Canadian Mennonite
Volume 11, No. 03
February 5, 2007


Middle-aged rockers reflect on life


U2 by U2. U2 and Neil McCormick. HarperEntertainment, 2006, 352 pages.

For almost 30 years, U2 has been making music together, becoming one of the most important rock and roll bands in history. This book of interviews and photographs lets readers see into the lives of four hard-working musicians—vocalist Bono (Paul Hewson), guitarist The Edge (Dave Evans), bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.

Bono, The Edge and Clayton—were part of a Christian community in Ireland in the late 1970s and struggled with the idea of being faithful while being in a big rock and roll band. The Edge and Bono actually considered leaving the band while making their debut album, Boy.

Says Bono of the experience: “We will go wherever we have to go. We will break all the rules of hipness. We will be as raw emotionally as we have to be, in order to be honest. Even after that, we were giving up the band. It was really pushing it as far as we could to prove that we couldn’t be bought off by our ambition. And I think it’s an amazing thing, we nearly succeeded in derailing the band, but at the same time we regained it more fully” (page 119).

U2—and Bono, in particular—took the responsibility of fame by keeping up with current events. Over the years they supported a variety of organizations—Amnesty International, Jubilee 2000 and Live Aid. They appear to have always loved America, but also recognized that the real America can be very destructive in the world. Several of their mid-career albums deconstruct American pop culture, although many fans have not picked up on that.

Listeners of U2’s music know that it is full of struggle. Despite their personal and relationship problems, perhaps their biggest struggle was to reconcile the world they experience with knowing and understanding God.

“There are a lot of arguments with God on this record [Pop],” says Bono (page 266). “He makes his biggest appearance on a U2 album since October. It should be called ‘Shouting at God.’ But it does not chart my loss of faith. I think even the most mediocre minds can figure out that if you’re rattling on and on about how much you don’t love somebody, it is evidence of passion. You can’t be having an argument with God if you don’t believe there is one.”

Watching U2 age—not gracefully, but by pursuing life and work passionately—is inspiring. To see Bono grow into a public person who speaks about global issues to those in power without resorting to partisan politics is an important reminder to those of us who have aged along with them.

U2 seems to keep saying: Love your work, never be satisfied with where you are, pay attention to the big picture, get involved in the world around you, care about your family and friends, and stick to it for the long haul.

“To me the burning questions of the moment relate to how you cope with threat and fear,” says The Edge (page 330). “Are we going to be ruled by fear or are we going to attempt to transcend that and find a way of holding on to faith?...”

—Jerry L. Holsopple

The reviewer is professor of visual and communication arts at Eastern Mennonite University. The review originally appeared in a longer format online at

Conversion, spirituality important to early Anabaptists



Peace, ethics, community—those are words often associated with the early Anabaptists. But Karl Koop, associate professor of theology and history at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, says that more words should be added to that list—words like worship, conversion, spirituality and theology.

Koop is editor of a recently released book called Confessions of Faith in the Anabaptist Tradition, 1527-1660. The book, published by Pandora Press, is a collection of 14 English translations of early Anabaptist confessions of faith, some of which have never been translated before.

“The confessions give us insight into the faith of the early Anabaptists,” Koop says. “They represent the core beliefs of the community. They tell us what the community was thinking.”

For Koop, the new book is an important corrective to the way Anabaptists have been viewed since 1944, when Harold S. Bender published his influential essay, “The Anabaptist vision.” That essay, written at a time when Mennonites in North America were challenged by war, liberalism and fundamentalist influences from other churches, helped Mennonites to refocus on Anabaptist distinctives such as non-resistance, discipleship and community.

“While Bender’s theology was firmly rooted in Christ, a generation of scholars after him tended to see the Anabaptist tradition making a contribution to the church and the world only through their ethics, rather than also through their doctrine,” Koop says. “Not surprisingly, scholars affected by this climate of opinion viewed Anabaptist confessional developments with little interest.”

But these confessions show that “Anabaptism can’t be reduced to certain ethic principles; it was also a way of life expressed through worship, prayer, spirituality and deeply held beliefs,” he states. “The concern for moral and social reform among Anabaptists was deeply rooted in a particular way of believing, thinking and experiencing God.”

Altogether, the confessions of faith reveal that “the early Anabaptists contributed more to the church than just an emphasis on peace and justice,” he says. “Things like conversion, rebirth and a profound spirituality were also very important to them. After all, you don’t willingly die for your faith just because you believe in peace and justice—you do it because you have a profound faith in God.”

—CMU release by John Longhurst

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