Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono. Knopf. 576 pages. 2022
U2’s Bono was born Paul David Hewson in 1960. He grew up middle class in a Dublin suburb, the son of a Catholic father Bob (whom he refers to as his “Da”), and Protestant mother Iris. His mother died of a cerebral aneurysm when he was 14. Living with his father, and brother Norman, his mother was never spoken of again in their home at 10 Cedarwood Road. Bono writes that it stopped being a home and was just a house.
This massive (nearly 600-page book) about faith, family, music and activism, begins with an account of Bono nearly dying in 2016. The forty chapters, each titled after a U2 song, and beginning with an illustration which is explained in the Appendix, tell Bono’s story as a member of U2, a Christian, family man and activist. During the COVID lockdown the band reimagined these forty U2 songs for a Songs of Surrender album that was recently released.
Bono’s best friend is his wife Ali, his childhood sweetheart. They have four kids. He writes that family has always been at the center of who he is.
The book generally moves along in a chronological manner, with Bono writing about each of U2’s albums, events such as Live Aid and apologizing for working with Apple to put the band’s 2014 album Songs of Innocence on every iPhone free, which the band was roundly criticized for.
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It all started when drummer Larry Mullen put up a notice in high school in 1976 that read “Drummer seeks musicians to form band”. Since their formation, U2 has only had the original four members of Bono, Mullen, guitarist David “The Edge” Evans and bassist Adam Clayton. The band would work with manager Paul McGuinness for thirty-five years. They were eventually signed by Island Records and their first album was 1980’s Boy.
Bono recounts his role as an activist in detail (fighting AIDS in Africa, Drop the Debt campaign, (RED), ONE and DATA), including the world leaders that he met with in this role, among them Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Barack Obama. Others that he writes about are Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Luciano Pavarotti, Patti Smith, Prince, Bill Gates, Johnny Cash and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Throughout the book, Bono talks about his faith in “the immortal invisible”. He writes that the band prays before every show and that songs are his prayers. As is now well-known, Bono, Larry and Edge were in Shalom, a house church community that meant so much to them. Adam would surrender to his “higher power” much later. Shalom was worried that as they began to gain popularity, they were falling away from their faith. Bono writes that something never sat right with them about the “in or out” Christianity or the judgmentalism it came with, so the band separated from the Shalom community.
Despite his strong faith, it is sad that Bono writes that he has never quite found a church he could call home, and tells his kids “To be wary of religion, that what the human spirit longs for may not be corralled by any sect or denomination, contained by a building. It’s more likely a daily discipline, a daily surrender and rebirth.” Anglican minister Jack Heaslip, who had been the band’s spiritual guide and chaplain since Mount Temple School, died in 2015.
Here are a few other thoughts from Bono regarding his faith:
- I hold to that line attributed to Francis of Assisi, who told his followers, “Go into the world to preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” We need less to be told how to live our lives and more to see people living inspirational lives.
- If I mostly find religiosity annoying, right up at the top of the annoying is the pigheaded certainty of the devout without the doubt. Not just no room for doubt in the God they follow, but no doubt in their ability to decipher the holy tracts. No doubt their version of events is the right one.
- The moment of surrender is the moment you choose to lose control of your life, the split second of powerlessness where you trust that some kind of “higher power” better be in charge, because you certainly aren’t.
The book was one of the favorites that I read in 2022, though it does include a fair amount of adult language.
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy has published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.
- 20 Quotes from Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation. Matt Smethurst shares these 20 quotes from Collin Hansen’s new book on Tim Keller.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
Providence by John Piper
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 42: Working in Us That Which Is Pleasing in His Sight. Here are a few helpful quotes from the chapter:
- Happiness in God as our supreme treasure is the essence of holiness.
- God is not glorified by hearts that are more satisfied in his gifts than in him.
- God will equip you with all you need to do his will.
- Without the blood, the resurrection, and the shepherding of Jesus, there would be no Christian obedience.
- The reason God requires transformation in his people—conformity to Christ in holiness and love—is to make their faith visible as the public display of the beauty and worth of Christ.
- From the starting point of our union with Christ by faith alone, every good work that we do is an effect of our acceptance with God, not a means to it. Our acceptance with God is the root of our obedience, not the fruit.