Wednesday 6 June 2018

'I still haven't found what I'm looking for'

‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’

Chances are you’ll have heard the above lyric and may even be able to hum the tune.  Thirty-one years ago, the song reached number 6 in the UK singles chart and number 1 in the US.  It’s been ubiquitous in radio playlists ever since.

Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr: collectively known as the band ‘U2’, whose album ‘The Joshua Tree’ included this song.   
Image result for joshua tree u2But wait a minute: what do they mean they still haven’t found what they are looking for?  Aren’t they meant to be a Christian band?  Those were the questions circulating among the festival goers of Greenbelt back in 1987.  After all, Bono had announced in U2’s impromptu performance there in 1981, that they came because they felt the Lord was telling them to.  Subsequent songs seemed to back up that status as a Christian band: ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ with its intent to ‘claim the victory Jesus won’; ‘40’, Bono’s take on Psalm 40; and ‘Pride (In the name of love)’, though more obscure in its references, alluded to Jesus with its line, ‘One man came he to justify’.  For Bono, the band’s usual lyricist, to declare ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ seemed like a betrayal of the faith.  Many Christian young people – evangelical Christians at least – felt that the band was backsliding. I recall one incensed letter – I think it was to ‘21stCentury Christian’ magazine – that castigated Bono and urged him, in as many words, to pull himself together!

What are we to make of the band’s faith, both then and now?  The truth is that U2 has never set out to be a Christian band.  Rather, they are a band whose music and lyrics are influenced by the Christian faith of three of them.  Adam Clayton is the one band member who has followed more of a typical ‘Rock’n’Roll’ lifestyle, although there are signs these days of his own sympathy for the Christian faith.  Like anyone (like me, anyway) growing into adult years with religious beliefs, they have embraced certainty and doubt at different times, and maybe at the same time.  They have explored faith through music and like many artists, they have left a deliberate ambiguity.  It is not up to the band to tell their fans what to believe, but they provoke and cajole us into thinking about these things.  

For a while, one of the ‘go-to’ speakers for Greenbelt was Revd John Smith, an Australian minister. He hung out with bikers and drank beer, heaven forfend!  He also knew Bono, so that was cool.  At the festival in, it must have been 1987, he spoke of how Bono had visited the day before, disguised as a steward.  That’s by the by.  Smith spoke about the criticism of the song and asked, ‘How many of you have really found what you are looking for?’  Good question!

In any case, it’s unwise to build a case based upon a song title, and that’s what many at the time appear to have done.  ‘Bono still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.  Does that mean he’s no longer a Christian?’  Take a look at these lyrics from the song:

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I'm still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

Bono speaks of what theologians call ‘the now and not yet’ of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ came to usher in God’s Kingdom – the now – and much has changed with his coming, for many people.  There is still, however, much brokenness in the world, and in that sense the Kingdom has not yet come.  ‘I believe in the Kingdom come…’

Bono relates what Jesus has done for him, releasing him from shame into a new freedom through the cross. Yet he wants more of God and of God’s Kingdom.  It’s right for him to sing, ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’.  It’s appropriate for me.  I want more of God’s Kingdom.  I want to see broken lives restored, equality for all, peace for all, freedom for all, opportunity for all.  

The music and performances of U2 in the 90’s had the critics continuing to question the faith of the band (more of that in another blog).  Yet the humanitarian actions of Bono (e.g. Jubilee 2000, DATA, Amnesty International) and music of the band since 2000 leaves me no doubt: they still haven’t found what they are looking for!  But they believe that one day they will.  

The band’s music points me back to the Bible and the ‘now and not yet’ of God’s Kingdom.  How am I seeking to make a difference in God’s world?  How am I are a part of the Kingdom coming?  I still haven’t found what I am looking for, but one day I will!

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