Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bible Stories: 40

U2: 40

Raised as the child of UCC (United Church of Christ) missionaries in a Moslem country where proselytizing was a crime, I come at religion from a different perspective. (Don’t we all?) I haven’t had much to do with formal religion for nigh on 40 years, but I did get a healthy dose of Protestant ethics and teachings in my childhood. And although I hardly ever even make it to Christmas Eve services any more, I still consider myself to have a religion. However, in the words of Taj Mahal: “ain’t nobody’s business but my own.”

We (Christians, Moslems, Jews) learn about a man called David (lived ~ 1000 BCE), who sang and played the harp for Saul when he was feeling blue (1 Samuel,16:23). This is the same David who killed Goliath - see Any Major Dude’s comments about the God of the Old Testament. Various biblical studies comment on David’s musical proclivity: it is partly through references to him/his singing that we know about singing as a part of worship. He is credited with writing almost half of the Psalms. There are references to his “crying” his songs that make me reflect on how the Moslem imam/pastor cries out (actually: sings) the call to prayer 5 times a day.

I noted above that we all come to our religion from different places. U2’s Bono is well known for his charitable work – a “sure sign” of religiosity. My research notes that his dad was Catholic but his stronger childhood religious influence was from his mom, an Anglican. However, like myself, his religion is personal. He says:

I'm a believer, but religion is the thing when God, like Elvis, has left the building. But when God is in the house, you get something else.

In his introduction to Canongate’s Pocket Canon printing of Psalms, he further explains:

Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma, and love will replace the very strict laws of Moses (in other words, fulfill them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort.

The lyrics of 40 from U2’s War album (1983), like numerous other U2 songs, include overt biblical references. In the Bible, Psalm 40 says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth …” U2 sings, “He lift me up out of the pit, out of the miry clay.. He set my feet upon a rock, and made my footsteps firm …”

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