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Posts from the ‘U2’ Category


Force Quit & Move to Trash

Thanks to the tip off from Beth, here is a fab little image from the Holy Heteroclite. To see why this is significant, go here for the context and here for some previous thoughts.

But I’m afraid I couldn’t resist this (and of course, imitation is the highest form of flattery) because it seems to me that the natural habitat of such a phrase is not the Windows platform but on a Mac OS X (after all, Bono does use a mac). So here is my version, restoring it to its rightful home. All credit for the original idea, though, goes to Fresno Dave.



U2’s NLOTH spiritual resonances (part 4)

I had a fascinating conversation with some friends last week about the Celtic concept of ‘Thin Places‘. These are places around the world where the gulf between heaven and earth is smaller than in other spots. This was the sort of thinking that led to places like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland or the island of Lindisfarne off the north English coast being regarded as holy and spiritual in some sense. There was even a tradition that heaven and earth are only 3 feet apart, but in the thin places, the distance is even shorter. There are a kind of portal, I suppose.

Now, whatever one makes of that, I wonder if this is the sort of metaphor that lies behind the album’s title and ethos – as well as obviously the opening track. Bono has spoken of the view over the Irish sea from his Dublin home – and anyone who knows anything about the Irish weather will know that there are days that are so grey, it’s impossible to tell where the sea stops and the sky begins. And what this seems to allude to is the fusion between the temporal and eternal, the secular and sacred, and even the intervention of the divine in the mundane. On this, actually, hangs the Christian’s hope because it points us towards the incarnation as well as the now and the not yet. But the imagery seems to evoke (to my mind) the sense in which trusting the Christ means eternal life starts NOW: I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me HAS eternal life and will not be judged but HAS crossed over from death to life (John 5:24). The eternal has invaded the temporal.

But isn’t that the way that God always seems to work? Isn’t he as much the God of the mundane, pedestrian and commonplace as he is of the spectacular and miraculous? So often, you can’t immediately spot where he’s rolled up his sleeves to get involved – it’s only clearer in retrospect. As if there’s no line on the horizon, until you’ve passed through it.

All of which reminds me of something that Bono said in a New York Times interview (quoted in Christian Scharen‘s One Step Closer, p9):

There’s cathedrals and the alleyways in our music. I think the alleyway is usually on the way to the cathedral, where you can hear your own footsteps and you’re slightly nervous and looking over your shoulder, and wondering if there’s somebody following you. And then you get there and realize there was somebody following you: it’s God.

More on Unknown Caller

Incidentally, as I was leafing through Bono on Bono by Michka Assayas again, I found this bit on the very last page. Surely, here is the spine-tingling chorus of Unknown Caller in embryonic form (cf. previous post)?

Assayas.: You said about your father: “He would disappear into silence and wit.” I think that in your case, you do disappear into volubility and wit. [Bono bursts out laughing] What do you make of that?
Bono: Guilty, your honour.
No further comment?
‘Be silent and know that I am God’ That’s a favourite line from the Scriptures. ‘Shut up and Let Me Love You’ would be the pop song. [laughs] It’s really what it means. If ever I needed to hear a comment, it might be that.
Ultimate question, then you’re rid of me. What leaves you speechless?
[sighs… 20 second pause, continuous sound of cicadas] Does singing count?
I’m afraid not. Songs have words.
But not when I start. Usually, it’s just a melody and nonsense words. Hmm… Songs are about as succinct as I get. I’m just sparing you. [laughs then ponders for a moment] ‘Forgiveness’ is my answer.
You mean ‘being forgiven’?

No Line on the Horizon

This song a great opening to the album. Musically pulsating, driving, teeth-gritting as well as uplifting; it shouts, “we’re back”. The question is – what with? Well, bizarrely enough, it’s a French policeman who’s got claustrophobic in his routine life. And like Get on your boots, it’s essentially a non-sentimental love song.

I’m a traffic cop, Rue du Marais, The sirens are wailing, But it’s me that wants to get away – this is what fired Anton Corbijn’s creative juices for his ‘silent’ companion film of the album, Linear (a word quoting this song). His heart’s elsewhere – a girl for whom he’s desperate to escape. She’s the dreamworld beyond the mundane and banal.

The interesting thing is that she is one who gives the narrator the stepping stone into a larger world. I know a girl who’s like the sea // I watch her changing every day for me… One day she’s still, the next she swells // You can hear the universe in her sea shells. … She said infinity is a great place to start… She said “Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear”. She’s vibrant; she’s truly alive, like the ocean – in apparent contrast to his life.

I just wonder, therefore, if this love affair is a sort of relational thin place. Of course, I’ve already mentioned in this little series of posts what the apostle Paul said about marriage in Eph 5? But could this also be touching on what John was on about in his somewhat elusive discussion of love (cf. 1 John 4:7-12). There’s certainly an elusiveness to this cop’s yearning: The songs in your head are now on my mind // You put me on pause I’m trying to rewind and replay… Every night I have the same dream // I’m hatching some plot, scheming some scheme. He’s spellbound – and has to ‘get out’.

But could it be that actually what he needs is not so much to escape his life (in contrast to Corbijn’s take in his movie, which opens with the cop burning his motorbike and heading off into the sunset) as to get it together with the girl? For she is his key to the eternal; in her there is no line on the horizon. Relationships are what matter – especially eternal ones… If that’s on to something, it would rescue the song from being gnostic anti-materiality/reality – and actually the antithesis of an incarnational thin place. And so, like every great love song, it is an intimation of the love song of the Christ.

Get on your boots

I gave this song the benefit of the doubt when it was released as a single. But i have to say that it feels a bit silly. And IMHO it’s the weakest on the album. Nevertheless, it has a real energy and humour – which is why I don’t ‘mind’ it very much. Bono, (in what’s quite a fun interview with the band for New Zealand TV) has said that it’s basically a pretty simple song – a love song without the sentimentality. Well, it certainly isn’t sentimental!

I suppose it’s a Make-Love-Not-War appeal – the closest this album gets to U2’s well-established pacifist anthems – but it’s more a case here of let’s put the grimness of it all out of our minds for the moment. Night is falling everywhere // Rockets at the fun fair // Satan loves a bomb scare // But he won’t scare you I don’t want to talk about wars between nations // Not right now…  Still, in a bomb-scared world, the only hope is Here’s where we gotta be // Love and community // Laughter is eternity // If joy is real. Love… community… others. For love is the only thing that can overcome hatred – Luther King again.

But the main question is who’s the ‘you’ who has to put on her sexy boots, the ‘you’ in the bridge passage: You don’t know how beautiful // You don’t know how beautiful you are // You don’t know, and you don’t get it, do you?. Well, it’s obvious it’s a girl – but could it not be more than a girl? Couldn’t it be THE bride? For there is a theory around that Bono’s ‘you’ is very often God’s people – they too often are the ones who don’t get it. Is that too far-fetched? Well not if the sound is the sound of Amazing Grace –  cf. earlier post on the albumLet me in the sound becomes a shared experience: Meet me in the sound. He then gets more desperate: God, I’m going down // I don’t wanna drown now // Meet me in the sound. Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come

Now of course, it might be much more straight-forward than all of that. For as Neil McCormick discovered, ‘Get on your boots’ is East African Slang for use a condom. Well, i suppose that’s topical, in Africa at least, after the pope’s recent utterances. Make love not war.

But perhaps the song does a rocking shimmy between both spheres – in true Bono style.

Cedars of Lebanon

Is this the same guy as the Paris traffic cop? Corbijn certainly seems to think so. But whoever it is, (and he feels to me more like the soldier in White as Snow, longing for home and love) this is a lost soul in the Middle East. It’s a beautiful song – beguiling and troubling. There are some profound reflections on what it is to live in a war-ravaged reality:

This shitty world sometimes produces a rose // The scent of it lingers and then it just goes – there are occasional intimations of life and love – this side of the horizon. This is a darker side of the experience in the first song No Line – this is back to reality. This is a world where a child has to drink dirty water from the river bank.

The worst of us are a long drawn out confession // The best of us are geniuses of compression. NONE of us (not even the best of us) is what we could and should be. Now I’ve got a head like a lit cigarette // Unholy clouds reflecting in a minaret // You’re so high above me, higher than everyone // Where are you in the Cedars of Lebanon?. Cedars of Lebanon clearly have biblical resonances – both from descriptions of the geography of the ancient near east and more specially as illustrations of the Lord’s blessing: e.g. Psalm 92:12 and 104:16. He’s looking for ‘you’ here. Is this God?

Choose your enemies carefully cos they will define you // Make them interesting cos in some ways they will mind you // They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends // Gonna last with you longer than your friend – this echoes a line in Heaven on Earth (from All You Can’t Leave Behind) which goes: Where there [were many trees] we’d tear them down // And use them on our enemies // They say that what you mock // Will surely overtake you. For all their pacifism, there is still a war to be fought in this world it seems. 

But the appeal, all the way through, is to return the call to home. This is a homesick exile, trapped and lost. And yet the person he seems to be talking to says ‘you say you’re not going to leave the truth alone // I’m here cos I don’t want to go home‘. Is that just what ‘you’ think? Or does he genuinely want to keep searching for the truth?

But if there is a hope to it all, it is beyond the horizon. That to my mind is the message of the whole album. Thank God there is no line on the horizon, because he brings the beyond-horizon world to bear on this-side-world; and without that, we’d be left with a shitty world of despair.


U2 wordles – complete!

To coincide with the launch of a Quaerentia page totally dedicated to U2, here is this…

You’re going to think I’m completely mad, sad and probably quite dangerous to know after this. But I’ve now done a wordle for each of U2’s studio albums. For those who like these things. They’re quite interesting, really.

Now I know exactly what some people (so-called friends) are going to say to this. Does this man do any work? Well, the answer is actually yes. But I have the sort of brain that needs a lot of things buzzing around at any one time – which is why I always have a few mini-projects on the go to dip into every now in order to sustain concentration on the big things (like writing talks etc). So each one of these took about 10 minutes (and most were done during the course of last Friday, the whole of which was spent talk writing). Just so you know. Not that I’m trying to justify myself or anything… that much.

Click the pic to see them individually…



U2’s NLOTH spiritual resonances (part 3)

The 3rd instalment…In my mind, these 2 songs go together – they’re both counter-cultural.

– Stand up for your love which is emphatically NOT RIGHTS (Stand Up Comedy)
– [then what appears to contradict the previous quote, there is one right that does still matter] the right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear. (I’ll Go Crazy) For this is essential if one is prepared to love.

But the important thing is that they counter the culture of both the world and the church (see the little old lady below) – because of LOVE! Which in many ways puts them on a more biblical trajectory than any of us might care to realise. But then, if there is the prophetic and psalmic in the songs on this album, this should not be surprising. And someone who speaks such a message is bound to get brickbats flung at them – from everybody. Just as well there is the personal relationship that supersedes all others – a question of vision taking precedence over visibility… (Moment of Surrender). That’s not to say that Bono takes himself too seriously – fortunately there are hints that he doesn’t… (although sometimes, one might wish he would take himself even less seriously than he does!).

Stand Up Comedy

Well, this is the song that makes ‘love’ come out so big on the wordle (see previous NLOTH post). It’s repeated over and over, despite being chanted almost inaudibly. It’s ramming the point home. But this is no soppy romanticism; it’s a call, not to arms of course, but to action. Or perhaps even better, it is a call to arms opened wide.

The tempo, driving rhythm section, the almost retro 70s feel (you can almost see Steve McQueen accelerating over a San Francisco rise) all serve to galvanise and propel us out … to love. This is the MLK dream. But there is an aspect of comedy to this standing up – because self-sacrificial love gets you into the most surreal, even absurd, situations (like when Bono & Geldof find themselves visiting the former Pope, Bush & Blair).

the wire stretched in between two towers… stand up in this dizzy world where a lovesick eye can steal the view. I’m gonna fall down if I can’t stand up for your love. Presumably the imagery is of Philippe Petit, the guy who did a tightrope walk in 1974 between the twin towers of the New York World Trade Center (and who is the subject of the recent documentary film, Man on Wire). Just thinking about stepping out onto such a rope is enough to make one balk with vertigo. But I’m gonna fall down if i can’t stand up for your love, or rather if i can’t serve in your love. It is risky love – but if we’re not serving ‘your love‘ what alternative is there but falling…? Could this have anything to do with Peter stepping out of the boat onto to the water…? ≈ Matt 14:24-33 

the DNA lotto may have left you smart, but you can stand up to beauty, dictator of the heart it doesn’t matter what makes us who we are (whether our genes or upbringing or circumstances); the obsessions of our culture age (beauty, smarts) are no match for the fruit of the spirit and the Christian’s trinity: I can stand up for hope, faith, love (explicit reference of course to 1 Cor 13:13, Colossians 1:5, 1 Thess 1:3, 5:8). And of course the greatest of these is love.

But then here comes a provocative challenge to the church (and it’s one of the most powerful images of the whole album): But while I’m getting over certainty stop helping God across the road like a little old lady. Ouch. A hugely suggestive image and one that’s lodged firmly in my head (and it keeps reminding me of that youtube classic that did the rounds a couple of years ago, the old lady and the airbag!!). How many of us have presumed to think God owed it to us, looked to us, depended on us? Who do we think we are? Shush now, cease to speak that I may speak (Unknown Caller). This is all reminiscent of Psalm 50 – esp v7-10 – hear, o my people, and I will speak… I am God, your God… I have no need of a bull from your stall… for I have the cattle on a thousand hills). This is a rebuke the church STILL needs to hear, as we invest in our programmes, strategies and schemes – God is bigger than all of that. To suggest that we need to get over our certainty will for some be a red rag to a bull of course – esp those who fear all things postmodern. But then, if it is a matter of thinking we’ve got everything sussed and that our own way of doing God’s business is THE way, then such certainty surely justifies such a rebuke for what is little short of idolatry. God is sovereign – so get out from under your beds, c’mon ye people, and serve… with love…

But there is an absurdity in the fact that it takes a rockstar to rebuke the church (though perhaps not without precedence in that God will use fruit-farmers, revenue-men and even donkeys if he has to). And Bono has the grace in this song to realise that. He’s the first to admit that he has a healthy ego – but my ego’s not really the enemy. He’s a small child embarking across an 8-lane highway on a voyage of discovery (presumably like the proverbial chicken who crossed to find out what was on the other side). He knows that far from giving God a hand across the road, he’s the one who needs all the help he can get. The tongue is delightfully planted in his cheek though – he’s the little Napoleon in high heels… a small man with big ideas‘. Stand up to rockstars like that, if you must. But isn’t the point even if you think they’re absurd, egotistical and presumptuous little men, don’t lose sight of the point: love? Stand up for that. Why? well it’s obvious isn’t it? because God is love! (1 John 4:8-16) C’mon ye people…

I’ll Go Crazy if I don’t go Crazy Tonight

A number of initial reactions have not taken kindly to this song, not least because of the title. It sounds a bit like the sort of improvised lyric that sounded cool at the time, but that doesn’t really say anything. But it is a multi-textured song, musically and lyrically. And like Stand Up, it’s about an almost desperate yearning to love – and without such love, I’ll go crazy. But in order to love like that, could it be that a little craziness will be involved? That’s the need to cry or spit, a sweet tooth‘s need for sugar – and this, my favourite – the need for every beauty to go out with an idiot? There is a madness to love, after all – hence the sadly archaic word, lovesick (cf. The Madness of Love by one Hadewijch of Antwerp). It’s even worse when unrequited – for a girl who’s a rainbow who loves the peaceful life. For how can you stand next to the truth and not see it – oh, a change of heart comes slow.

But there is surely/inevitably a spiritual element to this as well? As one reader, Jason Primuth, nicely observed in an email to me this week with his comparison with Jesus speaking to the pair on the Road to Emmaus – Lk 24:25-27. The chorus is resonant of the pilgrimage psalms – presumably no accident, if rumours of the follow up album later this year are to be believed (apparently to be called Songs of Ascent). Just as a human (marriage) relationship is a lifelong journey, so is that of the disciple – a journey all the way to the light. Do you believe me or are you doubting?

Every generation gets a chance to change the world – remember Bono at the G8 summit – “this is our moonshot“. Any confidence we can have is because the sweetest melody is one we haven’t heard. Is that just the-crock-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow pipedream? Or something more tangible? Well, if there is a real perfect, love that drives out all fear. We’re back in the realms of that 1 John 4 passage again, (here quoting v18). And if this is precisely what love does, then it is no surprise that the right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear. Because, let’s face it, that’s exactly how a billionaire rockstar tackling global poverty looks! But so what! Who cares what the passersby think? 

Love is a tough call, though. It is a mountain not a hill to climb. It takes time – a change of heart comes slow. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is shout – and go crazy and look ridiculous. And notice the shift in the final chorus: listen for me, I’ll be shouting, shouting to the darkness squeeze out sparks of light. cf. 1 John 5:5-9. But fortunately, yet again, this is no solitary journey – halfway, the song acknowledges Baby baby i know i’m not alone. She’s joined him. And the climb at the end is one where she is no longer doubting but they’re starting out together. And WE’RE going to go crazy if WE don’t go crazy tonight.


U2’s NLOTH spiritual resonances (part 2)

Here are some more random thoughts.


In tone, this is the most explicitly biblical song on the album. It is a psalm, nothing less. Beth has a nice observation on how Bono sings this, contra those who are perceive it as really arrogant. But taken in its biblical context, it is clear that when Bono sings I was born to sing for you, he can’t be referring to the U2 fanclub. He is singing primarily for an audience of one: God. It’s a song of throbbing praise, driven mainly by an insistent rhythm section (Adam seems to be working really hard on this album!). But despite the stadium feel of the song (which was evident when they sang it on the BBC roof last week), it remains intensely personal. That’s not to say it is exclusive though: it draws those close by to join in the magnifying at the end (the ‘you’ in the final choruses seems to be different from the object of praise – it is a fellow worshipper being drawn in to join the praise of ‘the Magnificent’).

I was born to be with you;… to sing for you… this is the heart of existence and purpose. How can this be anything other than God? ≈ (amongst many) Psalm 139 (esp vv13-16); Psalm 61:8: I will sing praise to your name and fulfil my vows day after day.
in this space and time, after that and ever after I haven’t had a clue it’s about life in the here and now – and beyond. But there are limits to how much we know about that ≈ Ps 61:8 again; note that in John 17:2-3 eternal life starts now…
Only love can leave such a mark But only love can heal such a scar living a life of love for God IS costly – it leaves a heart black and blue (and looks & feels like foolishness at times) – but God’s love can heal that – which reminds me of one of my favourite books on ministry by our dear friend Marjorie Foyle: Honourably Wounded. ≈ Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8.
i didn’t have a choice but to lift you up and sing whatever song youw anted me to  now that is clearly psalmic – ≈ Psalm 63:4 & Psalm 134:2. and then there’s the first bit – is that what it looks like? Surely not? Election perhaps?!
I give you back my voice – the archetypal response of the one who knows from where we have everything in the first place ≈ King David’s response to God in 1 Chronicles 29:14.
From the womb my first cry it was a joyful noise – it’s that birth theme again – Bono gets born a lot on this album. But the cry of a new life is wonderfully, one of joy! ≈ the King James version of Psalm 66:1; 98:4, 100:1 (etc).
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify oh, the magnificent – justification! it’s everywhere in Paul – but it’s also everywhere in Psalms (i.e. righteousness language) ≈ so how about Psalm 35:27 (in KJV); cf. Psalm 64:10, 97:12, 140:13 etc etc

There is something reminiscent of the good old days of October in this song – Gloria anyone?

FEZ – Being Born

This is a suggestive song but seems quite opaque and nebulous. Being in Fez, the ancient pre-colonial capital of Morocco, of course rebooted the album writing process.  It seems that the band went there after Bono was invited to be involved in a world festival of sacred music that takes place there. That in itself is intriguing – and there is a sense of slightly (Sufi?) trancelike meandering as the song opens – which gets interrupted a couple of times by a couple of abrupt reboots. But somehow, these interruptions never allow the building pace to be derailed. (I couldn’t help be reminded of a faux-James Bond mission soundtrack in the introduction – a bit derivative perhaps – but that is wiped away once the song proper gets under way).

During the intro, we hear echoes of a north african market square, mixed in with the final refrain from Get on your boots (let me in the sound). If i’m right about this being a resonance of the sound of amazing, divine grace, then it is interesting to find that even in Fez.

Bono’s singing is drawn out and even – almost a trance in itself – each word getting equal weight, as he makes the journey home across the Straights of Gibraltar and the Atlantic until reaching Africa’s shores. As far as I can tell, this is the only Africa moment on the album. Is it about setting sail leaving cars and engines behind, reaching Africa which is the true home of the heart. Having lived in East Africa, i can relate to that a bit – there is something elemental about the continent.

But as you can tell, i’m groping in the dark on this one – but gripped by the song.


U2’s NLOTH – the comments roll out

The web is spewing reactions to the album – faster than anyone can keep up with – lots of +ve and -ve stuff. The world is full of people who love to hate U2, and who love to love U2, with not a lot in between. Bono doesn’t help by being an arrogant idiot sometimes (bit lame to say his insults to Chris Martin were just a joke). But still, there’s so much to get your teeth into with this album, as ever.

So i’m keeping an eye on U2sermons – an ever-ready help in such circumstances. Also always interested in what Christian Scharen has to say on these things – but couldn’t help be stung a little by his charge to those who indulged in precisely what i’ve been doing as being akin to trainspotting. Well – i suppose it is a bit geeky. But then, I’ll do it anyway (and not care too much – i won’t notice the passers-by and they certainly won’t notice me). Digging around the lyrics has certainly helped me to understand what is going on – and to explain why they took many of the musical decisions they have.

But an ultra-geeky thing i’ve done is to see what happens you combine all the lyrics from the album onto one Wordle. So here it is. The outright winner is as you’d expect (for ‘love is our law’)- but it’s quite interesting to see what follows (far) behind it… (Click the image to get detail)


Isn’t just a fab thing?


U2’s NLOTH spiritual resonances (pt 1)

Am prepping for an updated talk on U2 at the ELF in Hungary this year – so obviously paying close attention to the new album, No Line on the Horizon. Here are a few biblical & spiritual resonances that I’ve picked up. There are probably gazillion others. Various bods out there are saying that it is one of their most Christian albums to date – and various obsessives are doing this sort of thing. So for what it’s worth, here’s my stab at a contribution. If I’m onto something with even half of these references, it is pretty exciting. And I have a bit a of a theory to do with the hymn Amazing GraceRead more »


U2’s BBC rooftop gig

Awesome. U2 live for free!!

Having picked up news yesterday that U2 were going to be doing a live gig on the BBC roof (as part of today’s BBC U2 day), there was great excitement in our household. So a handful of us on the staff were able to go onto the All Souls roof and probably had the best seats in the house/world.

The performed 4 songs:

From No Line on the Horizon: 

  • Get on your boots
  • Magnificent

More recent faves:

  • Vertigo (well they had to, really, didn’t they)
  • Beautiful Day

Regent St was stacked full of crowds – the police closed it off while they performed.  But despite starting much later than we’d been told, it was very good humoured and positive. What a buzz!

Click on the photos for more snaps. For more info and video clips, go to the BBC here.


Get your boots on


People will call me sad; they’ll say i’m obsessed; that i don’t have a life. But fine. Such is the life of the believer. I’ve been on tenterhooks for the new U2 album NO LINE ON THE HORIZON (out 2nd March) – can’t wait and yet terrified of it being rubbish.

Well, just had a quick listen to the new single from the album, which is coming out in Feb. It’s called Get Your Boots On. It has a thumping, driving rhythm section, c/o Adam and Larry giving it everything. Haven’t had the chance to think thru the words yet, but it has already got under the skin. It’s heavy, in your face and yet slithers from section to section without ever letting up or being predictable. Love it.

So that’s a relief then. 1 down, 10 to go.

Here’s the full set list:

1. No Line On The Horizon
2. Magnificent
3. Moment of Surrender
4. Unknown Caller
5. I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight
6. Get On Your Boots
7. Stand Up Comedy
8. Fez – Being Born
9. White As Snow
10. Breathe
11. Cedars Of Lebanon

And finally, I just love the cover. A million miles from the frenetic 90s covers or the rock-star photo shoots covers of most of the others. This is in the spirit of Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree, except it doesn’t have anyone in it. Apparently, it’s an image of the sea meeting the sky by Japanese artist and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto – and suits the title perfectly.

Oh well – call me sad if you must. I’m happy!


STOP PRESS – here are the lyrics (c/o


The future needs a big kiss // Winds blows with a twist
Never seen a moon like this // Can you see it too?
Night is falling everywhere // Rockets at the fun fair
Satan loves a bomb scare // But he won’t scare you

Hey, sexy boots // Get on your boots, yeah

You free me from the dark dream // Candy floss ice cream
All our kids are screaming // But the ghosts aren’t real
Here’s where we gotta be // Love and community
Laughter is eternity // If joy is real

You don’t know how beautiful 
You don’t know how beautiful you are
You don’t know, and you don’t get it, do you?
You don’t know how beautiful you are

That’s someone’s stuff they’re blowing up // We’re into growing up
Women of the future // Hold the big revelations
I got a submarine // You got gasoline
I don’t want to talk about wars between nations
Not right now

Hey sexy boots…  // Get on your boots, yeah
Not right now // Bossy boots

You don’t know how beautiful …

Hey sexy boots
I don’t want to talk about the wars between the nations
Sexy boots, yeah

Let me in the sound … // Meet me in the sound
Let me in the sound // Let me in the sound, now
God, I’m going down // I don’t wanna drown now
Meet me in the sound
Let me in the sound… // Meet me in the sound
Get on your boots…
Yeah hey hey


Q’s AFRICA week: 2. How NOT to write about Africa

I’ve joined up to (RED)Wire – Bono & Co’s weekly music ‘magazine’ which gives you great music in aid of HIV/AIDS work in Africa – and I THOROUGHLY recommend that you do too. Fantastic stuff.

In the 2nd edition (the one which included U2’s I Believe In Father Christmas), is found this brilliant short. That hugely compelling Beninois actor Djimon Hounsou reads excerpts from a brilliantly satirical article written by a Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, for Granta Magazine. The background music is provided by another Kenyan Ayub Ogada, whom I’ve loved for ages. Some of his stuff was used for the film The Constant Gardener. 

All in all a powerful combination. So here it is:

Now read the original essay at Granta. It’s biting satire at its very best. Clichés are bad enough in literature – but when they simply re-enforce patronising stereotypes, they are dangerous. I find this acutely challenging and am all too conscious of falling foul of not a few clichés that he exposes.


a surfer’s celebration

Well, on cue to celebrate Quaerentia breaking through the 100,000 surfing hits barrier, my son Joshua has achieved a first for our family: a surfer who actually stands up.

We’re in Cape Town for Christmas, staying with Rachel’s sister Lucy and her family – and Josh achieved the not so much impossible as unexpected by this little triumph.


Having crossed this virtual Rubicon, regular readers can look forward to some very exciting things coming to this space in 2009:

  • a brand new look to Quaerentia!!
  • lots more random posts!!
  • the start of an irregular Quaerentia Podcast!!

And this is not to forget U2’s new album – NO LINE ON THE HORIZON – coming out on 2nd March 2009.



I believed in Father Christmas… But I believe in the Israelite.

Well, it was inevitable I comment on this track, which U2 put out to launch (RED)Wire [back in 2008].

But it is stunningly beautiful and manages totally to avoid Christmas kitsch. In fact, it goes a lot further and actually communicates some surprises. Read more »


Wordle on what makes me tick

Wordle is just great. Here is a compilation of everything that makes me tick


Water, water everywhere … nor any drop to drink

We had our annual World Needs Sunday last Sunday (21st Sept) – one of our 2 annual gift days at All Souls when we ask for lots of money so that we can give it ALL away! And each year the organizing team take a theme – this year it was WATER. I was oblivious to so many of the global realities (despite having lived in E. Africa) until I had to do some research in preparation for my sermon on Sunday night. It is truly terrifying. Here are a few (taken from UNDP, WaterAid, UN Water etc):

  • 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation = almost 40% of world population.
  • 1.8 million children die annually from diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation = 5,000 per day.
  • African & Asian Women and girls walk an average of 6 km per day to collect water weighing up to 20 kg.
  • 40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in sub-Saharan Africa = a year’s labour for the entire French workforce.
  • £15 per head is all it costs for WaterAid to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.
  • For every £1 invested in sanitation, £9 is returned in increased productivity and
    a reduced burden of healthcare.

The UNDP Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is just one route to making a difference.

  • 1.2 billion people gained access to sanitation between 1990 and 2004.
  • 1.8 billion people will still need sanitation even if the 2015 MDGs sanitation goal to halve the proportion of people without sanitation is reached.
  • Cost of meeting both the water and sanitation MDGs targets every year until 2015 is US$11.3 billion.
  • Cost of meeting the sanitation MDGs target every year until 2015: US$9.5 billion. If the same investment was sustained, it could achieve basic sanitation for the ENTIRE WORLD within 20 years.

Now you think that’s a lot of money – until you read this. It’s inexcusable, don’t you think?

  • US$9.5 billion a year is only 1% of annual world military expenditure
  • US$9.5 billion a year is roughly 33% of annual world bottled water expenditure
  • For more check out these Water Aid and Tearfund stats pages.

One illustration of the seriousness of the current crisis couldn’t have been more graphic. In the morning, Gordon Molyneux from SIM was speaking. And he showed this terrifying map of how 95% of Lake Chad has simply disappeared in the last few 40 years.

In the evening sermon, I tried to give a bit of a biblical overview of the importance of water – both physical and spiritual. I confess I indulged myself and play a U2 song – except this was actually no indulgence, because Bono’s astounding WAVE of SORROW fitted precisely to the theme. I’ve posted about it before – and click there for a link to see Bono talking about why he wrote it.


Incidentally, Bono & Jeffrey Sachs are blogging here from the Millennium Development Goals summit for the Financial Times (HT: U2 Sermons).


U2 Africa style – a gift of a response

The thought didn’t thrill me. Especially after a friend tipped me off about a similar, earlier album of U2 covers by US Christian bands (called In The Name of Love – Artists United for Africa). One or two of them sort of work but to my mind, this attempt merely served to illustrate the fact that great contemporary music is far more than the simple dots on the staves. A great song these days is the result of a convergence of poetic and musical inspiration, gifts of improvisation and production, and the chemistry of a group of great performers. U2 have of course had all those in spades (biased, I realise). But all too often, unless Bono or The Edge write songs with others specifically in mind (eg The Wanderer for Johnny Cash, She’s a Mystery to Me for Roy Orbison), it simply doesn’t work when others try to pull it off. Either the arrangement sounds like a pale imitation of the original (eg a guitar lead attempts to sound like Edge and fails) or it tries to do something quite original and has the potential to fall flat on its face.

Now of course, that is a little churlish – Bono in particular have been unstinting in his efforts to bring justice and hope to Africa. And it is entirely consistent that he would allow a host of Christian bands to cover some of their greats in aid of Africa. But still, the album’s ethos aside, it simply doesn’t sound … right. Most US Christian bands (and I haven’t listened to many) seem to be heavily influenced by U2, and The Edge’s playing in particular – so no surprises that they aren’t that well placed to find a radically different approach.

However, in April 08, another album of U2 covers came out – and this is a whole new ball game. Far from being a pastiche, most of the artists here take big risks. For these covers are all performed by African artists and bands – and so the songs are relocated to Africa. They clearly love the music and ethos of U2, each brings their own authentic African voice. For the most part, they don’t even attempt to be U2, to be something that they are not. And that is why the result is intoxicating.

Africa Celebrates U2

Some familiar names and some who should be familiar. The album is perhaps a little uneven (but only a little) – isn’t every anthology or compilation? But it brilliantly combines my two great passions – U2 & Africa. It is full of sun-drenched rhythms and the sorts of sounds we used to hear blaring out of Kampala taxis.

There are some great moments – especially when they go for the more overtly political stuff. Here are a few standouts:

  • Angelique Kidjo from Benin kicks off the proceedings in a wonderful French/English mix version of Mysterious Ways. You need to listen to this LOUD to get the full power of her awesome voice.
  • Malian Vieux Farka Touré does a really extraordinary French version of Bullet The Blue Sky. It is a million miles from its more grungey original but still manages to convey the latent anger of a township’s helplessness, buffeted by the callous whims of the powerful, rather than the sympathies and anger of western observers.
  • In recent years, U2 have reapplied the sentiments of Sunday, Bloody Sunday to a host of more recent conflicts. So, unsurprisingly, what wasn’t written as a ‘rebel song’ carries its potent echo of protest even to Africa – and Guinean Ba Cissoko has come up with the most amazing cover – gone is Edge’s plaintive riff, in its place the even more haunting African kora harp.
  • Sometimes you can’t make it on your own is an acutely personal song, written by Bono about his dying father with whom he had a (much discussed) stormy relationship. It is hugely evocative and powerful. I didn’t think it really was the sort of song that was coverable. But I have to say that South African Vusi Mahlasela makes it his own – and it has really grown on me.
  • Hearing I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For in a foreign language by a Senegalese Muslim, Cheikh Lo brings a certain je ne sais quoi, especially because in my view it is one of the most explicitly Christian songs U2 have produced. But I loved it.
  • Pride starts in a very trad African acapella style – and having basses starting with Ba-bum bum bum doesn’t quite work for me. But then when they get going, the Soweto Gospel Choir gives it some awesome welly – and especially powerful is its subtle applications of a song about Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, who in some ways is a contemporary South African version.

Less successful perhaps

  • With or Without You starts with a little radio-drama moment (not completely convinced) and then launches into a funky, American influenced dance number by Les Nubians. But maybe that’s because I’m not into dance music, surprisingly enough.
  • One was OKish, done in a funk version by Nigerian Keziah Jones – but it seemed a bit too upbeat to my mind, not enough pleading or angst. (And no, while I think Mary J Blige has the most amazing voice, i don’t really think her cover works either).

I could go on. It is a great album. And what’s great is that it is a gift from Africa to U2 in response to all that they’ve done for them. Proceeds from the profits go to Africa. Click on the album cover above to get to the iTunes page.

Track Listing:
1. Angelique Kidjo “Mysterious Ways”
2. Soweto Gospel Choir “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”
3. Keziah Jones “One”
4. Vieux Farka Touré “Bullet The Blue Sky”
5. Ba Cissoko “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
6. Waldemar Bastos “Love Is Blindness”
7. Tony Allen “Where The Streets Have No Name”
8. African Underground All-Stars Featuring Chosan, Optimus & Iyoka “Desire”
9. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars “Seconds”
10. Les Nubians “With Or Without You”
11. Cheikh Lo “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
12. Vusi Mahlasela “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”


A few recent U2 poetic favourites

I’ve been preparing a seminar on U2 for the European Leadership Forum in Hungary at the end of the month – so have become even more than normally obsessive about U2. Sorry about that. What it does mean though is that I’ve systematically listened to the whole of their back catalogue and been staggered yet again by some of the ingenuity and succinctness of Bono’s & The Edge’s lyrics – but also by their spiritual profundity and insight. Here then is a personal and by no means exhaustive list from the most recent 2 albums. So perhaps this just might be the first of a few posts from some of the earlier stuff… “Oh joy, oh rapture”, I hear you chorus.

From ALL BECAUSE OF YOU (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb 2002)

u2_-_how_to_dismantle_an_atomic_bomb_album_cover.pngI was born a child of grace
Nothing else about the place
Everything was ugly but your beautiful face
And it left me no illusion…

All because of you (x3)
I am… I am

Now why do you think he repeats the phrase ‘I am’…? All very subtle.

Then there’s this one – more explicit of course, but telling nonetheless. The second line of the clip could almost become a motto for Quaerentia…

From WALK ON (All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000)


You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen…

Home… hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one
Home… I can’t say where it is but I know I’m going home
That’s where the heart is
Leave it behind / You’ve got to leave it behind

All that you fashion / All that you make / All that you build
All that you break / All that you measure / All that you steal

All this you can leave behind

In the face of the madness and horror of a violent world, this small stanza beautifully encapsulates the ideal of life – one not cut short by ‘unnatural’ death but redeemed to a hope beyond death…

From LOVE AND PEACE OR ELSE (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb 2002)

u2_-_how_to_dismantle_an_atomic_bomb_album_cover.pngAs you enter this life
I pray you depart
With a wrinkled face
And a brand new heart

This is a more well-known single from their 2000 album – No 1 in a number of places including the UK. Quite apart from the way the words evoke a thrilling orbit’s view of the earth (albeit one with the darker edge of environmental abuse – eg ‘tuna fleets clearing the sea out’ etc), it clearly points us beyond what we can see – for out of the blue comes the unmistakable flight of the dove of Genesis 8:11 & 9:16. There’s no way you could of course see a single bird from the space station – but you can see the profound reality beyond the visible – that God is a covenant making God – and the day he makes a covenant to protect and rescue is more beautiful even than the day he made the world.

From BEAUTIFUL DAY (All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000)


See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out

It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away … A beautiful day

Then finally, there’s this one, which I’ve actually preached & blogged about before. Note – it is full of the angst and doubts of the believer, not the doubter. And in that respect has many resonances with the psalms. But what gets to me is the phrase I’ve highlighted – so clever at so many different levels.

From PEACE ON EARTH (All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000)


Jesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line
(Peace on Earth)
Tell the ones who hear no sound whose sons are living in the ground
(Peace on Earth)
Jesus and the song you wrote, the words are sticking in my throat
(Peace on Earth)

Hear it every Christmas time,
But hope and history won’t rhyme

So what’s it worth – this peace on Earth?
Peace on Earth / Peace on Earth

There’s plenty more where they came from. Any others?


U2’s ‘Wave of Sorrow’ & the Ethiopian Famine of ’84

I’ve been wanting to blog about this song since it hit the streets last autumn, but yesterday’s posting seems to lead into it reasonably well. This is a song that achingly captures the questions surrounding the Ethiopian famine of 1984/5 (link to excellent BBC flashback, from which the picture is taken). Provoked by working on Live Aid, Bono and his wife Ali spent 6 harrowing weeks working in a feeding camp. This song was a personal response. It was only finished last year as part of the 20th anniversary re-release of The Joshua Tree (as he describes in the video below). It is quite simply heart-rending – you can somehow actually hear the heat-haze in the arrangement, as well as the sheer desperation and injustice of the situation. For while this was at first sight a natural disaster (the result of failed harvests several years running, and then to top it all, the tragic threat of rain on uncultivated and desiccated fields), there were plenty of culpable people involved as well – civil war in Ethiopia itself and Western indifference despite living in plenty.


What makes this song so powerful, though, is Bono’s contrast between modern Ethiopians forced into humiliating begging for food and the great and proud heritage of their ancient (and biblical) ancestors. For it was the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba who visited King Solomon (the “Son, of shepherd boy, now king” in the song) in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10). And it was Solomon who was famed for his wisdom – a divine wisdom, from which many of the Proverbs in the OT are derived. But the OT wisdom literature that this song most harks back to is the searching agony found in some of the Psalms, Job and Ecclesiastes. Where is God’s wisdom to be found in the heat of famine, under the boot of oppression, in the despair of begging? “What wisdom can you bring? / What lyric would you sing? / Where is the music of the Seraphim?” If the rain comes it doesn’t just bring waves of flooding – but sorrow.


But this is the poetic genius of the song (and I do not use those words lightly, despite not being either a poet or a genius). For Bono (together with the Edge, when they collaborate, though i think this song is single-handedly Bono’s) is a profound lyricist. Not only do the sparing words evoke the horror and despair so searingly, but they also provide the hint (and in such circumstances, it is surely the only hint one can possibly make) of hope and light. The song’s conclusion is a radical application (rather than a straightforward updating) of Jesus’ Beatitudes in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). When Jesus originally taught the Beatitudes, I suspect that he was epitomizing the whole of that great sermon, in that he was articulating a fully-rounded picture of every Christian (rather than picking out lots of different types of people). What is clear, though, is that the poor and marginalised are those for whom God is profoundly concerned. And when humanity in its evil and idolatrous self-centredness ignores the plight of the poor, God is rightly furious… and he promises blessing. It is not for nothing that he is called the God of the Fatherless and the Widowed.


The point then is that Jesus, who is one greater than Solomon, is the only one who can bring eternal hope, a hope that endures, permeates and transforms the horrors of a cruel, cruel world. As Jesus said in Matthew 12, referring specifically to the Queen of Sheba herself:

The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

To miss Jesus is to miss his wisdom – which has devastating consequences. And his wisdom is one of both justice and judgment, AND love and blessing. But NEVER let this generate a laissez-faire attitude amongst those who have discovered his wisdom. This song won’t let us sit smugly in our favourite recliner chairs and bursting refrigerators and the churches which Bono frequently derides as ‘Bless Me’ clubs…  because GOD WON’T. This is surely a boot-up-the-proverbial-reminder that God is concerned with those trapped in sex-work, in tin-shacks, in voicelessness. Let this wave of sorrow flow into prayer and action:

The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord.
O wall of the Daughter of Zion,
let your tears flow like a river
day and night;
give yourself no relief,
your eyes no rest. (Lamentations 2:18)

To see Bono talking about the song (as well as singing and forgetting the words towards the end !), check out the video at the bottom.

by Bono & U2

Heat haze rising /On hell’s own hill
You wake up this morning / It took an act of will
You walk through the night / To get here today
To bring your children / To give them away
Oh… oh this cruel sun /Is daylight never done?
Cruelty just begun / To make a shadow of everyone

And if the rain came… / And if the rain came…

Souls bent over without a breeze / Blankets on burning trees
I am sick without disease / Nobility on its knees

And if the rain came… / And if the rain came… now
Would it wash us all away
On a wave of sorrow? / Wave / On a wave of sorrow?

Where now the holy cities? / Where the ancient holy scrolls?
Where now Emperor Menelek / And the Queen of Sheba’s gold?
You’re my bride, you wear her crown /And on your finger precious stones
As every good thing now been sold
Son, of shepherd boy, now king / What wisdom can you bring?
What lyric would you sing? / Where is the music of the Seraphim?

And if the rain came… / And if the rain came… now
Would it wash us all away
On a wave of sorrow? / Wave / On a wave of sorrow?

Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt / For they shall inherit what’s left of the earth
Blessed are the kings who’ve left their thrones / They are buried in this valley of dry bones
Blessed all of you with an empty heart / For you got nothing from which you cannot part
Blessed is the ego / It’s all we got this hour

Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power
Blessed is the sex worker who sold her body tonight /She used what she got /To save her children’s life

Blessed are you, the deaf cannot hear a scream
Blessed are the stupid who can dream
Blessed are the tin canned cardboard slums
Blessed is the spirit that overcomes



Eugene Peterson on stories, translation… and Bono

This is an absolute delight – set aside 30 minutes to watch this very genial and often hysterical fireside chat with a man who has much to say. Amazing how much ground they cover in this short time (from Dickens & Joyce to Wendell Berry, translating The Message & Bono’s appreciation of it, the limitations of our understanding and the need to ordain fiction writers!).
Taken from a writer’s symposium in Feb 2007 in California. (HT – U2sermons)

The solitary passing of a p*rn baron

Many English phrases carry a world on their shoulders.

  • There is perhaps nothing more annoying than the words “PLEASE HOLD – YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US AND WILL BE ATTENDED TO SOON.”
  • There is perhaps nothing more smug or priggish than the response “I TOLD YOU SO.”
  • There is perhaps nothing more tragic than the words “TOO LATE.”

Now I certainly don’t want to come across all superior or smug. In fact, reading the obit of p*rn baron, Paul Raymond (sometimes described as the British Hugh Hefner), on BBC online, just made me incredibly sad: if only he’d listened to Ecclesiastes. For I feel that the Teacher would no doubt have said the last 2 of these phrases (but probably not the first). This is what the obit said:

Raymond, 82, the son of a Liverpool lorry driver, founded a huge pornographic empire which included magazines such as Mayfair and Men Only. He was once dubbed the King of Soho and in 1958 opened the only premises in the UK to stage live striptease shows. Raymond acquired property in London’s West End in the 1970s and was thought to be worth £650m when he died. Born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in November 1925, Raymond left school at 15 to pursue a career in showbusiness and started with a mind-reading act on Clacton Pier. He soon discovered his real talent lay as a producer and went on to exploit not only the public’s fascination with sex and nudity, but also the gradual liberalisation of the 1950s, 60s and 70s…

But this is how it ended

…in later years competition to his porn empire from so-called “lads mags” stifled his fortunes. Raymond called himself a spiv and behaved like one, sporting fur coats, a Rolls Royce, a tiny moustache and a fake tan. But money did not buy him happiness. His marriage broke up acrimoniously after an affair with the model, Fiona Richmond. He was estranged from his son, and his daughter Debbie, who ran his empire for a time, died aged 36 from a drugs overdose in 1992. He ended his life a virtual recluse in a penthouse flat behind the Ritz Hotel.

What a tragic way to go. Not least because of the wisdom of what the Teacher said 3000 years ago (in Ecclesiastes 2). More even than Raymond could the Teacher say he’d been there, done that.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.

And his conclusion:

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

The Teacher did it all & he DID tell us so. But still people don’t believe him – they think it is still worth it, despite the wind-chasing misery of it all. (Check out Hugh Palmer’s great sermon on this passage from a recent Ecclesiastes series.)

However, as well as the venerable Teacher of old, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a more contemporary prophet, Steve Turner and his brilliant poem.

by Steve Turner

Tonight, we will
fake love together.
You my love possess
all the essential qualities
as listed by Playboy.
You will last me for
as long as two weeks
or until such a time
as your face & figure
go out of fashion.
I will hold you close
to my Hollywood-standard body,
the smell of which
has been approved
by my ten best friends
and a representative
of Lifebuoy.
I will prop my paperback
Kama Sutra
on the dressing table
& like programmed seals
we will perform
& like human beings
we will grow tired
of our artificially sweetened
diluted & ready to drink
love affairs.
Tonight, we will fake love.
Tonight we will be both
quick & silent, our time limited,
measured out in distances
between fingers
& pushbuttons

(from Up To Date, 1993 edition, p20)

And for good measure, it is worth throwing in a U2 song as well. For in this song, Bono & Edge brilliantly point us beyond Hefner’s Playboy mansion (where a welcome is available only to the ‘right’, ‘attractive’, ‘lucky’ kind of people) and offer hints of the hope of the great mansion, (in which there are many rooms prepared in advance for those who are not the beautiful or ‘perfect’ people). No – this is a mansion of grace – open to all who are not worthy but who recognise their unworthiness. And to seek after that is in no sense a seeking after the wind. Now I’ve no idea about Paul Raymond’s last few years – but the wonder of this mansion of grace is that ‘even’ he would be welcome there…

lyrics by Bono & The Edge; music by U2

If coke is a mystery / Michael Jackson…history
If beauty is truth / And surgery the fountain of youth
What am I to do / Have I got the gift to get me through
The gates of that mansion

If oj is more than a drink / And a big mac bigger than you think
If perfume is an obsession / And talk shows, confession
What have we got to lose / Another push and we’ll be through
The gates of that mansion

I never bought a lotto ticket / I never parked in anyones space
The banks feel like cathedrals / I guess casinos took their place
Love, come on down / Don’t wake her, she’ll come around

Chance is a kind of religion / Where you’re damned for plain hard luck
I never did see that movie / I never did read that book
Love, come on down / Let my numbers come around

Don’t know if I can hold on / Don’t know if I’m that strong
Don’t know if I can wait that long / ’til the colours come flashing
And the lights go on

Then will there be no time for sorrow / Then will there be no time for shame
And though I can’t say why / I know I’ve got to believe

We’ll go driving in that pool / It’s who you know that gets you through
The gates of the playboy mansion / But they don’t mention…the pain

Then will there be no time for sorrow
Then will there be no time for shame
Then will there be no time for sorrow
Then will there be no time for shame

(from the too often overlooked 1993 album Pop)


Peace on earth? what a joke? Unless we’ve misunderstood something

The New Year started well, didn’t it? Civil War in Pakistan? Kenyan chaos? Not to mention Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan etc etc. It raises all kinds of questions – and all the more so, the more one knows, or the closer one is to the situation. What is going on in Kenya simply boils the blood with rage – but then of course that is precisely what has been happening and why people are DYING. How does the world deal with injustice without dealing out injustice? There is an all too fine line between righteous and unrighteous anger, between the oppressed becoming the oppressor, between the victim becoming the culprit. It is a huge problem – because when we try to do something about a problem, we tend to become part of the problem.

Well there was an unnerving resonance with all these current political events with our new preaching programme at All Souls. We’re doing something a little different at the moment – a morning series with the title ‘HAS GOOD FAILED?’ and an evening series on the Book of Ecclesiastes. Hugh is doing the evening talks and I’m doing the first two of the morning series, and with a more topical series like this, there is greater scope for doing things slightly out of the box. The result was that i got to indulge my obsession with both U2 and the questions people are really asking. The talk was called WHERE IS THE PEACE ON EARTH? and I played (and got away with playing) not 1 but TWO U2 songs during the course of the talk which was quite a laugh. Some think I’m just a sad fan, but this is of course not the case – I’m a very happy fan.

These are the two songs referred to in the talk – they never cease to blow me away.


Heaven on Earth, we need it now,
I’m sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain,
I’m sick of hearing again and again
That there’s gonna be peace on EarthWhere I grew up there weren’t many trees,
where there was we’d tear them down and use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock will surely overtake you
And you become a monster, so the monster will not break you
And it’s already gone too far, you say that if you go in hard you won’t get hurtJesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
No whos or whys, no one cries like a mother cries for peace on Earth
She never got to say goodbye to see the colour in his eyes, now he’s in the dirt
Peace on EarthThey’re reading names out over the radio all the folks the rest of us won’t get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann, and Breda, their lives are bigger than any big idea
Jesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
Jesus and the song you wrote, the words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth

Hear it every Christmas time but hope and history won’t rhyme
so what’s it worth – this peace on Earth? Peace on Earth…

And then there is this classic – which is often touted as a recognition of doubt and rejection of the old assurances of the Christian message. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just look at how it concludes: I BELIEVE… BUT I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND. The point is not that Bono has given up on his faith, but just the opposite – it is simply that he hasn’t yet seen everything that he is trusting God to bring about – which is precisely what the Bible teaches about Christian reality. Just read Romans 8:18-27 if you don’t believe me.


I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you, only to be with you
I have run; I have crawled; I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (x2)

I have kissed honey lips felt my healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire, this burning desireI have spoke with the tongue of angels; I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night I was cold as a stone
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (x2)

I believe in the kingdom come then all the colors will bleed into one
Well, yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross, of my shame (of my shame)
You know I believed it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…