Theologian Steven R. Harmon, Associate Professor of Divinity at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL, has called U2’s new release No Line on the Horizon the band’s “most thoroughly Christian thing they’ve done yet.” Harmon writes in a music review on the Associated Baptist Press website:
Like the last two albums, No Line is much more overt in its Christian rendering of the world, what with lyrics like ‘Justified until we die/You and I will magnify/Oh, the Magnificent’ from the album’s second track. Yet what qualifies this album as thoroughly Christian is not so much its pervasive biblical/theological images as its overarching eschatological vision.
I confess that I’m no U2 expert, having only listened to two other albums (Joshua Tree and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb), but I enjoy the challenge of listening to thought-provoking lyrics. I spend most of my time trying to exegete exactly what the band is trying to communicate. I’m not convinced this is necessarily a good thing, but I enjoy the challenge and the glimpses of gospel truth with which I am occassionally rewarded.
One of the curious things to me is how Bono and U2 can get by with singing such explicitly Christian lyrics. For example, recently the band appeared on the David Letterman show to promote their new album. They sang the song quoted above by Harmon, Magnificient, which is clearly a song of praise to God as Creator and Redeemer. Letterman and the crowd seemed ecstatic over the song (see video clip below). I enjoy the song, both the performance and the lyrics, but could it be that the music has overwhelmed the lyrics to the extent that the lyrics are missed by all except those who are looking for them? If so, what does this say about this type of music being used in worship in evangelical churches? Could it be that what we call worship often is only the same kind of emotional response to a musical performance (regardless of the content of the lyrics) that we see demonstrated at the Ed Sullivan Theater?
With those questions in my head, I still appreciate the common grace present in these musicians and their desire to use their gifts to exalt the Creator. He truly is Magnificient!
You can download the album in MP3 format from Amazon.com for only $8.99 here.