Bono exchanged Bible references with Focus on the Family’s president Jim Daly as they bantered about music, theology and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview. Photo by Lisa Cadman/courtesy of Focus on the Family

Bono: David sang the blues and Jesus did some punk rock

(RNS) U2 frontman Bono exchanged Bible references and bantered about music, theology and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview with Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.

Growing up in Ireland with a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, Bono imitated C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity,” where Lewis argued that Jesus was a lunatic, liar or Lord.

Bono exchanged Bible references with Focus on the Family’s president Jim Daly as they bantered about music, theology and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview. Photo by Lisa Cadman/courtesy of Focus on the Family

Bono exchanged Bible references with Focus on the Family’s president Jim Daly as they bantered about music, theology and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview. Photo by Lisa Cadman/courtesy of Focus on the Family

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“When people say ‘Good teacher,’ ‘Prophet,’ ‘Really nice guy,’ … this is not how Jesus thought of himself,” Bono said. “So, you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case.”

“And I believe that Jesus was, you know, the Son of God,” Bono said, according to a transcript provided to Religion News Service. “I understand that for some people and we need to … if I could be so bold, need to be really, really respectful to people who find that ridiculous.”

In the interview that will be broadcast on Tuesday (June 25), Bono made comparisons between biblical characters and music.

“First of all, David’s a musician so I’m gonna like him,” Bono said. “What’s so powerful about the Psalms are, as well as they’re being gospel and songs of praise, they are also the Blues. It’s very important for Christians to be honest with God, which often, you know, God is much more interested in who you are than who you want to be.”

As Bono praised David’s “honest language with God,” Daly noted that “sometimes it gets you into hot water with the more orthodox folks, because they see you as edgy, maybe too edgy at times.”

It's a criticism that Bono's used to hearing.

“You’ve gotta be very careful that grace and politeness do not merge into a banality of behavior, where we’re just nice, sort of ‘death by cupcake,’” Bono said. “Politeness is, you know, is a wonderful thing. Manners are in fact, really important thing. But remember, Jesus didn’t have many manners as we now know.”

Bono recalled the section in Luke 9 when Jesus told a man not to wait and bury his father but to follow Jesus immediately. Daly responded to Bono’s summary, “Seems cold-hearted.”

Bono replied, “No, seems punk rock to me. He could see right into that fellow’s heart. He knew he wasn’t coming and he was just, it was pretense. We’ve gotta be a bit more cutting edge, not look to the signs of righteousness. Look to the actions.”

Bono made an explicit connection between his faith and his work with the ONE Campaign, the humanitarian organization he founded to fight poverty and disease.

“It’s very annoying following this person of Christ around, because he’s very demanding of your life,” he said while chuckling. “You don’t have to go to university and do a Ph.D. to understand this stuff. You just go to the person of Christ.”

Daly threw a C.S. Lewis quote at Bono: “When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that’s left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less.” Bono jokingly replied, “Yeah, that could turn up on the next U2 album, but I won’t give him or you any credit.”

In his work on HIV/AIDS, malaria, poverty and other areas, Bono noted the challenge of finding the right issue to take on.

“We have a pastor who said to us, ‘Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing, Bono.’ Which by the way, I constantly do. He said, ‘Find out what God is doing, 'cause it’s already blessed,’" Bono said. “And when you align yourself with God’s purpose as described in the Scriptures, something special happens to your life. You’re in alignment.”

Most of the 9 million HIV/AIDS victims who were saved are alive because of treatments funded by the U.S., Bono said.

“I am here to thank the American people for that,” he said. “And I also want to thank the evangelical community for that, because it wouldn’t have happened without their leadership, because they like myself, pestered George Bush and the administration, who actually deserve praise for starting this out.”

He compared HIV/AIDS to biblical stories of leprosy.

“People don’t understand in that Scripture, the Samaritan was at odds with the ideology of the person he stopped on the road for. This is why we call it The ONE Campaign,” he said. “You and I can have many disagreements on many philosophical, theological things. But on this we know we can agree on.”

Daly said he expects potential blowback from Focus listeners who might see Bono as unorthodox.

“Does he use a bad word here and there? Yeah, probably. Does he have a Guinness every now and then? Yeah, probably,” Daly said. “When you look at it before the throne of God, I think (God will) say, ‘You saved so many children.’”

Daly said his predecessor James Dobson might not have done an interview with Bono, but Dobson did get blowback for having Dr. Laura Schlessinger on his program because she is Jewish.

“Bono clearly accepts Jesus as Lord. I wasn’t prepared for his quickness in inserting Scripture into the dialogue,” Daly said of the artist who has been married to his wife, Ali Hewson, for decades. “I celebrate with them that they have four children and have been married 30 years. Not everyone in the Christian community can say that.”



  1. The bible is full of examples of believers and children of God, including Jesus’ disciples, being individuals. There are too many examples of people doing God’s work in unusual ways that don’t conform to an established religious ethos to dismiss Bono or others. It is organized religion that puts restrictions on people’s relationship with God.

    I find it similar to an old saying “I love my God (country), but I fear my religion (government)”. When humans are in charge, sin will creep in, maybe slow or fast, but if you are not paying attention you are in danger.

  2. U2 Quiz: For those who have ears to hear

  3. I love the fact that Bono stands up for his faith. Seems he is doing good things and following Jesus, and many “legalists” don’t care for that. Just listen to many U2 songs and you will hear references to Christ. Remember, Jesus had a big problem with people who put religion ahead of God.

  4. Let us not judge Bono or worry about his motives. As Paul said in I Cor. 12:3: “…no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” And in Phil. 1:18: he writes again, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

    I for one am proud to stand with someone who is working to fight AIDS and malaria which bring only death and misery and would be so, even if he were an atheist.

  5. This interview, which I found refreshing, reminds me of Rich Mullins talking about living faith instead of talking about it. Love the line about finding what God’s already doing and aligning with it. Thank you for this article.

  6. Does he use a bad word here and there? Yeah, probably. Does he have a Guinness every now and then? Yeah, probably,” Daly said. “When you look at it before the throne of God, I think (God will) say, ‘You saved so many children.’”

    Soo, Jim Daly is a works salvation kinda guy? Thats how this comment leaves me feeling.

  7. the leader of the greatest rock band of our lifetime is a follower of Christ. #intheworldnotofit If you have something negative to say about this article…repent

  8. If he would just stop wearing those ridiculous looking, asinine glasses…

  9. BarMar, So would you prefer Daly is a “words” salvation guy?

  10. Greatest rock band is your opinion, which you are certainly entitled too.
    Apparently though I am not allowed to disagree with you on this or on anything in the article. Wow, you sure are intolerant. As for Bono I don’t know what is in his heart, and I hope he has a saving belief in Christ. I think Daly’s statement about God saying you’ve saved so many children was either poorly worded or a wrong understanding of salvation and how we acheive it. Thats all. I will admit I may have misinterpreted his remark completely as it was an excerpt and maybe out of context. Just a comment for discussion.

  11. I am interested to hear more about what he said when he started to talk about being respectful to those who find it ridiculous that Jesus is the Son of God.

  12. No, I think it was meant for the people who will look down on Bono for having a beer, to look at him how God may look at him, especially after Bono’s own profession of faith that Jesus is the son of God. After all, we know salvation is by faith, but we will still be held to account for our actions. (2 cor 5:10)

  13. It is error to ever say you know someone is a Christian or not. That is obviously left to God. Only He truly knows.

    On the day of judgment, Jesus will expose those who’s deeds were done in faith because their faith was true. In fact, in Matthew 7, Jesus tells those who proclaim that did many wonderful deeds in His name that He never knew them and cast them into hell. This is because their faith was not genuine.

    Bono is a social gospel guy. The social gospel can be generally defined here
    The problem with the social gospel is that it is not The Gospel. It doesn’t save people eternally. Although it does help them temporally.

    I personally admire the temporal work Bono has done to help those in need, but if it doesn’t involve the urgent eternal message of repentance of sin and faith alone in the one who paid the penalty for that sin on the cross then it is all in vain. I liken it to giving someone medicine to take away the symptoms of a disease, but not sharing the cure with them. Is that love? I say not.

  14. Does he use a bad word here and there? Yeah, probably. Does he have a Guinness every now and then? Yeah, probably,” Daly said.
    I don’t know why this statement bothers me so much – but it truly does. My father does a Pastor. I am in the military. There are folks in my Dad’s church that would look down on me for things I have said – or over the fact that I drink. Forget of course that Jesus turned water into wine, and that wine was used for celebration in both old and new testament. Last time I read the Bible nobody is perfect – judging me for the words that may leave my mouth or over the fact that I enjoy a beer with my dinner – I don’t know – everything else you say after that – You have lost your credibility with me.

  15. That said – U2 and Bono truly are awsome. I have listened to them since the early 80’s.

  16. Maybe all you have seen is the “social” gospel. I would be careful, though, not to say he has never shared the “true” gospel.

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  18. Love Bono, also sat down and read poetry to the late Ruth Bell Graham before she died. Tidbit trivia U2’s song Gloria has Latin words in the chorus that praises God’s name!

  19. He wears those glasses these days because his eyes are more sensitive than other people’s eyes to sunlight. Direct sunlight on his eyes causes pain for him. My favorite song by U2 Gloria because the chorus line has Latin words that praise of Lord!

  20. Sean, love God and don’t worry about how people judge you, they are only judging themselves. Pray for them. There is no prohibition in scripture. Beer was invented by monks and many still brew. Love & peace.

  21. Beer? Strong language? The evangelical community would’ve received Jesus (made a “beer run” at a wedding, said ridiculous things to people) in the same way they’ve treated Bono.

  22. As a Christian, I would NEVER, ever brandish an upside-down cross nor would I claim to “stand with Cain”, the evil one(1 John 3:12).

    Then, of course, he said this in a Mother Jones interview:

    MJ: Do you still believe that Jesus is the way? Doesn’t that biblical injunction deny that followers of other religions can enter paradise?

    BONO: I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that fundamentalist concept. I believe, what is it? “The way is as narrow as the eye of the needle,” and all that. But I think that’s just to keep the fundamentalists out…. (laughs)

    I never really accepted the whole “born again” tag. It’s a great term, had it not been so abused. I accepted it on one level, in that I loved the idea of being reborn…. I think people should be reborn every day, man! You know, every day again and again and again! At 20 years old, this idea of “surrender every day,” this idea of “dying to oneself” … was so exciting! Then I came to America in 1981, the land of milk and the .357 Magnum. It blew my mind that this word “reborn” meant nothing.

  23. Very good read about people seeking faith in Christ and puts their trust in her. I invite everyone to watch the clip of Brazilian gospel singer Shirley Carvalhaes – Esse Adorador. May God bless you all.

  24. Since when does a wolf in sheeps clothing, like Bono speak for Christ and His church? Focus on the family is really bottoming out.Jesus making a beer run? really? Guess that shows your true spiritual state and depth.

  25. But does bono or Dobson daly believe that they as well as all the resurrected dead, one time chirologically and chronologically, will be judged some to reward and some to everlasting contempt. When their works will be burned as chaff. Isiah 61 , where Jesus left off in the synagogue. I am here to declare the day of vengeance of my God. Even Isaiah trembled at that. He said oh woe is me I am a man of unclean lips living among an unclean people. What does that mean? Bono and Dobson better think on that. They all think their thoughts their relationships their works are going to buy them into the Kingdom of God. What difference does it make that Bono has remained married for thirty years. My understanding of the Words of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior is leave them and follow him. In looking at Bonos family relationships, his wife’s family are the biggest detriment to him doing the will of God. It’s all about works, Protestant apologetics, they are freaks if they believe they are following Jesus and not going to be held accountable before the throne on judgement day, then suddenly.

  26. Bono should read black elk speaks. I was born in the moon of the popping trees. This holy man who followed the way the truth and the light was 33 years old at the time of the moon of the popping trees, persecuted by Christians, with the same ideologies as bono. Bono should also look at the life of crazy horse, in my opinion the greatest of men in his time, stabbed in the back at 33years old by a Christian soldier, standing between two chieftains of his own blood. Martin Luther king junior shot in Memphis Tennessee between two of his own, who benefitted by these men’s deaths, red cloud, Jesse Jackson. Bono better be careful Jesus Christ was crucified between two men, who benefitted, Barsabbas the fourth human entity involved. Men like bono are self righteous. Saying George bush is righteous, he better look at that family history. He calls men righteous that destroy life for a few to benefit, mostly themselves. The more I read of this fallen mans comments, the more self righteous he appears. Jude-woe to the man who bears the mark of Cain-self righteous self justified, gone the way of balaam, for reward, false prophecy lying lips and flattering tongues , for his self aggrandizing Red and One campaigns. Come on red one claims of being the fallen nature of Adam through huge money thefts of we the worlds children, sounds a lot like Satan. Onto the third woe Bono Korahs rebellion, keep on flaunting and putting your throne higher than Gods and you will get just what you deserve, bowing down to idols, yourself. Karma does rule in your life not Jesus Christ.

  27. Except that in the actual interview, in it’s entirety, he did say Jesus is the Son of God and the Old Testament God is good, that you can only be saved by Jesus’ death on the cross, that you need to be willing to follow Jesus’ demands, that God has the right to be stern like he is in the OT–basically that’s the gospel. We are sinners and need Jesus to save us from punishment. He’s said it. You can BOTH spread the gospel AND cure AIDS.

  28. why do certain people who claim to love and serve Jesus always have to judge others based on their own narrow minded views of God? is the Bible the ultimate authority, absolutely! should we test everything agasint scripture, most defintely! however, Its actually not about us but all about God and his glory! is God glorified through this interview and the many others given by Bono? i think so. will non believers be encouraged to seek more clarity on what he says, i think so. by doing this may people become convinced, confess their sin and repent, i think so. what will the result be? God will be glorified! people will be saved. so perhaps those doing the judging should get out the way so God can do his work in the way he wants to do it rather than how you THINK he should do it! lets rather reflect the light and rejoice when someone with a high a profile as Bono speaks truth rather than continuously mistrust and judge. what will make you a “believer” when he attends your church and sings in the choir?

  29. Ok I gotta step up and respond to that even though it’s 2 years old….the upside down cross thing came from a blurry image from the rattle and hum dvd. If you watch the whole dvd performance, you get a better look at that cross – it’s not upside down at all. Just a normal, right side up cross. The comet about fundamentalists…you have to understand that the word means something different where he’s from. In the U.S. means following the Bible in a strict, literal sense. Over there, “fundamentalist” was a name for IRA bombers and such extremists….

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