“Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For”: Thoughts from a U2 Concert

Live from the GA Dome

Live from the GA Dome

Last week, a group of us trekked over to the Georgia Dome to see U2 and its charismatic frontman, Bono. Don’t really know how to describe what we saw and experienced. It was a mix of music and spectacle, concert and political rally, rock ‘n’ roll and worship. To see them is to be immersed in something altogether surreal and beautiful and exciting and… rare, especially for us Presbyterians: a combination of spirit/Spirit and real-world grunge.

It was awesome.

There was one part, though, that really stuck out to me about the whole thing, and it had nothing to do with the music or the light show or the jumbotron displaying Bono and The Edge’s (lead guitarist) faces in clear high def. It actually happened after one of the band’s opening tunes.

Now, keep in mind, there were 65,000 people packed into the Dome. And our seats were situated behind about 63,000 of those people. Let me just put it this way: they were renting out binoculars near the entrance to our section. I wish I was kidding.

Nevertheless, there we were, and after one of the first few songs, Bono started to speak. And the whole crowd simply hushed. From our perch in the nosebleeds, we could hear every word.

65,000 people. Listening intently. To one man. Hanging on his every word.

Why? What is it about this guy?

Of course, it’d be easy for me to say that our obsession with celebrity has a lot to do with it. We follow the lives of these “gods/goddesses” in tabloids and supermarket mags. We know who they’re dating and where they’re doing Pilates and what they like to eat for breakfast on Sundays. It is, for all intents and purposes, idol worship.

Yet, there was something distinctly different about this. It wasn’t mere fascination or awe. It was more than that. It was… belief.

The people in that dome actually believed what Bono had to say because they sensed in him some sort of legitimate passion for the world and all in it. They bought into his passion for AIDS in Africa and they held aloft candles and lighters (or neon cell phone screens, as was predominantly the case) for a democratically elected official in Burma who has been under house arrest by that nation’s oppressive junta since the early 90’s. I mean, the man made us all care about Burma!!!

There was something about that man that grabbed people’s attention and made them want to take up the cause. And, in a stadium of 65,000 people, when Bono began singing “Amazing Grace,” many of those same people of different races and religions and worldviews sang along as if it were as natural as breathing.

Now, let’s not blow things out of proportion here. Bono is not the Messiah. He’s not part of the Holy Trinity here. But, at a concert where many of the attendees may not have even cared for the music (perhaps some of them were just there for the show), I did get the feeling that many people in the crowd thought they were in the presence of a prophet. A man among many who wasn’t afraid to speak of injustice and human rights violations and violence throughout the world.

Regardless of what you might think or how you might disagree with artists using their forum(s) to vent or declare certain political opinions/loyalties (I certainly take issue with it many a time), you cannot ignore this very obvious fact: that this is a man (more so than any other artist, I would argue) who not only meets with royalty the world over, but also grabs the attention of millions and millions of people.

And the only question that I can ask is why? What is it about this guy? Why do people listen to him?

Is it because of him? Or is it his message? Or is it both?

And, being a nerd of the steeple, I also have to ask what the implications are for the Church. Because the man clearly believes in God, yet he voices his opinions in ways that don’t seem to offend.

So what lessons does this all bear for the Church? If one voice can have such an impact, what about an entire Body?

And does the hope for change and growth lie exclusively in proclaiming a very social Gospel (ala Bono)? Is that what it will take to reverse the trend of decline?

Is that what it will take to change the world?

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~ by presbytide on October 15, 2009.

4 Responses to ““Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For”: Thoughts from a U2 Concert”

  1. Maybe I can convince Bono to come be our Music Leader next summer? Here’s hoping.

  2. Well done, buddy! Having experienced this concert with you, I can easily appreciate the perspective you’re coming from. And I contend, as a college student, that yes, humanity needs to see the Church proclaiming a social gospel…no doubt about it. After all, a social gospel soon becomes an evangelical one…

  3. One of my friends went to a U2 show in Toronto recently, and tweeted upon leaving the concert:

    Just left the U2 show, and it was more of a spiritual experience than Sunday morning worship. What’s that say about the church?

    • Great question Josh. I think you could also re-frame the question: what does our “Bono envy” say about us and our culture? And what can we, as the Church, learn from that?

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