J is for Jesus

Ever since I heard U2 for the first time in high school, I’ve been a fan. I even wrote a paper about them in college (my professor marked me down because it read like a hagiography — oh well). I’ve loved and been inspired by their music; I’ve loved and been inspired by Bono’s activism. He and his bandmates have been one of the influences on my own music, as well as my theology and my faith.

Anyway, to mark the end of 2014, Bono wrote an “A to Z of 2014.” It’s a beautiful blog, touching, poignant, inspirational. My favorite is J.

J IS FOR JESUS

At this time of year some people are reminded of the poetic as well as the historic truth that is the birth of Jesus. The Christmas story has a crazy good plot with an even crazier premise – the idea goes, if there is a force of love and logic behind the universe, then how amazing would it be if that incomprehensible power chose to express itself as a child born in s— and straw poverty.

Who could conceive of such a story? If you believe it was the protagonist, as I do, then we should try to be really respectful of people who think the whole thing is a bit nutty or worse… Religious people are the best and worst of us…handle us with scepticism…

Strangely, maybe, some of the most rational thinkers see some kind of cosmic sense in all this… Francis Collins, who led the human genome project, is an obvious one… the language of science and faith are not necessarily at odds….

… the Christmas story … still brings me to my knees – which is a good place for me lest I harm myself or others. Christmas is not a time for me to overthink about this child, so vulnerable, who would grow so strong… to teach us all how vulnerability is the route to strength and, by example, show us how to love and serve.

To me this is not a fairy tale but a challenge. I preach what I need to hear…

Bono: Justice takes your whole life

Bono, at a Georgetown University Global Social Enterprise Event, November 12, 2012:

It’s not charity that fires us at the ONE Campaign or at RED. It’s justice–that’s what enflames us; and justice is a higher, tougher standard. This is hard work; I’m not going to soft-pedal it. … People are looking for clear simple melody lines: ‘Just a dollar and you can save a life, just a minute of your time, just an hour of your week.’ It’s bollocks; it’s not true; it’s crap. In truth, if you want to turn the world right side up, it’s not going to take a minute or an hour or a day; it’s going to take your whole life.

Full video here.

God loves the poor; do we?

Original post: March 7, 2008; update: January 27, 2010. It’s certainly interesting to look back on the journey that I’ve been on over the last couple years.

It so happens that I’ve been reading Jim Wallis’s The Great Awakening at the same time as I’ve started going through Isaiah, and at the same time, God continues to nudge me towards what I may well end up doing. Both texts are challenging, especially with regard to the crisis of poverty, something which I’m learning more about and something I’m learning to care more about.

Reading through the Scriptures over the years, I’ve come to know one thing that I wasn’t taught in Sunday School: God is with the poor. God cares about the oppressed, the downtrodden, those who have no one to speak out for them, those who are suffering under the weight of injustice and an unjust system. And when about half the population of the world live on less than two dollars a day (including more than a billion people living on less than one dollar per day), you’ve got to think that God is doing an awful lot of caring.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2006, Bono said:

The one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.

From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response. And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice. Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad. Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it. But justice is a higher standard.

Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment. Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.

Jim notes, “low-income people have the lowest voter turnout of any group in society (and don’t make many political donations either!)” (107) so it’s no wonder that advocates on their behalf are hard to find on Capitol Hill.

Broken systems need fixing, unjust institutions need correction, change needs to happen at an institutional level—it all seems rather daunting. But God is bigger than broken systems and unjust institutions. And he is on the side of the poor: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.” (Proverbs 14:31; 19:17).

It’s as much a challenge to me: what am I doing to get involved in God’s story? What am I doing as I learn more and more of God’s heart? When we love someone, we come to love the things that they love. God loves the poor. Do we?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18, cf. Isaiah 61).

Links of the Day, October 29

Turns out, I just needed a couple days to get back in the driver’s seat. 🙂

News

Politics

Green

Miscellaneous

U2 at the Rose Bowl

In 2005, I saw U2 during their Vertigo Tour at Twickenham Stadium along with 70,000 other people, and it was phenomenal.

This past weekend, I got to see U2 during their 360 Tour at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena along with 96,000 other people, and it was OUT OF THIS WORLD.

The setlist:

  • Breathe
  • Get On Your Boots
  • Magnificent
  • Mysterious Ways
  • Beautiful Day / In God’s Country / God Only Knows / The Maker
  • I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Stand By Me
  • Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
  • No Line on the Horizon
  • Elevation
  • In A Little While
  • Unknown Caller
  • Until the End of the World
  • The Unforgettable Fire
  • City of Blinding Lights
  • Vertigo / It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
  • I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight / Two Tribes
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • MLK
  • Walk On / You’ll Never Walk Alone
  • One / Amazing Grace
  • Where the Streets Have No Name
  • Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
  • With or Without You
  • Moment of Surrender

Here are a few pics from the evening.