1665) Bono on Grace and Karma

Cover of "Bono: In Conversation with Mich...

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     There have been a number of books written about U2 and their iconic frontman, Bono, arguably the world’s most famous rock star.  But not till now has Bono himself come out to tell his own story.  In the book, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas (Riverhead Books, © 2005), the rocker shares his thoughts on numerous topics with a French journalist and friend who has been with the band virtually since the beginning.  In a series of honest conversations presented in Q&A format, Bono discusses, among other things, his upbringing…, U2’s beginnings, his bandmates, his marriage, fatherhood, his passion for social action, the effects of celebrity, and, fittingly, his faith and how it intersects all of the above.  The following exchange between Bono and Assayas took place just days after the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, an act of terrorism that left 191 dead and more than 1,800 wounded.  The two men were discussing how terrorism is often carried out in the name of religion when Bono turned the conversation to Christianity, expressing his preference for God’s grace over “karma,” offering an articulate apologetic for the deity of Christ, and giving a clear presentation of the gospel.

–www.christianitytoday.com  posted 8-1-2005

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Bono:  My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ.  Christ teaches that God is love.  What does that mean?  What it means for me:  a study of the life of Christ.  Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor…  I don’t let my religious world get too complicated.  I just kind of go:  Well, I think I know what God is:  God is love, and as much as I respond in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion.  Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love.  Now that’s not so easy…

Bono:  (later) … It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas:  I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono:  I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas:  Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono:  You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma.  You know, what you put out comes back to you:  an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics– in physical laws– every action is met by an equal or an opposite one.  It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe.  I’m absolutely sure of it.  And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff.  Grace defies reason and logic.  Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas:  I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono:  That’s between me and God.  But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge…  It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace.  I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas:  The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world.  I wish I could believe in that.

Bono:  I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb.  I love the idea that God says:  Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you?  There are consequences to actions.  The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death.  That’s the point. It should keep us humbled…  It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas:  That’s a great idea, no denying it.  Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view.  Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers.  But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono:  No, it’s not farfetched to me.  Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this:  he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius.  But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that.  He doesn’t let you off that hook.  Christ says:  No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher.  I’m not saying I’m a prophet.  I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.”  I’m saying:  “I am God incarnate.”  And people say:  No, no, please, just be a prophet.  A prophet, we can take.  You’re a bit eccentric.  We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that.  But don’t mention the “M” word!  Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you.  And he goes:  No, no.  I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah.  At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says:  Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this.  So what you’re left with is:  either Christ was who He said He was, the Messiah, or a complete nutcase…  I’m not joking here.  The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched …

(Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:)  …If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed…  When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s.  So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked:  Who is this man?  And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut?  And there it is, and that’s the question…

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John 10:19-21  —  At these words the Jews were again divided.  Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad.  Why listen to him?”  But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon.  Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

John 7:40-47  —  On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”  Others said, “He is the Christ.”  Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee?  Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?”  Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.  Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
   Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
   “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.
   “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted.

Matthew 16:15-16  —  “But what about you?” Jesus asked.  “Who do you say I am?”
   Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

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A PRAYER OF CONFESSION BY MARTIN LUTHER:  Dear God, in your presence I confess myself a great sinner.  The Ten Commandments would cast me directly into hell.  But your precious Gospel teaches me that it is the highest wisdom to know and believe that out of your love, you are merciful through Christ, and you help poor and condemned sinners.  Therefore my confession of faith and my confession of sin is this:  “I am indeed a sinner, but God is merciful to me.”  I was your enemy, but you made me your friend.  I was condemned, but you desired that I be blessed and made an heir of heaven.  Indeed, this is your will.  You have permitted this truth to be preached to me and have commanded me to believe, for the sake of your Son whom you have given to me.  Amen.