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We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2
Author: Greg Garrett
Publisher: Westminster John Knox
Length: 127pp (+ notes)

For me, the definitive work on U2 and spirituality is Steve Stockman’s Walk On , but Garrett has produced a readable and concise summary of their Christian position here. He is not trying to make a chronological history of the band, accenting their faith; rather he is showing in clear sections what Christians believe, and how U2’s words and lives fit squarely into those areas.

Sandwiched between an introduction and an afterword that must have been couriered to the publishers as soon as No Line on the Horizon came out, he divides his material simply into Belief, Communion and Social Justice (for those familiar with signs of a healthy church, he balances the ‘up, in and out’ aspects of the band). He also squeezes in a 2-page conclusion, summarizing what U2 believe into ‘Ten Spiritual Lessons,’ and each section has a playlist to compile for listening to while reading that section.

‘Belief’ is as much about theology as it is about U2. He systematically traces prayer, psalms of pain, and the Trinity through U2’s work and interviews, on the basis that once the reader understands these things -- and many may not be familiar with such concepts as Christians really understand them -­ then it is far easier to interpret the lyrics and see clearly that U2 are coming from a place of faith.

‘Communion’ deals with the struggles that U2 have had with the church over the years, moving from their sold-out charismatic experience with the Shalom fellowship and the point where their heavy shepherding nearly stopped the band from carrying on, through frustration and bypassing organized faith to the point where Bono is re-discovering the church as a place of both action and solace. It tackles the objection that Christians have sometimes held about the band’s lack of visible accountability or regular church. Garrett clearly believes that the fellowship within the band and its Christian contacts feeds them well in their faith.

He shows even more powerfully that the band’s outward direction, set out in ‘Social Justice,’ points the way for the wider church to live its faith, making a real difference to the world, rather than just holding out for heaven. Somewhat condescendingly, though correctly, he stresses that Christians are here to build God’s kingdom on Earth, not shrink away to a live lives restricted to ‘personal piety’ as he often puts it.

Garrett is a professor of English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church. He has written other books, tracing signs of faith through entertainment media. Like Philip Yancey, he has had unfortunate early experiences with the church, but unlike Yancey, seems not to have quite put those issues to bed. This is a minor objection, though, as this is more a matter of tone than content.

Overall, this is a highly readable work that knows the band and has been well researched, using the standard books and some well-selected interviews. He picks many of the obvious quotes, so readers who already have the U2 By U2 book, Bono on Bono ­ the conversations with Michka Assayas ­ and Stockman’s Walk On , will find little new here on the U2 front. However, it is an ideal work for those who want to see the vibrant stream of faith running through U2’s lives and work.

Derek Walker


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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