E, a friend's daughter, and I attended Journey Community Church's Friday night service. Featured tonight was an exclusive video cast of an interview of Bono by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, a huge mega-church. The topic: "The Priority of the Poor." I felt rather guilty attending because I knew full well that a contingent of people from our own church, Lake Murray, were feeding the homeless in downtown San Diego at the very time of this service. Was I being a hearer of the Word, rather than a doer? That was only the beginning of the conviction I was to feel this night.
After singing some worship music, the video cast started off with concert footage of U2 from the Elevation tour. Bono is running around a heart-shaped catwalk that goes deep into the audience as he starts to sing "Where the Streets Have No Name," a vision of a beautiful Heaven. Then the video breaks to Bono at last year's National Prayer Breakfast, quoting from Isaiah 58 and the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Luke 4. The video then comes to the interview with the pastor. Bono talks about the One Campaign (www.one.org) and how although he has no issues with Jesus and His teachings, he has a huge problem with Christians, with the judgmentalism and hypocrisy he saw in the Church, how the Church was late on Civil Rights, on Apartheid, and now on AIDs and its prevention and annihilation.
He talked about his and Alli's first trip to Ethopia in 1985, working in an orphanage with World Vision. The innate dignity of this proud people, now queuing to beg for food, being slaughtered by preventable diseases like malaria. How could these beautiful people be starving in a world of plenty? Bono spent ten years trying to forget what he saw in Africa, but by 1998 he was ready to start "spending his celebrity" as a strategy for helping Africa. He got on board with DATA and the Jubilee project of debt-relief. Redemption is an economic term, after all.
Great ideas at the right time are like a great melody -- irresistible, says Bono. But the Church has been behindhand. AIDs is the leprosy of our time, and the Church has been judgmental about the AIDs crisis. "Love thy neighbor" Bono reminds us, is a command, not mere advice. In this global village, we all are neighbors and we simply can't ignore senseless starvation, illness, and death just because it's "over there." Nothing is "over there" anymore.
Bono also said that the part of the Lord's Prayer that really gets to him is "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH, as it is in Heaven." Heaven on earth. (A topic of several songs on his latest CDs.) Christians, says Bono, need to indeed have the peace that passes all understanding, yet also cannot live at peace with the world. The problems that we can fix, we should fix. He advises us all to work together, for the Christians to "chill out" and work side-by-side with people with whom they may not be comfortable. This is not a duty or a burden but an opportunity, an adventure, for the Church to lead the fight for life in Africa -- for the annihilation of malaria and AIDs and TB through education and cheap medications. It's our adventure: getting involved in helping our brothers and sisters in Africa as the journey of equality among all God's children moves on.
Throughout the video cast was sprinkled concert footage of "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "Beautiful Day," "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (with a gospel choir in a Harlem church), and finished up with the song that started the video: "Where the Streets Have No Name."
Provoking. Strategic. Wise. Passionate. Challenging. It's Bono's charge to the Church: get involved! We can't sit on the sidelines and allow suffering to go on while we do nothing. Are we sheep or goats in the final Judgment? Are we truly serving the "least of these"?