I don't live up to my ideals. But I do the best I can. Bono told Larry King the same thing last weekend.
BONO: What makes man evil?
BONO: I think — I mean, if you ask a big question like that, and you have to look into — you have to be responsible and to follow those questions through to the people and study the people who have asked them over eons, over centuries. And you get to the great books of wisdom, and you get to the scriptures, in my case. And you know, I've — listen, I am the worst — I am at the very bottom of the list of the food chain of — you know, I sort of need to practice a whole lot more Christian.
A little garbled and rambling, but I think the point is clear: Bono doesn't see himself as a very good Christian.
But I think any person who claims Christ and says he is a good Christian is lying. It's impossible to be a good Christian. Read, again, that Joe Bob Briggs column. Jesus set an impossible standard for us to follow. And that's by intention, of course. That's what grace is for. That's so we'll realize that we can't change the world. Changing the world is Jesus' job. We can only change our hearts.
The people who say they are good Christians are the people who create and perpetuate religion, but religion is just a tool of the devil.
That's why when "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" came out, the song meant so much to me. I was tired of trying to live up to other people's standard of what a Christian should be.
From that time forward, Bono's lyrics have dealt primarily in themes of struggle and redemption, the idea that we all fall short of the glory of God. A pivotal character in the theology of Bono has been Judas.
And with Judas, I have wound my purple prose around to the reason for this post — to discuss the lyric of "Until the End of the World." The song, to me, sums up Bono's idea of faith in a modern, conflicted, tempting world.
The song opens from a personal view point ... a character talking to another character — two people who haven't seen each other in a while. One has been down in the hold, which is clear is a metaphor for Hell.
Haven't seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold just passing time
Last time we met was a low-lit room
The low-lit room — the place of the last supper.
We were as close together as a bride and groom
A Christian symbol for Christ and his followers.
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
You were talking about the end of the world
Again, the last supper, which was meal of import, but not for the reason's the apostles thought. Of course, at this meal, there is no record of Jesus explicitly discussing the end of the world, but that was certainly a theme of his ministry.
I took the money
Who took the money? Judas, of course.
I spiked your drink
Just a random image of betrayal with no biblical basis.
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
Many theologians believe that the motivation for Judas' betrayal was that he totally misunderstood the mission of Jesus. He thought Jesus would immediately restore Jewish political power and defeat the Roman legions. Judas betrayed Jesus in an attempt to speed the process along, and then was shocked to despair when he saw Jesus tried and crucified. Jesus was talking about things of the heart, not earthly kingdoms.
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You ... you were acting like it was
The end of the world
Again, a clear image of Judas, who gave Jesus the kiss of death in the garden, and though Jesus knew Judas would betray him, it still saddened him.
In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You ... you said you'd wait
'til the end of the world
A fairly non-biblical summation of the themes of the song — betrayal and redemption. Clearly, Judas regretted his betrayl (he hung himself and threw away the silver, after all). But is that enough to get Judas redemption? I don't know. We'll have to wait ... wait until the end of the world. For Judas, and for ourselves.