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Bono & Jesus

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The following interview took place in March of 2004. 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 …
By Seth Barnes

The following interview took place in
March of 2004.

bonoBono: 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
[sighs]
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.

What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and
love”?

Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a
picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept
the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a
lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of
God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the
way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian
conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern
father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some
strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship,
for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical
relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus
who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like
Elvis, has left the building.
[laughs] A list of instructions where
there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation
led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing
discipleship.

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.

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

Bono: But 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.

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 mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of
Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about
earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews”
on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going:
OK,
martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it.
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 …

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