Yesterday I wrote about U2. I said that they stand amongst the most influential Christians in the world. If that statement bothers you, at least read yesterday’s post to see why I say that.

U2 CoexistIn any case, I have a lot of respect for U2, and I see a lot of value in listening to their music. But U2 has made themselves suspect to many Christians in recent years because of their “Coexist” campaign in which they call Islam, Judaism, and Christianity to all get along. That makes many of us uncomfortable. Think of it this way. Judaism aside, if the Bible says that there is only one God and describes him in a specific way, and if the Quran says that there is only one God and describes him in a contradictory way, then both of these religions cannot be true. Truth becomes a meaningless term when we use it like this.

So is this what U2 is proclaiming when they call us to coexist? Here is the way their mantra gets expressed lyrically:

“Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, it’s true…All sons of Abraham…Father Abraham, look what you’ve done, You’ve pitted your son against your son, No more, no more, no more…”

In our postmodern world, it’s difficult to not take this as a proclamation that your truth is as good as mine, and that you can believe something contradictory to what I believe and we can both be right. And that may well be what U2 intends. If that’s the case, then I stand against U2 on this point.

But it’s also possible that Bono is simply saying that all of these religious beliefs are deeply held, and that we should not persecute those who disagree with us. If that’s the case, I’m with him.

For centuries Christians and Muslims have been killing one another, and everyone has been killing the Jews. That’s not right. But there have also been great moments in history where Christians have lived under Muslim rule or when Muslims have lived under Christian rule and things worked out peacefully. They found a way to “coexist,” if you will. So if U2 is calling us not to kill each other over religion, then I agree with them on this point.

(Part of me wishes they would be more clear on their meaning here, but I also believe that much of the power of art comes from ambiguity and indirection because it forces us to think more deeply.)

Let me be clear: when anyone—rockstar, president, pastor, spouse—goes against the truth, we reject the lie and call that person back to the truth.

U2 - Coexist2But let’s not stop there. Too often Christians don’t think beyond the presence of inaccuracy. Worse than that, Christians tend to freak out about ambiguity. Can we still get along with someone with whom we disagree? Can we still appreciate U2 and most of their message if we disagree with some of what they say?

I absolutely think we can. Even if U2 is getting it wrong with the coexist thing, I don’t think that makes them useless.

It’s not right of us to expect our musicians to be infallible. We’re all going to get things wrong, and none us is too important to have our errors seen for what they are and called to correction—rockstars not excepted. But Christians of all people should understand that God uses imperfect people to further his kingdom.

So I say listen to U2. But always do so with both appreciation and discernment. They may be leading people astray in some regards, but they are helping people think through some important issues in some other regards. And in reality, this is the case with all of us.

It’s okay if a band like U2 doesn’t complete the Great Commission single handedly. On the flipside, it would be a mistake to ignore the unique and significant contribution they have made toward helping people see truth and beauty. They can be helping the cause of Christ and still be imperfect.

Getting legitimately excited about U2 does not equal agreement with everything they say and do—past, present, and future. Where there is truth and beauty in their lives and in their music, let us affirm it. Where there are lies and ugliness in their lives and in their music, let us reject it and call them back.

Isn’t this the way we would want people to treat us, rockstar or no?

 

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Mark Beuving
Mark Beuving currently serves as Associate Pastor at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. Mark now teaches online adjunct for Eternity. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The word “Coexist” in no way implies that we have to agree with each other. I don’t think it has anything to do with whose belief is right or wrong. When taken literally, it simply suggests that we both allow the other to exist. In other words, “Don’t kill each other” (or perhaps more aptly put “Stop killing each other”). It is a message of peace, and that is a good thing. I believe that people who hear that sentiment and get defensive and angry and think that they’re being asked to adopt another religion are being prideful and taking it beyond what is intended.

  2. I agree with Justin. MAYBE Bono is using the symbol to promote a (new found) belief in pluralism rather than orthodox Christianity, which up until now he has embraced. Or, he’s just affirming the basic meaning of the word. Thus, he’d be challenging three monotheistic religions that have a horrific history of violence to live peaceably with each other. That’s all “Coexist” has to mean.

    Part of the problem may be that many American Christians don’t live in a context where coexisting with, say, Islam (and vice versa) is a daily concern. But in countries like Nigeria, Sudan, and, of course, Israel, getting Christians, Jews, and Muslims to coexist without killing each other is a serious goal–the word coexist in these context would not be taken, as we take it, to refer to universalism or the like.

    And syntactically, the “it’s true” fits better as pointing forward not backward; namely, affirming the truth that all three come from Abraham, not that all three are true. However, hasn’t Bono also said “all are true” instead of “it’s true?” I thought I saw that somewhere. This would be different.

    • Can I reply to my own comment?

      So, I cruised around the internet about whether Bono said “all true” or “it’s true,” and apparently it’s already been discussed. An author for Relevant magazine (Tara) who attended the concert where Bono said the mantra “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, it’s true…All sons of Abraham,” mistook Bono’s words to read “all true” and she published the article with this line. But it seems that she has since been corrected, that all Bono was advocating for was what Justin and I have said in these comments. It doesn’t seem that Bono was making a statement about the Soteriology of these three religions! At least not in this line.

      Here’s the Relevant Mag article; notice the magazine’s caveat at the beginning.

      http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/music/features/3252-how-to-dismantle-an-idolized-bono

  3. To me that lyric seems perfectly clear. The key is the pronoun “it’s”. Bono is saying “It’s true that all three of these people/groups are sons of Abraham”. Which of course is indeed true. That lyric says nothing about the truth of each of these three people/groups ways of looking at the world.

    Now if he’d said, “Jesus, Jews, Mohammed, they’re all true”, that’d be different.