Tag Archives: jesus

Bono Son of God shocker

Bono in “Son of God” Shocker

Bono in Son of God shocker

Bono, the lead singer of U2 and a prominent activist for AIDS relief and economic development in Africa, has been interviewed by Jim Daly of the American evangelical Christian organization “Focus on the Family.” (Embedded audio at bottom.) The interview has generated various headlines, in particular with regard to Bono’s statement that he believes Jesus is the Son of God. The statement is not likely to be too surprising to those who’ve followed U2 and noted the spiritual and biblical content of their work along the way, but any time a celebrity makes such a blatant statement of belief it produces shockwaves of various kinds. The relevant part of the interview goes something like this:

(Bono speaking) When people say “good teacher,” “prophet,” “really nice guy”—this is not how Jesus thought of himself. 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. You have to make a choice on that, and I believe that Jesus was, you know, the Son of God. I understand that for some people and we need to—if I could be so bold—need to be really, really respectful to people who find that ridiculous and people who find that preposterous.

Predictably a lot of the reaction to this is along the lines of exhortations to Bono to stop believing in a “man up in the sky,” but more interesting to me (and more sad) is the negative blowback from those who profess Christian faith themselves but feel for one reason or another that Bono is a poor example. One accusation that keeps cropping up is that Bono is a “universalist,” and therefore should be treated with great skepticism or shunned. I’m pretty sure I know where this notion of Bono as a religious universalist (i.e. someone who believes everyone’s truth is as good as anyone else’s) comes from and I believe it is actually a misunderstanding or mishearing of something he was proclaiming from the stage a few years ago.

During tours in the 2005/2006 time-frame, during the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” Bono would talk about a sign which he said was “written on a wall in Lebanon,” which read “Coexist,” incorporating in its letters an Islamic moon, a Star of David, and a Christian cross. The screen behind the stage displayed such a sign in huge letters as he spoke. Then he would begin singing some lines and encourage the crowd to participate. What caused great scandal was that some people heard him sing this line: “Jesus, Jew, Muhammad: All true.” Well, if that were what he were singing it would be a pretty empty-headed bit of pablum, to be sure: dangerous to some and fundamentally disrespectful to all three faiths being invoked. (One does not have to pretend there are not serious differences in order to have respectful dialogue with those of other faiths; in fact, the opposite is true.) Someone preaching this from the stage and getting thousands of concert-goers to sing along made for a pretty disturbing image even to some real fans of Bono and U2, and people wrote about it, blogged about it, facebooked about it, and the story got out there to lots of people who never attended a U2 concert for themselves.

Only problem was, that’s not what Bono was saying (or singing) during that segment of that show. I base this opinion on recordings such as the one you can currently listen to via YouTube at the bottom of this post. What Bono actually sings is the following, I do think:

Jesus, Jew, Muhammad, it’s true: all sons of Abraham
Father Abraham, what have we done?
Father Abraham, speak to your sons
Tell them “no more, no more, no more”

So, to spell it out, that which he’s saying is “true” is that Jews, Jesus and Muhammad are all descendants of Abraham. And this actually is true, as far as the Bible goes and as far as we know. And then in the succeeding lines Bono is pleading with Abraham to speak to his sons and tell them to stop fighting. Continue reading Bono in “Son of God” Shocker

The Cinch Review

Merry Christmas, You Beasts

Below, a photo of our little mutt, Billie, posing cooperatively and carefully amidst some very breakable Christmas ornaments (recycled from a previous Christmas photo session, in case anyone remembers).

Merry Christmas from a friendly beast

There were reports in the media earlier this year regarding a new book from Pope Benedict, the current commander-in-chief at the Vatican, titled “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.” It was said that he had debunked some traditional notions regarding Christmas. One of those had to do with the specific year in which Jesus was born, to the effect that it was likely not in the year 1 AD, but rather in the year 5 or 6 BC. This fact is really nothing new (although it must have caused no end of confusion for calendar-makers back then: “Well, is he here yet or isn’t he here yet? We can’t cancel another print run!”)

The other reported-debunking was more controversial, however. It was widely broadcast just as in the following story: Continue reading Merry Christmas, You Beasts

The Cinch Review

Advent Musings

Happy Chanukah to Jewish friends and readers, that festival having begun yesterday evening and continuing until next Sunday. Here in New York City one can have a tangible sense of the holiday being celebrated without being Jewish, due to the make up of the population, a sense which I must assume is pretty uncommon elsewhere. It is one of the nice things about this city.

Although (judging by appearances in the stores) it seems that Christmas began sometime in October, it is still weeks away. Yet, many Christians do continue to observe at least some of the traditions of the season known as Advent, a time of anticipation of the arrival of Jesus. It encompasses roughly four weeks in advance of December 25th, today counting as the second Sunday of this year’s Advent season. I’m far from being the religious historian or theologian to attempt to fully explain the tradition, which has many rich and varied aspects, but on a very basic level I would judge its purpose is to help in nurturing and recalling a sense of longing for the Messiah. This is a strange thing, and maybe all the more worthy of cherishing for that reason. People who grow up as Christians, whether in actuality or merely nominally to one degree or another, are naturally prone to taking the birth of Jesus for granted. It’s old-hat, even. Yeah, Jesus was born, whether it was 2012 years ago or a few years earlier. But we’ve moved beyond all that now. We’ve got other problems.

Advent offers a means of stepping back and remembering why the arrival of such a Savior was something for which to yearn. Then, the celebration of His arrival can be something more than rote and something more than just a religious holiday that coincides with the zenith of the retail year. It can rather be something that gives genuine relief to souls badly in need of it.

Advent has its own songs. Tunes like “Jingle Bells Will Be Ringing Soon” and “Santa Claus Is Beginning to Make Plans to Travel.” But those are just the secular ones. An Advent hymn heard at church today was “On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry.”

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
make straight the way for God within,
prepare we in our hearts a home
where such a mighty Guest may come.

The reference is to John the Baptist, who didn’t actually foretell the birth of Jesus (as he was a contemporary) but foretold His ministry. The Gospel reading in many churches today would have been from Luke, chapter three, and also concerned John the Baptist. It struck me in one particular way this morning. A slightly abridged version:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar … the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

What happened to strike me this morning was this concrete example of why all Christians at least ought to be extremely dubious of anyone who claims they know how any biblical prophecy will actually be fulfilled. The evangelist Luke is indicating pretty clearly that the passage from Isaiah (chapter 40) is a foretelling of the ministry of John the Baptist. (In the Gospel of John, this same assertion is attributed to John the Baptist himself.) A Jewish exegesis of this passage would inevitably be different. But when one piece of Holy Scripture (of the New Testament) characterizes another piece of Holy Scripture (of the Old Testament) in this way, believing Christians pretty much have to take it as, well, the Gospel truth. What does it mean to accept that this prophecy was fulfilled in this very specific way?

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low …” Is that what John the Baptist did? It is glorious language from Isaiah, poetic and powerful and rightly stirring. Yet, on the most mundane level, what John the Baptist did was to preach repentance from sin, which was something that prophets had done often before to the people of Israel, and in his way he inspired a kind of spiritual revival amongst those who listened to him. He wasn’t saying anything so dramatically new—I don’t think—but instead was reminding people of the urgency of repentance and of following God’s law. Although very few of his words have been recorded (only those few that are in the Gospels) he was apparently very inspiring to those who heard him. Even King Herod of the time, a decadent and corrupt man by all accounts, was intrigued and compelled by things that John the Baptist preached. However, John didn’t literally fill the valleys and level the mountains. The physical geography remained unchanged. What he did was inspire people and gather followers, and when Jesus began his public ministry he found a ready audience in people who had already been following John. John was a warm-up act, one might say. Perhaps in a certain sense he did the spadework, helping to enable Jesus to work at a higher level in his own preaching. Continue reading Advent Musings

Bob Dylan Jesus Mofos

Bob Dylan: “I still believe in Jesus, mofos!”

Bob Dylan Jesus Mofos

Well, how could I be expected to resist a title like that?

When I first read the excerpt of Bob Dylan’s interview in Rolling Stone yesterday, I didn’t much remark on the line where he complains about being called “Judas” for playing an electric guitar, and then says: “As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified.” But naturally you don’t refer to Jesus as “our Lord” and speak in that way about him unless you believe in Jesus as “your” Lord. Hearing him speak in the language of a believer was, however, unsurprising to me: an awareness of God is throughout his songs, after all, and I’ve never been of the crew who insist he “rejected” his more particular belief in Christ; quite the contrary, in fact. Bob Dylan is a Jew, and he’s clearly very serious about his Jewishness, but he also clearly enough sees no conflict with that and his belief in Jesus. He’s not alone in this, but due to our various baggage and traditions, many of us can’t get our heads around that. Especially, people in the rock press have never been able to get their heads around the whole “religion thing,” and have concocted theory after theory to make themselves feel more comfortable. Dylan for his part has never given the impression he much gives a damn what anyone thinks; he has just plowed his course, a course that has included Jewish observances in the company of the Chabad Lubavitch folk, and recording a Christmas album that includes hymns of faith, sung with as much angelic devotion as his crusty vocal cords could muster. And there have been other indications, literally too numerous to mention, of a man serious about faith in the God of the Bible, both the Hebrew and the New Testament.

In the end, it’s his business. Some people pick up on it and some don’t. Yet, people continue to be curious. Many people go to Google and type in “Is Bob Dylan still a Christian?” and similar queries. I know because some of them happen to end up in my website statistics after doing so, because they hit upon something I wrote on the subject in the past. (Others have written plenty too.)

The curious thing about this Rolling Stone interview excerpt is that Dylan is talking about the “plagiarism” subject, and then seemingly out of the blue recalls being called “Judas” in the 1960s, and then just slips in what amounts to a profession of faith. Again:

These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified.

It’s sorta hilarious and somewhat typical that he does it in this indirect way. But nonetheless he is stating his faith in Jesus as “our Lord” and therefore “his” Lord—and also, by the way, his belief in the historicity of the gospels. (This is not unusual: it’s a belief common to most ordinary Americans, after all. What’s unusual is the endless analysis given to it in his case, because he is who he is.) Continue reading Bob Dylan: “I still believe in Jesus, mofos!”