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This is War in the USA: Notes on 1969 and 2020

Contributed by Theodore Louis Trost, Professor in Religious Studies and New College, The University of Alabama

U2’s third album, War (1983), is conflict-ridden and war-torn. In this regard, it is not far removed from the conditions under which punk rock itself emerged. As Iggy Pop says on The Stooges’ eponymous first album: “This is 1969, OK? War across the USA.” Soon after Iggy uttered those words, four students were killed by national guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio, and two students were killed by the police near a dormitory off Lynch Street at Jacksonville State College in Mississippi. 

The sense of dread that provided an edge to the sonic explorations of proto-punk rockers like The Stooges also influenced U2’s formative years during the classic punk rock era. And now, well into the 21st century, a similar uneasiness hovers over American society, intensified by a world-wide pandemic. Perhaps once again, U2’s War provides a soundtrack for the times.

The multiple hostilities War explores are exemplified in the album’s opening track, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”  The title refers to the incident in Derry, Northern Ireland, when soldiers fired upon unarmed civilians engaged in a civil rights protest.

While that conflict centered on religious differences ostensibly summarized in the binary opposition of Protestant vs. Catholic, the phrase also echoes other “bloody Sundays,” including the racial strife in America typified by the brutal response of police in Alabama to marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

“How long must we sing this song?” Bono asks. This question, as old as the Psalms, returns on the album’s closing track “40.” In between, other songs of political strife impinge upon and shape the contours of romance and longing. 

“Refugee,” for example, introduces the tragedy of displacement, perhaps as the consequence of war, and the ensuing quest for refuge in the “promised land” of America. It is not clear, by the song’s last stanza, whether the refugee’s hope to live in America is satisfied.  But the fate of her 21st century counterpart is less in doubt: walls are being constructed to keep her out.

“New Year’s Day” depicts the struggle for solidarity in the face of seemingly intractable social polarizations; it juxtaposes the labor union cause with the desire of two lovers for union, affirming: “Though torn in two, we can be one.”

Then, in “Two Hearts Beat as One,” the beatings inflicted upon innocents caught up in political conflicts (as suggested by the martial-style drumbeats that characterize Larry Mullen Jr.’s playing on this particular album) are transformed into the singular heartbeat of lovers caught up in the dance. 

“I will begin again,” Bono sings on “New Year’s Day.”  This new year’s resolution is held in tension, as the album concludes with the song “40.” The singer wrestles with a wearying inheritance, wondering: “how long to sing THIS song?” In response, a counter-chorus appears: “I will sing a new song.”  

This kind of conviction, this “way out of no way,” is the exodus Martin Luther King Jr., pointed to from the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery at the end of the march that had begun in Selma. 

“How long?” King asked rhetorically. He answered, “Not long!” and provided a series of justifications for that sentiment.

But, to paraphrase Iggy: “This is 2020, OK? War across the USA.” And while camouflaged federal troops patrol the streets of Portland, and while the “Wall of Moms”  and “Naked Athena” appear before them in protest, War leaves the listener dangling between the resolution to sing a new song and that relentless question that lingers as the album slowly fades away: “How long?”

One hopes for King’s “Not long” while calling out, “Too long!”

Guardian News/YouTube

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Would you like to contribute to the U2 Studies Network? We’d love to feature your short commentary or essay of 300 words or less on our 2020 conference theme of U2 and America. Or, make a short audio or video comment of around 2 minutes if you’re not the writing type.

We’re looking for personal narratives, updates on your U2 research, reflections on a U2 song you just listened to, a book you just read or reactions to current events. Just keep it focused on you, U2 and America.

Contact us here for more details on how to make your contribution.  


We have so many ways for scholars, students and fans to be on the completely virtual international U2 Conference program for 2020. Read about the theme of Heartland: U2’s Looking For American Soul and then please see our calls for more details on how to submit a proposal:

The deadline for proposals for presentations and fan participation is August 31, 2020, and the deadline for proposals from musicians is Sept. 15, 2020.

Submission details are at the links above. All presenters accepted for the program will receive a discount on what will be a modest registration fee.


In The Year Of Election, U2 Wants You To Vote Baby

Contributed by Sherry Lawrence, Staff Writer and podcast contributor, atu2.com

A 1992 U2 ZooTV tourbook with Rock the Vote messaging, Vote Baby pin and Votes for Women pin. Image contributed by Sherry Lawrence.

It was 100 years ago today (August 18) that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing and protecting women’s right to vote. It took more than 70 years to get the nation to that point in 1920. Even then, though, many Americans, male and female, still weren’t able to vote, as various restrictions prohibited Asian Americans, Native Americans and Black Americans from casting their ballots.

A century later, women in the United States — especially women of color and those from disadvantaged backgrounds — still struggle to exercise their voting rights. This is documented in Stacey Abrams’ 2020 book Our Time Is Now, highlighting the many ways voter suppression is still prevalent in the United States.

U2 took Americans’ rights to vote very seriously during the 1992 ZooTV tour. Before the concerts, crew members handed out “Vote Baby” bumper stickers and pins. The band’s dressing room was decked out in “Vote Baby” messaging during the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.

The tour book included an action postcard for Rock the Vote as well: “It’s 1992. ARE U READY 2 ROCK?” For the band’s 1992 ZooTV Outside Broadcast stadium shows, the concerts began with EBN’s footage of President George H.W. Bush “rapping” “We Will Rock You.”

Bono also made it a point to call the White House every night, dressed as the Mirrorball Man, trying to speak with Bush.

Some might say U2 swayed some voters in 1992 as a result. At Bill Clinton’s inauguration, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton joined Michael Stipe and Mike Mills for MTV’s inaugural ball as the mega band Automatic Baby to perform “One.”

Fast-forward to 2016. U2 performs “Desire” at the iHeartRadio Music festival as Donald Trump asks, “What have you got to lose?” and Bono answers, “Everything.” The message is more blunt a few weeks later at Salesforce’s DreamFest event. That evening’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” performance included a lengthy plea to voters on what was at stake in the election.

In the spirit of 2018’s #WomenOfTheWorldTakeover, 2020 is an important year for the United States. Women across the country are mobilizing to get out the vote. History was made when California Sen. Kamala Harris was chosen as the Democratic nominee for vice president.

Although it is still unclear whether U2 will use its SiriusXM channel, U2XRadio, to mobilize the vote, history has shown U2 has the capacity to comment in the year of election.


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Would you like to contribute to the U2 Studies Network? We’d love to feature your short commentary or essay of 300 words or less on our 2020 conference theme of U2 and America. Or, make a short audio or video comment of around 2 minutes if you’re not the writing type.

We’re looking for personal narratives, updates on your U2 research, reflections on a U2 song you just listened to, a book you just read or reactions to current events. Just keep it focused on you, U2 and America.

Contact us here for more details on how to make your contribution.  


We have so many ways for scholars, students and fans to be on the completely virtual international U2 Conference program for 2020. Read about the theme of Heartland: U2’s Looking For American Soul and then please see our calls for more details on how to submit a proposal:

The deadline for proposals for presentations and fan participation is August 31, 2020, and the deadline for proposals from musicians is Sept. 15, 2020.

Submission details are at the links above. All presenters accepted for the program will receive a discount on what will be a modest registration fee.


Deep Roots Grow Optimism for America

Contributed by Monica Moser. Monica majored in political science in college and is constantly keeping watch over events that impact America and the world. She’s been a U2 fan for 20 years and they are a constant source of inspiration for her.

U2’s roots in America run deep – maybe not as deep as in Ireland, but the band has had a profound impact on this nation. I’m so happy I found a band whose members feel the same hunger for justice and peace that I do.

From writing about Martin Luther King Jr. in “Pride (In the Name of Love),” to performing on the Conspiracy of Hope tour for Amnesty International during the summer of ’86, they’ve never shied away from standing up for what they believe in.

Their song “Bullet the Blue Sky” was at that point their most blatant diatribe against unwise American foreign policy, and its words ring as true today as they did back then.

U2 were pivotal in the Jubilee Drop the Debt campaign in 2000, and Bono has shown time and time again his willingness to work across the political aisle to fight for the world’s poor. He used his talent of persuasion to convince U.S. President George Bush to start what became known as PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which to this day has saved 18 million lives.

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, U2 reached out to America as part of the Tribute to Heroes benefit concert. Their performance of “Walk On” is forever etched in my heart — it was my first time seeing them perform, and started my love affair with this wonderful band.

Their performance at the Super Bowl halftime show was even more stunning and heartfelt.

Their participation in the ONE campaign has been essential to securing support for this global movement to end extreme poverty and preventable disease.

America is going through treacherous times right now, and her very soul is at stake, but with the right guidance this country is capable of incredible things.

Bono stated recently that “America might be the greatest song that the world has never heard.” U2 haven’t given up on the idea of what America can be, and neither can we.


An Unforgettable Fire 75 Years Ago; America’s “Thin-Threaded” Power Still Today

Contributed by Dr. Timothy D. Neufeld, a marriage and family therapist in Fresno, CA, and an adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific University. He is the author of U2: Rock ’n’ Roll to Change the World along with numerous academic and popular essays on the intersection of U2 and pop culture. He hosts an innovative online chat community called The Crystal Ballroom and invites you to follow him on Twitter and Periscope at @timneufeld.

August 6, 1945. Hiroshima. Eighty thousand people killed in a flash.

August 9, 1945. Nagasaki. Forty thousand lives unmade in seconds.

In the days and months following the dropping of two atomic bombs by the United States 75 years ago this month, tens of thousands of Japanese died of radiation exposure, while hundreds of thousands faced severe complications from nausea, bleeding, and cancer. In Hiroshima, two-thirds of the buildings were destroyed, and most medical personnel were killed in the collapse of hospitals. Nagasaki’s heavy industrial complexes, as well as schools, churches and other services were obliterated.

America is the only country to unleash the horror of nuclear warfare. The U.S. created the term “ground zero” as a way of identifying the site of detonation. History’s telling of that event is contentious. Was it necessary to end a world war? Or, was it an act of singular barbarism?

In 1983, U2 stepped into Chicago’s Peace Museum to see an exhibit featuring artwork of blast survivors. The display, taken from a book of the same name, was titled “Unforgettable Fire.”

It’s here the Irish quartet found the heartbeat for its next album. Bono later recalled: “The images from the paintings and some of the writings stained me, I couldn’t get rid of them.”

Reflecting on that moment of America’s unprecedented use of nuclear weapons, psychoanalyst Carl Jung famously stated: “The world hangs on a thin thread, and that is the psyche of man.”

U2’s The Unforgettable Fire teases out that thread, reminding our collective soul of both the power of the American spirit — as particularly championed by Martin Luther King, Jr — and its potential for death and destruction. With prescient clarity, U2 continues to call out the protester and the patriot in each of us. The band’s reflection on Hiroshima and Nagasaki warns us that peace is fragile and a responsibility of all.

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Browse through the Unforgettable Fire: Drawings by Atomic Bomb Survivors to experience what U2 drew inspiration from in 1983.


The Garden Tarts Ask: Is America Torn in Ribbons and Bows?

Contributed by the Garden Tarts

Hello from the Garden Tarts. We are Hillary and Jenny and we’ve been bestest friends for over 25 years. Our favorite thing to do is talk U2, so we thought we’d do it with you!

In 2019, we discussed The Joshua Tree Sides A and B in two episodes. We are excited to share a clip of our chat about “In God’s Country” from our “Joshua Tree, Side B” episode, where we wonder if Bono had a vision warning him of the siren call of America?

Hear the entire episode on your favorite podcast player or right here on our site.

Hang out with us on our U2 podcasts as we talk about albums, tours and our various U2-related adventures with a whole lot of opinion peppered with dashes of facts. Also, we might be drinking whiskey … you’ll have to listen to find out.


Listen to Bono: Movement as Metaphor for a More Peaceable America

Contributed by Steven Croft, a lifelong U2 fan

My first U2 show was on the Unforgettable Fire tour at the Jacksonville Coliseum in Florida in 1985. I had been listening to their albums over and over for years. Back then, Elvis Costello could make me laugh, a lot; me, who didn’t laugh a lot, because I knew how bad the world was. Back then, U2 could make me hope, a lot; me, who didn’t hope a lot, because I knew how bad the world was.

U2 came loud and with aggression, but they knew that to make the world better, one must make friends with — out of — enemies. They came singing the lessons of MLK, bearing the wisdom of Nelson Mandela.

We were eager, too. Before the ’85 show, we were packed at the stage barrier. The fire marshal came out to say, “Take three steps back or I’ll cancel the show.”  

No sir. If anything, we moved closer.

Bono then came out and said, “Everyone, listen to this man, move back.”

Somehow, he made us do it to be nice to the fire marshal. The shouts went out in the crowd to move back and we did.

When I watched U2 play “Get Out of Your Own Way” for the 60th Grammys, I felt Bono was speaking to the crowd that is America. Like “Born in the USA,” if you listen past the energy of the lyrics to what the songs are saying, you can hear both U2 and Springsteen’s “ethos”-themed anthems sing of their longtime love-examine relationship with America.

“Get Out of Your Own Way” was telling us what was wrong with America. U2 told us with aggression, but also with hope, and the wisdom of Mandela. I could just feel that we, the crowd, once again were listening, knowing we should all be nice to each other.

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Would you like to contribute to the U2 Studies Network? We’d love to feature your short commentary or essay of 300 words or less on our 2020 conference theme of U2 and America. Or, make a short audio or video comment of around 2 minutes if you’re not the writing type.

We’re looking for personal narratives, updates on your U2 research, reflections on a U2 song you just listened to, a book you just read or reactions to current events. Just keep it focused on you, U2 and America.

Contact us here for more details on how to make your contribution.  


Please see our Call for Presentations and our Call for Fan Participation for how you can be on the U2 Conference 2020 program. We hope you’ll join us as we examine U2’s place, space and sound in the American experiment.


The Goal For American Soul

Contributed by Sherry Lawrence, Staff Writer and podcast contributor, atu2.com
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During “Pride (In the Name of Love” on U2’s 2005’s Vertigo tour, Bono asked concertgoers to “sing for Dr. King,” which connected with a major theme of the tour’s second half: “The journey of equality moves on.”

Respecting equal rights requires an acknowledgment of an individual’s humanity. If we are indeed created equal under the eyes of God, as Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about, then what differentiates us visually, philosophically, emotionally, linguistically or relationally should not make one person more important or powerful than another. To respect someone’s humanity is to respect their place in the eyes of God.

It goes beyond humanity, however; it goes straight to the soul. Bono’s Irish Falcon Gretsch guitar famously has engraved on it “The Goal Is Soul.” That tagline is heard in “Beautiful Day.”

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In “Yahweh,” Bono sings, “Take this soul, stranded in some skin and bones. Take this soul and make it sing.” The soul is the most intimate, sacred space we have as humans.

In America, the nation’s soul is suffering. As a citizen, I see how our country is being divided across every feasible data point, representing a person whose humanity is being put into question. For a country that Bono has loved so deeply and opined often about, especially in “American Soul,” we are being challenged. 

Can we look past the division? Can we see the humanity? As the chorus of “Invisible” goes: “I’m more than you know. A body and soul. You don’t see me but you will, I am not Invisible. I am here.”

U2 challenges us to find a way to get America’s soul singing again. Then maybe, just maybe, that journey of equality can get back on track as we acknowledge each other’s humanity.


Would you like to contribute to the U2 Studies Network? We’d love to feature your short commentary or essay of 300 words or less on our 2020 conference theme of U2 and America. Or, make a short audio or video comment of around 2 minutes if you’re not the writing type.

We’re looking for personal narratives, updates on your U2 research, reflections on a U2 song you just listened to, a book you just read or reactions to current events. Just keep it focused on you, U2 and America.

Contact us here for more details on how to make your contribution.  


Please see our Call for Presentations and our Call for Fan Participation for how you can be on the U2 Conference 2020 program. We hope you’ll join us as we examine U2’s place, space and sound in the American experiment.


WITH “AHIMSA,” U2 FINDS ITS ANCIENT-MODERN HOME / Timothy D. Neufeld


With “Ahimsa,” U2 Finds Its Ancient-Modern Home
Timothy D. Neufeld
November 25, 2019

“Ahimsa,” the new single from U2, in collaboration with India’s A.R. Rahman, is a powerhouse of understatement. Deceptively simple, it goes much deeper than its catchy synthpop melodies and gentle, straightforward chordal progressions. This lullaby for India deserves a closer look.

In the chorus, Bono sings, “This is an invitation / To a high location / For someone who wants to belong.” (Listen to the whole song here.)

With that, the listener is summoned into a whirling kaleidoscope of philosophy, faith, and ancient sacred writings. There is a meditation in the midst of a culture clash, and it is rich, with influences going back to U2’s beginning, and beyond.

Through Martin Luther King Jr.

It was Jim Henke who gave a copy of Stephen B. Oates’ Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to Bono, which in turn became the impetus for “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Recalling that period, Bono told Michka Assayas in 2005, “We became students of nonviolence, of Martin Luther King’s thinking.” Reflecting on similarities between America’s civil rights movement and the Troubles in Ireland, in another 2005 interview, with Jann Wenner for Rolling Stone, Bono recounted, “We had discovered nonviolence and Martin Luther King, not just in relation to his use of the Scriptures and his church background, but also as a solution to the Irish problems.”

There is no mistaking the impact of King on U2’s music and mission. The Vertigo Tour in 2005 referenced King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech as the band segued from “Pride” into “Where the Streets Have No Name.” With a choir of “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” encircling him, Bono reminded the audience, “Not just an American dream. Or an Asian dream. Or a European dream. Also, an African dream.”

During the recent Experience + Innocence Tour, U2 again featured “Pride.” As Bono yelled through the megaphone, “This is not America,” jarring pictures of white supremacist rallies suddenly morphed into footage of King marching with his supporters, carrying signs reading “We Shall Overcome,” with Bono screaming, “THIS IS AMERICA!”

And on the 30-year anniversary of the Joshua Tree Tour (both the 2017 and 2019 versions), the band launched into a live performance of the iconic album with the text of King’s Dream speech superimposed over the final notes of “Pride.”

From Mahatma Gandhi

As much as King has influenced the heart and soul of U2, the civil rights activist himself was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian reformer who led a nonviolent revolution against the British Empire in the first half of the twentieth century.

In his essay “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” King recalled:

Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. Love, for Gandhi, was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking for so many months.

King continued:

My study of Gandhi convinced me that true pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent resistance to evil. Between the two positions, there is a world of difference. Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister, but he resisted with love instead of hate.

In Gandhi’s defiance of British rule, he drew upon the concept of ahimsa. This ancient ideal is a foundational virtue in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Its literal meaning is “non-injury.” (As himsa means “injury” or “harm,” a-himsa means the opposite). In English, the sense of the virtue comes across best as “non-harm” or “nonviolence.” But the concept goes deeper: ahimsa also refers to an active presence that honors all life and seeks to “cause no injury” to anyone or anything. More than just the absence of violence, ahimsa is a call to practice harmonious living with all things, quite like the Jewish notion of shalom.

In his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi explained:

Ahimsa is a comprehensive principle. … A votary of ahimsa therefore remains true to his faith if the spring of all his actions is compassion, if he shuns to the best of his ability the destruction of the tiniest creature, tries to save it, and thus incessantly strives to be free from the deadly coil of himsa. He will be constantly growing in self-restraint and compassion ….

Gandhi believed that an act of violence would rebound back on the perpetrator of that violence. Even the act of harvesting or killing one’s food damages the whole of creation and the soul of the individual, though its impact is small. Hence, Gandhi’s great respect for all living things.

Ultimately, the ahimsa ethic translates into an idea that seems contradictory for many Westerners: Gandhi could both love and resist the British enemy. But he explained in his autobiography how he resolved this paradox:

This ahimsa is the basis of the search for truth. I am realizing every day that the search is vain unless it is founded on ahimsa as the basis. It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. For we are all tarred with the same brush, and are children of one and the same Creator, and as such the divine powers within us are infinite. To slight a single human being is to slight those divine powers, and thus to harm not only that being but with him the whole world.

To India’s Ancient Tirukkural

In U2’s only new song of 2019, the band offers a tune drawing on the best of what King and Gandhi advocated. But, again, we must go beyond its surface to fully hear it.

In a video on YouTube produced by Aneez Basheer, the Indian filmmaker’s daughter, Aasiya, explains the rich context and profound significance ahimsa has for the people of India. The song begins with the daughters of A.R. Rahman singing two distinct phrases from the Tirukkuṛaḷ, a highly revered sacred text in Tamil culture dating back two millennia. (The text’s shorter name is the Kural.)

Basheer gives an important clue for understanding the Kural, noting its couplets have four words in the first lines and three in the second. Translation into English presents the impossible task, then, of capturing both the meaning and structure of the original lines in Tamil.

செய்யாமல் செற்றார்க்கும் இன்னாத செய்தபின்
உய்யா விழுமந் தரும்

பிறர்க்கின்னா முற்பகல் செய்யின் தமக்குஇன்னா
பிற்பகல் தாமே வரும்

Discussing the children’s chorus that opens “Ahimsa,” Basheer cites a chapter titled “Not Doing Evil,” where we find the first lyric of U2’s song in Kural 313,

Seyyaamal setraarkkum innaadha seydhapin
Uyyaa vizhumanh tharum.

The Himalayan Academy, in Weaver’s Wisdom: Ancient Precepts for a Perfect Life, translates this couplet as:

Harming others, even enemies who harmed you unprovoked,
Surely brings incessant sorrow.

The second lyric the children sing in “Ahimsa” is:

Pirarkkinnaa murpakal seyyin thamakkuinnaa
Pirpakal thaamae varum

Which translates in English as:

If a man visits sorrow on another in the morning,
Sorrow will visit him unbidden in the afternoon.

In a personal interview with Basheer, the video producer told me how difficult it is to translate ancient Tamil into modern English, which explains the many variant translations of the text floating around the internet. “I saw so many articles and people talking about what kind of lyrics U2 was using; we put that video together to explain the chorus,” Basheer said.

“Tamils are very proud of their language and its ancient literature. This chorus is definitely a big treat for Tamils (who live in Tamilnadu, a state in India),” Basheer added.

I asked him what he thought of U2’s choice to sing about ahimsa, to which he replied: “Ahimsa is like a trademark for India. India got its freedom from the British through nonviolence, which is ahimsa.”

And Back to U2

Much more could be said about the song “Ahimsa.” The rabbit hole is deep.

As a matter of intertextuality, many of U2’s other songs contain themes similar to “Ahimsa.” Notions of the sky being opened in some form or another appear in “Window in the Sky,” “Bullet the Blue Sky,” “In God’s Country,” and “Electrical Storm.”

Bono has often sung of the beginning of the world or of being born, as in “Magnificent,” “The Crystal Ballroom,” “Yahweh,” “All Because of You,” and “Lights of Home.”

The idea of “no weeping” goes back to “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “A Sort of Homecoming,” and “Running to Stand Still,” as well as the newer “American Soul.”

And certainly, “Ahimsa” has a general vibe similar to a popular track from Songs of Experience, “Love is Bigger than Anything in its Way.”

There are also biblical references which resonate strongly with ahimsa, as found in Gandhi, King, and the Kural. Jesus’ Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 contain some rich likenesses: “Blessed are the poor,” “Blessed are the meek,” “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “Do not resist an evil person,” and, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The general optimism of “Ahimsa,” as it looks forward to a time without evil, feels very near to the closing chapters of the Bible.  Revelation 21 and 22 describe a heavenly dwelling “where there is no weeping” and “where there is no sleeping.” It is an idyllic place of harmony among all people groups.

As U2 prepares to play its first concert ever in India on December 15, 2019, “Ahimsa” showcases the band’s longstanding cultural awareness once again. In a sense, U2 is coming home to a place they have never been.

In a recent press release, Bono said,

We come as students to the source of inspiration. That is ahimsa… non-violence. India gave this to us… the greatest gift to the world. It is more powerful than nuclear energy, the armies, the navies, the British Empire. It is power itself. And it’s never been more important.

Equally anticipating their journey, Edge agreed:

India has been on our bucket list for a very long time; the principles of ahimsa or non-violence have served as an important pillar of what our band stands for since we first came together to play music. We can’t wait to experience the culture of India firsthand, a place that brings together the modern and the ancient all at once.

Ahimsa is the stuff of Adam, Larry, Bono, and Edge’s DNA. From the Tirukkuṛaḷ to the Bible to Gandhi to King, the theme of active peacemaking resounds in U2’s music and mission. The message of the new song is a sacred one, extending far beyond the transmission of radio waves and music videos. It is an ethic of love by which any one of us can choose to live.


If you want to know more about U2’s song “Ahimsa,” consult these great resources:

Also, check out A.R. Rahmen’s music, which is thematically relevant and visually stunning.



© Timothy D. Neufeld, 2019

Dr. Timothy D. Neufeld teaches at Fresno Pacific University in the biblical and religious studies department in Fresno, CA. He is the author of U2: Rock ‘n’ Roll to Change the World as well as numerous academic and popular essays on the intersection of U2 and pop culture. He hosts an innovative online chat community called The Crystal Ballroom and invites you to follow him on Twitter and Periscope at @timneufeld. Tim is currently completing a second masters degree, this time in marriage and family therapy.

“The God I Believe In Isn’t Short Of Cash, Mister”: Bono’s Timeless Exposé

Edge and Bono performing on the Joshua Tree tour at the St. Paul Civic Center in 1987. Photo credit: Joey McLeister, StarTribune/Minnesota Historical Society

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 NewsHillstreet 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

                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U2 Conference logo and site design by Beth Nabi.