Skip to content

The Message and U2

November 10, 2010

Steve Beard, in Good News Magazine, provides interesting information about the Irish rock band U2.  Bono, the lead singer, has raised money for a number of charities.  He is a Christian but is not particularly involved in church.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Bono was asked, “What have you been reading?”

His answer was surprising. “There is a translation of Scripture by a guy named Eugene Peterson.  It has been a great strength to me.  He’s a poet and a scholar, and he’s brought the Bible text back to the tone in which the books were originally written.”

The singer has been promoting The Message, a paraphrase of Scripture published by NAV Press.  It is a version of the Bible in contemporary language by the well known pastor, theologian, and professor Eugene Peterson.  The translation took Peterson ten years to complete.

Shortly after the death of his father, Bono told an Irish magazine that he had read The Message aloud at his father’s bedside. Both Bono and his father had drawn strength from the Scriptures.

In every performance on U2’s international Elevation Tour, Bono quoted Scripture from The Message.  Before the group sang “Where the Streets Have No Name,” Bono read a passage from Psalm 116:  “What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me?  I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – a toast to God!  I’ll pray in the name of God; I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people.”

Eugene Peterson was asked what he knew about Bono and U2.  He said, “My students know all about them, and some of my younger friends know them.  Last year, a chaplain traveling with the band called me and asked me if I would come to Chicago to meet the band.  I was not able to get away at the time.  Many of my younger friends and students keep me posted on the latest from U2.  When the Rolling Stone interview was published, I got clippings sent to me from all over the world!”

When asked what his reaction was to having The Message quoted in concert arenas around the world, Peterson said, “I am pleased, very pleased.  Bono is singing to the very people I did this work for.  I feel that we are allies in this.  He is helping me get out the message into the company of the very people Jesus spent so much of his time with.”

A few years ago, Bono was asked to write a forward to a commentary on the psalms.  He wrote:  “The psalms were the first blues songs. They talk about abandonment and displacement, the stuff of my favorite songs.  The Psalter may be a fount of gospel music, but for me it is the despair of the psalmist that really reveals the nature of his special relationship with God.  He is so honest with God.”

Bono noted his affection for the psalmist David, referring to him as the “Elvis Pressley of the Bible.”

When Eugene Peterson finished The Message, NAV Press planned a celebration in Colorado Springs.  Bono was invited.  He made a videotape instead, saying, “Hi, Mr. Peterson.  My name is Bono.  I am a singer with the group U2.  I wanted to video a message to you of thanks, of thanks from our band for this remarkable work you have done in translating the Scriptures.   As a songwriter, it was very clear to me that you are a poet as well as a scholar.  You brought the musicality of God’s Word that I am sure was there all along, but that I had never seen.  There have been some great translations, some very literary translations, but no translation that I have read speaks to me in my own language.  I want to thank you for that.”

Who could have imagined this kind of connection? An elderly scholar works in a college in Vancouver to make the Scriptures accessible to many people.  A rock band travels around the world to deliver the message.

God can do anything!

Kirk H. Neely
© November 2010



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: