Bono on Honest Creativity in Church

Bono on Honest Creativity in Church

June 6, 2016 by

The patron saint of hip Christians, U2’s Bono, recently spoke with Eugene Peterson, the author of the Message translation of the Bible, in an epic video conversation about the Psalms that burned its way across social media:

If we lack honest music in church it’s not because the music isn’t there, it’s because pastors don’t play it.

One of the interesting moments of the conversation is when Bono calls out church music for its lack of honesty:

The Psalmist is brutally honest about the explosive joy he’s feeling and the deep sorrow or confusion and it’s that that sets the psalms apart for me… and I often think ‘Gosh, why isn’t Church music more like that?’

It’s a point that resonated with hip Christians. But not all of them.

Musician, writer and pastor Justin McRoberts thinks Bono is wrong. If we don’t have honest music in church it’s not because musicians aren’t writing it, it’s because pastors aren’t playing it.

Are there songs about sickness and terror and political disillusionment written by Christian women and men? Certainly there are. But this isn’t a question for poets and painters and musicians and writers – this is a question for pastors and leaders. As an artist, I am happy making art that captures and speaks to every aspect of life and faith and community, including the darker aspect of things. As a pastor, I have failed to make that art more central to the practice of life among my own people. If you’re a pastor, it’s very likely you’ve failed here, too.

As churches that want to communicate authentically, how are we welcoming honest art into our worship spaces?

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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5 Responses to “Bono on Honest Creativity in Church”

  • Zach Lorton
    June 7, 2016

    I don’t disagree that music more true to the fullness of what we experience in life is largely missing from the church. That music is being created, but the majority of what churchgoers listen to, if not mainstream music, is CCM. There’s been a graphic circulating recently that shows that most CCM music is HEAVILY skewed towards the positive spectrum in nearly every category, almost to an exaggerated degree.

    So music that’s more honest is out there, but it’s much harder to find, and it’s not being played on CCM radio. It’s not that pastors simply aren’t playing it, but more that they might not know where to find it. Unfortunately, CCM radio is where most people are getting their daily dose of music from a Christian perspective.

    It may be there to some degree, but Bono wasn’t wrong — we definitely need more honesty in modern CCM, and in music in the church in general.

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  • Oscar Lappay
    June 9, 2016

    Interesting take. I would love to hear some examples of these songs that exist but the church not playing them to the congregation. Can anyone list a few?

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    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      June 9, 2016

      In the blog post by Justin McRoberts we link to, he gives the example of honest songs by Sara Groves and Propaganda that aren’t nearly as likely to be played in a church as songs by Chris Tomlin or the Newsboys. Derek Webb, Sufjan Stevens, Steve Taylor… um, U2. ;-) Plenty of examples out there.

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  • Paul
    June 9, 2016

    Kevin, thanks for posting the video and challenging us to wrestle with the authenticity of Christian music. Perhaps I’m being overly literal, but it irks me when I sing about being “on our knees,” “lifting our hands” and “dancing” when no one in the room is doing those things. More than that, though there have been numerous times I have felt angst while singing words I just felt were inconsistent where I was spiritually at the time.

    I do think there is a tendency in churches to focus considerably more on the positive than the struggles. There are lots of factors involved… In some cases it may be consumer driven; a lot of people come to church to be inspired. Some pastors may be afraid people won’t come back if the service leaves them more conflicted than when they they got there.

    IMO, we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that we are broken, this world is broken and sometimes we get angry, disappointed and frustrated with God when he doesn’t fix things the way we think He should. However, we do worship an awesome God who has overcome the world and its struggles, and it’s biblical and God-honoring to focus our worship on Him rather than our struggles.

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  • Jaimie
    January 7, 2018

    Is he talking about contemporary Christian music? Or church music (which is worship)? Because worship music is honest praise to God, and it shouldn’t be about us but about him. But if he’s talking about what’s playing on the radio, then I think he’s missing some major artists who are doing a great job at this (such as Kevin Hendricks mentioned).

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