ChristianityToday : Backstage with Bono - U2 France

ChristianityToday : Backstage with Bono

mardi 17 décembre 2002 / par Dom

by Andy Argyrakis

Source :

U2 singer calls the church to action, tugs at spiritual conscience, and condemns indifference with the Heart of America tour.

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After earning just about every possible music industry accolade over the past 20 years, most recently having his band’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind recording hit the number-one spot in 32 countries, U2’s Bono had every right to strut his stuff as he roamed the backstage corridors of Wheaton College’s Edman Memorial Chapel before speaking to a packed house of students and community members. He’s a rock star in every sense of the term, but rather than donning his trademark leather jacket and sunglasses and slicking his long hair back before taking the stage at the suburban Chicagoland campus, the Irish rocker slipped on an unpretentious black sport coat and a green military cap to cover his locks. His trendy sunglasses were nowhere in sight.

For once, the man who’s arguably the world’s most famous entertainer didn’t step off his tour bus to charismatically deliver a round of timeless rock-and-roll classics. Instead, he addressed something he described as the "AIDS emergency" on what’s being dubbed The Heart of America Tour, a trek designed to spread the message of the DATA organization (which stands for Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa). In addition to Bono’s appearance, the evening’s program included speeches by fellow celebrities Ashley Judd and Chris Tucker and various AIDS research experts, along with a presentation and prayer by an African children’s choir. "We’ve come to the Midwest because it’s the heart of the country and we are sure, we’re convinced that a certain decency lives here," Bono told the press backstage prior to his public address. "There’s a moral compass here in the heartland of the United States that sets the course for the rest of the country."

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Never one to shy away from a social issue, Bono’s involvement comes as a result of his disgust over the fact that people are dying for unjust reasons that can be prevented. In pairing with the relief agency, he’s been able to further its messages about AIDS education as well as about Africa’s unpayable debt in hopes of regulating unfair trading practices that continue the country’s poverty cycle. Besides Bono’s time discussing those issues, he explained that DATA also urges Africa’s leaders to practice democracy, accountability, and transparency to make sure all incoming resources and assistance mechanisms are properly allocated within the continent. "Two and a half million Africans are going to die this year for the stupidest reasons," Bono explained in the briefing. "[Lack of] money makes it difficult to get them the drugs that we take for granted here in the U.S. [There’s] not an excuse not to get medicines thereWe feel like we will be judged by this moment, by God and by history."

In response to those opening statements, asked Bono to elaborate on the spiritual ramifications relating to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, specifically seeking his views on how the church should step in. "There’s a lot at stake here, obviously lives of people," he responded. "I think Judeo Christian culture is at stake. If the church doesn’t respond to this, the church will be made irrelevant. It would [be] like the way you heard stories of people watching the Jews get put on the trains during the Holocaust. We will be that generation who watched our African brothers and sisters get put on the trains."
Bono with fellow representatives of DATA

The U2 front man continued his thoughts, returning to the issue of judgment, and condemning the church’s past periods of indifference. "It’s a remarkable thing, the idea that there’s some sort of hierarchy to sin," he said. "It’s something I can never figure out, the idea that sexual immorality is somehow much worse than, say, institutional greed. Somewhere in the back of the religious mind is this idea that we reap what we sow is missing the entire New Testament and the concept of grace completely."

Such words may have been hard to swallow for the body of believers present, but Bono carried on with such conviction, eloquence, and expression of his own personal faith to further validate his point. "’Love thy neighbor’ is not a piece of advice, it’s a command," he added. "Christ talks about the poor [and says] ’whatever you have done to least of these brothers of mine, you’ve done to me.’ In Africa right now, the least of my brethren are dying in shiploads and we are not responding. We’re here to sound the alarm."

Another goal of the week’s worth of tour stops (including venues as diverse as various roadside dinners, the Chicago Tribune headquarters, and this particular faith-based institution) was to encourage attendees to collectively react to that "alarm" and contact the United States government regarding DATA’s efforts. "Washington is not afraid of rock stars or actors or student activists, they’re actually afraid of mothers, and they’re afraid of church people," he explained. "I tell ya, when mothers and church people start hanging around rock stars and student activists, Washington gets very nervous."

Bono insisted that despite his "celebrity status," the communal voices of churchgoers and citizens would be much louder, forcing politicians to take notice. "People are more powerful than we think," he confirmed. "This country is great because it’s a country of individuals. I think calling the politicians and the congressmen and saying this matters to you is a really important thing to do. Calling the president and writing the president [even]. We’re not asking for money here. We feel we’ve already given the money. We’re asking you to give the president permission to spend the money on this problem."

Surprisingly, other than that brief mention of money, not another moment the entire evening was spent talking about finances. Bono made it clear that the best currency we can give to Africa is our proactive assistance in lifting their burdens, a concept he summarized in the evening’s spine-tingling finale, a blissful moment featuring what he does best. Like his fist-pumping plea for "no more war" at 1985’s Live Aid concert or his passionate performance of "Where the Streets Have No Name" at the post-September 11 halftime show for Super Bowl XXXVI, the Irishman once again made a profound musical statement as he debuted U2’s latest song, "An American Prayer," on this tour. However, Bono didn’t attempt to save the world through rock and roll that night as the triumphant anthem came to a close with the uplifting refrain : "If you get to the top of the mountain / Will you tell me what you see ? / If you get to the top of the mountain / Remember me." He merely used it as a medium to encourage unity in reaching out to the least of Christ’s brethren, and in doing so, changing the world one person at a time.

For more information on DATA go to For more information on Bono and U2 log onto

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