Today I finally saw the DVD many have been “all the rave” about since August: Bill Hybel’s interview with Bono. Honestly, I prayed very hard about this because 1) I just don’t get that excited about the rock music scene anymore; 2) Bill Hybels and Willow Creek don’t exactly “drop my anchor;” 3) I had to. It was shown in our Chapel service.
Before going in, I prayed that God would give me discernment. The sequence was introduced with the encouragement to “engage the mind” and “listen critically.” Right away I could not help but think, “obviously there are some elements contained herein the school does NOT endorse. Why carry on?” Nevertheless, carry on we did.
Historically, Bono and I go way back. About two years before GTR made their ripple in the pond of music, U2 was dropped in my lap by a friend who told me, “Check this Irish band out. They’re Christian!” I listened. I listened again. And again. “Ok, I think I hear something Christian,” I remember thinking; but, I wasn’t able to decipher the politics and the nationalism from the religion in their music then. Years go by and I see U2 and Bono surface here and there—LiveAid and whatnot. I read in the papers and heard on the news of his vulgarisms (F*** the Revolution) and the tight-fisted defiance in the face of authority, not to forget his stage persona (“the devil”) and involvements with the IRA. I wrote them off as another former-Christian band. But Bono kept surfacing.
I was gravely concerned when I heard that Bono was going to be interviewed by Hybels for The Summit conference this last year and that our students were going to be exposed to . . . whatever was on his mind. I wrote a letter to our president expressing some concerns, and included my doubts as to what Christian leadership had to learn from this man. My letter was well received, but the answers mostly fell on me: “did you see the interview?” Well, today I have the answer.
Today I heard a concerned man (who doesn’t seem to offend anyone) share his heart. I heard him say the church is behind and is not doing a good job taking care of people. I agree. Matter of fact, I’ve said for years that if the western church was doing its’ job the welfare system would be obsolete. I heard him say we need to be proactive in health-care. I agree as well! The complete work of Christ has far-reaching implications.
But that’s about all I could agree with.
I heard him say that all people are the same. Yes, we are. But we are not. People of the world do not have the same Father. Jesus made that clear. I cannot agree with Bono and the video clip they did NOT show of him chanting “Muhammed, Buddah, Jesus!” Why not? I mean, this is the voice of Bono Vox (“good voice!”), right?
I heard him say we live under the principle of Karma: what you give out, you get back. I also heard him say that he did not like that concept, but he could not get away from it.
I heard him say we live in a dualistic world and that grace is that “area in-between” that helps dualism make sense. Those pages in my Bible must be stuck together . . .
I heard him say that eternal judgment is not a game and should be taken very seriously. But is judgment averted and salvation achieved through our good works, like feeding the hungry and healing the sick? I heard him put his hope in God’s grace. Franciscan? Yes. Biblical? Hardly. It doesn’t take much to realize that the salvation he is concerned about is selfish—help others in their plight, find God and get into heaven. Is that what its’ all about? What about getting them into heaven?
In another interview he waxed religious and talked about how God saves us from our s**t (why he can’t say “sin” is beyond me—actually I think I know). Nothing about repentance today. Nothing about the atonement of Christ today. Nothing about the glorious appearing.
He talked about getting to know Christ through getting closer to the poor, where one finds God in the silence and suffering. What about the Bible? What about prayer? What about fellowship of the church? I heard him say he did not like the church, but then he does . . . ? I heard him say that heaven is on earth and it is our responsibility to bring the kingdom.
Speaking of Christ, he admitted Jesus as the Son of God, but said nothing of His Lordship. Said nothing of his power. Said nothing of what is to come.
I’ll be blunt. I believe a day will come (we may not live to see it) when this nation will be reduced to 3rd world conditions due to natural disaster that will be exploited by international terrorists. Guess who will be hurting the most? Those who are not accustomed to living in those conditions. And who will be ahead of the game? Those who are already living in those conditions.
What about those Biblical passages that show us the end times? Everyone will NOT eat, food will be not only scarce, but of such high value it is almost unattainable. What about the currency and the trade and the mark of the beast and the mark of God? What about the anti-Christ who brings peace and prosperity and unity . . .
Someone wanted to know if I enjoyed chapel. The chapel was thought-provoking.
Before you get on my case about anything, you need to know that I have 8 people under my roof that live on the income of a family of 3. I’ve been homeless before. I know what’s out there. I’ve been “stupid poor.”
Join me on a bench downtown and let’s talk to the folks who walk by . . . people who know where to get free food, free clothes, have lots of time on their hands to develop bad theology . . . people who need the system and those who know how to see the world for free . . .
My wife and I manage a food bank, an agency of America’s Second Harvest. The agency is volunteer driven and operates on donations. We moved over 45,000 pounds of food since this time last year. We know about hunger. We know about debt. We know about poverty. And we also know what charitable giving is like. And we’ve seen what God can do.
But Bono can’t fix the world. He would sooner give his sunglasses to the Pope than sell a pair to buy food, or relieve someone’s debt. He basically said so when he admitted he was “living high” and was not about to let it go . . . and the Pope does have a pair of his shades.
So I have to ask: “Christian leader, what did I learn?”
I learned that Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision is also Nelson Mandela’s and somehow they both join God where He is already at work. What kind of work? Hard to say, but He is at work and He is where I am, if I am in the middle of it all.
I learned that one can be creative with language, depending on the audience. I must try harder to be culturally relevant. I just have to cut “hell” out of my ministry-talk to be less offensive and say that instead of Jesus dying for my sins He died for my . . . Sorry. I can’t do it.
I learned that I need to move my assets to a tax shelter in the Netherlands to keep other people from getting to my money . . .
I learned that I can hope I am doing enough to escape judgment. Are you? We could use some help down at the food bank . . . Maybe I’ll change the name from “Koinonia Food Bank” to “Judgment House.”
I also learned from Bill Hybels that I can smile and nod my head in silent amens while listening to a newly ordained preacher of a churchless church, being motivated with good ideas and no gospel at all.
Oswald Chambers wrote, "The type of Christian experience in the New Testament is that of personal passionate devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ. Every other type of Christian experience, so called, is detached from the Person of Jesus. There is no regeneration, no being born again into the Kingdom in which Christ lives, but only the idea that He is our Pattern. In the New Testament Jesus Christ is Saviour long before He is Pattern. To-day He is being despatched as the Figurehead of a Religion, a mere Example. He is that, but He is infinitely more; He is salvation itself, He is the Gospel of God. "