This is a review of the book Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching The U2 Catalog, by Raewynne Whiteley and Beth Maynard (eds).
I have spoken many times in the last five months about U2 and their relationship with religion, and how many of their songs can be read either in part, in whole, or as an allusion to religion and God. I’ve said that when Bono sings the word “love” he is many times using that word as a proxy for the word “God.” Everyone who knows much about U2 knows that they are deeply religious, and that bleeds over into their rock star lives, and that there was a time many years ago when their religious beliefs almost broke up the band. I was reminded of all this just this week, when there were reports that the band had brought in religious leader Rick Warren to pray with them after the death of their tour manager, Dennis Sheehan. I personally oppose Warren as a megachurch leader (I believe megachurches are the antithesis of the message of Jesus Christ), but they of course have the right to talk to whoever they want.
It is not a surprise that a small cottage industry has popped up around the band, relating their religion to the ability to sell things. There are a number of books that deal with U2 and religion, both directly and tangentially. This book, Get Up Off Your Knees, is clearly on the direct side, given that the subtitle is Preaching The U2 Catalog. I have heard of things like this before, people creating “U2 churches,” or to be more accurate churches that will use stories about U2 and their songs to try and be hip and bring in younger people. Whether it works or not I don’t know.
The book presents a number of sermons from different preachers, each picking a U2 related theme or song and talking about it. It appears that these were all sermons that were delivered in a church, although I didn’t find anything to confirm that, other than a date and place at the end of each one, which suggests when and where it was delivered. Many of them go a lot deeper into the bible than I have any clue about, and tend toward references about things that just lose me. Actually that reminds me of many times when I’ve been in a church listening to a sermon, and feeling totally lost in the message the priest is trying to pass on. But there are places in the book where I have felt some kind of revelation (with a small r), and actually found a message that I want to think more about. So I guess this book has impacted me in some way. I think I will probably end up reading it again, maybe more than once, to try and see what further inspiration I can get out of it. I guess that means the book succeeds in the mission it had.
The idea of U2 as prophets seems to come out fairly regularly throughout the book. I’m not surprised at that, I suppose, although the direct comparison of them to some of the prophets in the bible is a little on the nose. I guess I have at times thought that if Jesus were to come back these days he’d have a great deal of trouble trying to get attention, and that becoming someone like Bono would probably help him get his message out. Not that I think Bono is Jesus, no.
Personally I have had many more religious experiences at a U2 concert than I have in a church, but that’s just me. Your religion may vary, in many ways, to mine. I guess I would be more interested in going to a church that was at least willing to talk about modern culture like this, than one stuck in a set of rules and traditions from a thousand years ago.
My rating for Get Up Off Your Knees: 5 / 10