Why Orthodox Christians Should Appreciate an Unorthodox Bono
By Jim Daly, Updated: June 25, 2013
Recently, I had the chance to interview U2 front man Bono for a Focus on the Family broadcast airing June 25. To be sure, Bono is a unique rock star, as well-known for his activism in helping the people society often overlooks – the poorest of the poor, and those living with HIV and other diseases – as he is for his music.
What sometimes gets lost in the mix, however, is the motivation behind Bono’s work. It’s his very real Christian faith. So while I spent some of my time with Bono talking about his childhood, his role as husband and father, and even U2, it was his passion for helping others, and the reasons behind that sense of his Christian calling, that quickly drove our conversation.
As Bono spoke, the phrase from the Bible that ran through my mind was from the Epistle of James: “faith without works is dead” (2:26). In other words, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. It’s a basic tenet of Christian orthopraxy: following God and living by faith takes practice. And loving God and obeying His Word is nothing if not practical.
Bono was quick to point out during our conversation that Jesus launched His ministry by quoting the prophet Isaiah, a man who was clearly out of the mainstream of his day. Evoking Isaiah’s words, Jesus of Nazareth made clear that a drive against injustice of the world would be a significant part of His ministry:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)
If you’re not actively embracing this theology – “in little or large ways,” as Bono put it – you’re simply not catching the vision of how Jesus wants us to engage our world. Certainly we’re called to serve the spiritual needs of others – but we’re also called to tend to people’s physical needs. All of it taken together is … love.
According to Bono, “The job of love is to realize potential. When you see lives squandered in the developing world because they cannot get access to medicines that we buy … or they can’t vaccinate their kids for measles, then you know something’s up. The job of love is to realize that potential.”
That’s why this pop idol, a man who could easily enjoy the spoils of his fame and fortune, instead chooses to go out and serve alongside other people consumed by the desire to help others.
The results birthed from such a collaboration can be staggering. As Bono shared in his recent participation in TEDTalks, there has been progress on poverty, accomplished thanks in part to The Global Fund and PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a bipartisan effort.
- HIV: Since 2000, 8 million more people are on antiretroviral therapy (which prevents HIV transmission from mothers to babies)
- Malaria deaths are down 75 percent in eight countries of sub-Saharan Africa
- Child mortality (defined as children under 5) is down by 2.65 million per year – that’s 7,256 fewer kids dying every day.
- Extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25 per day) is dropping: 1990-2000 extreme poverty dropped from 43 percent of the world’s population to 33 percent; 2000-2010 it dropped from 33 percent to 21 percent; by 2030 it could drop to zero, if the trend continues
- Education: 51 million more children going to school since 2000 thanks in large part to debt relief and development assistance
All this because real people joined together for the common good.
So, yes, Bono may at times be a bit unorthodox in his approach, but he is quite orthodox in the areas that matter most – loving God and loving people.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and author of “ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God’s Heart.”