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John Wayne's Holster: Bono Leads at the National Prayer Breakfast
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Friday, February 03, 2006

Bono Leads at the National Prayer Breakfast



I usually don’t pay much attention to the National Prayer Breakfast. But this year, my curiosity was peaked when I heard that U2 front man, Bono, was the keynote speaker. So when I got home after work, I flipped on C-SPAN to catch his remarks. I have to admit, he caught me a bit off guard, as I am not used to hearing so-called “rock stars” express their faith in such a genuine and unashamed manner. He was appealing to politicians and the public to devote more funds to helping the world's poor. Below are a few excepts from his speech that I found quite profound and compelling. If you are interested, you can read the full transcript or watch it on video.

Here is a sampling of what Bono had to say....

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here—Muslims, Jews, Christians—all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God. I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God’s second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…

Even though I was a believer. Perhaps because I was a believer. I was cynical… not about God, but about God’s politics. Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick — my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world’s poorest people.

It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this… When he does, his first words are from Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,’ he says, ‘because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’ And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour, the year of Jubilee. What he was really talking about was an era of grace - and we’re still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate—in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn’t a bless-me club… it wasn’t a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions… making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people. But then my cynicism got another helping hand.

It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called A.I.D.S. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The one’s that didn’t miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children… Even fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.

Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself Judgmentalism is back! But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move. Mercy was on the move. God was on the move. Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…

And this wise man said: stop. He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing.
Get involved in what God is doing—because it’s already blessed. Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what He’s calling us to do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.

2 Comments:

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous brad said...

Where do amazing people like
Bono come from? We've all got reasons to flounder in mediocrity-whether is circumstances of birth, disease or bad luck. He had those reasons. But he's done so much more with his life and inspired millions along the way. Thanks for posting this. I really needed that kind of inspiration today.

 
At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Well said Brad. Like I said, Bono caught me off guard. I was not expecting that, although looking back on his activism and recalling the lyrics from "Unforgettable Fire" I guess I should have. I felt quite inspired watching him speak. I even put my banjo down and popped in my "Unforgettable Fire" CD.

 

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