Last week, the New York Times Magazine reported its major exposé How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online, which has several observations and explanations that overlap with Adam Laats’ new, insightful study Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education (Oxford UP, 2018). As good as the NYT’s reporting was, Laats still picked up on What They Missed About Liberty Online.
Last month, I was invited to write about U2’s critique of fundamentalism and the religious appeal U2 has for many fans — specifically evangelical American Christians — by the blog Righting America at the Creation Museum. Bloomsbury had just published U2 and The Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher, a contributed collection of essays I had edited, and the idea was to elaborate on Randall J. Stephens’ statement in an interview he gave to the RACM blog that “[i]n some ways Bono is a kind of patron saint” for a new generation of evangelicals who have turned from “red-meat conservative issues” toward wanting to be more culturally and socially aware Christians. Stephens’ had recently published The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘N’ Roll (Harvard UP, 2018) and his Part One and Part Two interviews are wonderful.
Rather than summarizing my RACM posts here, I’ll point you to read “U2 and the Limits of Fundamentalism” Part One and Part Two, in which I mentioned Bono’s commentary on the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. when performing U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” on the Joshua Tree tour in 1987. All this to say, when it comes to exposing flock-fleecing fundamentalists, even though Bono said it over 30-years ago I think he’s still said it best:
I can’t tell the difference between ABC News, Hillstreet Blues and a preacher on the Old-Time Gospel Hour stealing money from the sick and the old. Well, the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.
— Scott Calhoun