The following interview comes from a new book on the U2 frontman, published by Penguin Books. In this interview,with Michka Assayas, Bono discusses
his Christian faith and his belief in, and understanding of, the person and deity of Jesus Christ. I found his words to be very moving and eloquent.
The entire interview segment, which includes insights into his meeting with Pope John Paul II, shortly before his death, can be read
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real
relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the
universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace
defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done
a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my
mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have
to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to
selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are
consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to
us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled… . It's not our own good works that
get us through the gates of heaven.
Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among
the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?
Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very
interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ
doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying
I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet,
we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M"
word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you
free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep
saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase
on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and
had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can
take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned
upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched …
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: … [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all
my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a
religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.
From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Awwayas. Used by permission of Riverhead Books, an
imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For online information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see the website at www.penguin.com.