Before judging U2 too harshly, it should be remembered that Bono has played a key role in funding and implementing life-saving AIDS initiatives in Africa, among other things. Further, that the band publicly retains its Christian identity is no act. Bono at least gave a startling interview to Irish broadcaster RTÉ a few years back in which he quite dramatically affirmed his belief in Jesus as the literal, miracle-performing son of God.
But if the band was flirting with a sophisticated level of self-awareness then, now it seems to be taking its place in a long line of pop culture figures who have followed the path of least resistance: to support what is culturally and politically convenient rather than speak the unchangeable truth. Killing a child in its mother’s womb is a horrifying practice, and that the state would sanction it should in no way assuage our consciences. As much as Christian forgiveness is freely given, there are still higher laws and divine authority that must be respected. If Bono and the rest of everyone’s favorite Christian rock band possess enough hubris to support the legalization of abortion in Ireland, maybe they really do think they can play God.
I’ve been a U2 fan since the early ’80s, and have winced at Bono’s righteous pose as a social activist, even when I’ve agreed with his cause. At a show in Philly back in 2011, I cringed as Bono led the audience in wishing Nelson Mandela a happy birthday. God bless Nelson Mandela, surely, but come on, this is a rock show. Had he led the stadium crowd in wishing happy birthday to the Baby Jesus, I still would have cringed at the moral showboating.
But that’s Bono. U2 fans are used to it. Besides, as Mark Hemingway says, Bono above all has used his celebrity to do real good in the world. You can’t take that away from him, and you shouldn’t want to.
I don’t think I’ll ever listen to U2’s music in the same way again. To be perfectly clear, I will listen to their music. I believe in the separation of politics and art. Knowing, though, that the band loaned its prestige to a cause that will result in more death for the unborn, and be a major milestone in the de-Christianization of Ireland — well, that’s a moral stain that can’t be removed. Some Christian U2 fans are angry about this. Me, I’m just sad. Really sad.