I’ve been preparing a seminar on U2 for the European Leadership Forum in Hungary at the end of the month – so have become even more than normally obsessive about U2. Sorry about that. What it does mean though is that I’ve systematically listened to the whole of their back catalogue and been staggered yet again by some of the ingenuity and succinctness of Bono’s & The Edge’s lyrics – but also by their spiritual profundity and insight. Here then is a personal and by no means exhaustive list from the most recent 2 albums. So perhaps this just might be the first of a few posts from some of the earlier stuff… “Oh joy, oh rapture”, I hear youchorus.

From ALL BECAUSE OF YOU (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb 2002)

u2_-_how_to_dismantle_an_atomic_bomb_album_cover.pngI was born a child of grace
Nothing else about the place
Everything was ugly but your beautiful face
And it left me no illusion…

All because of you (x3)
I am… I am

Now why do you think he repeats the phrase ‘I am’…? All very subtle.

Then there’s this one – more explicit of course, but telling nonetheless. The second line of the clip could almost become a motto for Quaerentia…

From WALK ON (All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000)


You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen…

Home… hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one
Home… I can’t say where it is but I know I’m going home
That’s where the heart is
Leave it behind / You’ve got to leave it behind

All that you fashion / All that you make / All that you build
All that you break / All that you measure / All that you steal

All this you can leave behind

In the face of the madness and horror of a violent world, this small stanza beautifully encapsulates the ideal of life – one not cut short by ‘unnatural’ death but redeemed to a hope beyond death…

From LOVE AND PEACE OR ELSE (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb 2002)

u2_-_how_to_dismantle_an_atomic_bomb_album_cover.pngAs you enter this life
I pray you depart
With a wrinkled face
And a brand new heart

This is a more well-known single from their 2000 album – No 1 in a number of places including the UK. Quite apart from the way the words evoke a thrilling orbit’s view of the earth (albeit one with the darker edge of environmental abuse – eg ‘tuna fleets clearing the sea out’ etc), it clearly points us beyond what we can see – for out of the blue comes the unmistakable flight of the dove of Genesis 8:11 & 9:16. There’s no way you could of course see a single bird from the space station – but you can see the profound reality beyond the visible – that God is a covenant making God – and the day he makes a covenant to protect and rescue is more beautiful even than the day he made the world.

From BEAUTIFUL DAY (All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000)


See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out

It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away … A beautiful day

Then finally, there’s this one, which I’ve actually preached & blogged about before. Note – it is full of the angst and doubts of the believer, not the doubter. And in that respect has many resonances with the psalms. But what gets to me is the phrase I’ve highlighted – so clever at so many different levels.

From PEACE ON EARTH (All That You Can’t Leave Behind 2000)


Jesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line
(Peace on Earth)
Tell the ones who hear no sound whose sons are living in the ground
(Peace on Earth)
Jesus and the song you wrote, the words are sticking in my throat
(Peace on Earth)

Hear it every Christmas time,
But hope and history won’t rhyme

So what’s it worth – this peace on Earth?
Peace on Earth / Peace on Earth

There’s plenty more where they came from. Any others?

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. hoveactually

    I’ve always found Zooropa the most bleak one for faith quotes… “I left by the back door, and I threw away the key..” And of course the Wanderer. Oh so many. Pop also, although not a great classic, has many many lyrics to ponder upon, and some more obvious- Wake up dead man for example! Playboy Mansion is also fairly intriguing and beautiful for the lyric:
    Then will there be no time for sorrow
    Then will there be no time for shame
    And though I can’t say why
    I know I’ve got to believe

    We’ll go driving in that pool
    It’s who you know that gets you through
    The gates of the Playboy mansion
    But they don’t mention…the pain

    Then will there be no time for sorrow
    Then will there be no time for shame
    Then will there be no time for sorrow
    Then will there be no time for shame…

    I’m sure you’ll have a wealth of material for later posts!
    It would be really interesting to get Bono to talk through his journey of faith with all these lyrics… Maybe one day eh. Or maybe these things are best not so tightly defined.

  2. David Keen

    Great. Like you I love the subtlety and poetry of Bono’s lyrics, Playboy Mansion is one of my favourites.

    You probably know about the U2 sermons website: http://u2sermons.blogspot.com/ which has lots and lots of stuff.

    I like his honesty about faith as a struggle: Wake Up Dead Man, as hoveactually notes, and this line from Acrobat:

    I’d join the movement if there was a cause I could believe in
    I’d take bread and wine if there was a church I could recieve in
    ‘cos I need it now…

    I think Zooropa is brilliant because it shows us the view from the empty heart of post-Christian society:

    and I have no compass, and I have no map
    and I have no reason, no reason to get back
    and I have no religion, and I don’t know what’s what

    and the superb Numb: ‘too much is not enough’ which is where you end up once you’re saturated on the branded society.

    Please do post on the earlier stuff, it’ll be fascinating to read.

  3. markmeynell

    I completely agree with you David about all the songs you mentioned – and felt that to start talking about them in this post would be to open the floodgates. In fact I did mention Playboy Mansion in a previous post – and one of my proudest achievements is to have had 2 links from U2Sermons to this blog so far!! (how sad am I?)

    Thanks also to Darian and Hoveactually for your comments – I admire the honest bleakness of Zooropa – but i suppose it should be seen in the context of all the different personae that Bono took on during the 90s (The Fly, The Wanderer, Mr MacPhisto etc) – and these reflect a whole load of different worldviews which are not necessarily Bono’s own. Once when he was challenged by a young Christian girl who was really disturbed by his MacPhisto (devil incarnate) routine, he simply replied that he was trying to do a contemporary spin on what CSLewis’ Screwtape Letters achieved.

    As well as some of the standard books on U2, if you’ve not come across it, there’s a great little book on Achtung Baby, which you can find out via my Amazon book reviews – just click the link in my current reading sidebar. Also, Bono is remarkably frank about his own faith journey in the book Bono on Bono – and this gives a lot of food for thought

  4. Clive Parnell

    Good to see some U2 coverage – what about the CD cover of “All that you can’t leave behind” – check what it says on the departure board, if you don’t know already,
    PS if you didn’t know I will have the credit for your seminar, Ha!

  5. markmeynell

    Hi Clive – i thought the sign on the departure board was too obvious – everyone knows about that…!
    And actually, i don’t think you can take any credit for the seminar whatsoever… so there…

  6. cliveparnell

    I did not realise it was so obvious – I am so yesterday ha!
    It would be interesting to know what a person who is not a christian thought.
    I don’t think I am going to make ELF now I have been out of it for 2 weeks with a chest infection, a real shame.

  7. cliveparnell

    What about the relationship between “all because of you I am” and yahweh meaning “I am”.
    That is my bit for now off for a rest!

  8. markmeynell

    Ah! But of course that is precisely my point entirely – if you just look at what i was saying!

  9. Tom Fletcher

    One of my favorites is:

    “Dressed up like a car crash,
    your wheels are turning but you’re upside down”

    But my favorite U2 lyric is from One, but not the one most people say.

    “Did I ask too much? More than a lot?
    You gave me nothing now it’s all I’ve got”

  10. Beth

    Here comes your third link from U2Sermons! 😉

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