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[Y]ou learn to rely on other people, the band, and you start thinking that's a weakness. But it's a strength to rely on others." — Bono

Bono Writes About Being Exposed For New Book On The Psalms

 

Bono has written the Afterword for W. David O. Taylor’s new book on the Psalms, Open and Unafraid: the Psalms as a Guide to LifeThe book is out today and continues Taylor’s interest in the Psalms, and his previous work with Bono in the 2016 Fuller Studio film The Psalms, a conversation between Eugene Peterson, Bono and Taylor. Peterson wrote the foreword for the book before his death in 2018.

Each chapter of the book treats a theme in the Psalter, such as community, joy, enemies, justice or creation, and concludes with discussion questions, suggestions for personal application and a prayer. A set of prayer cards with illustrations by artist Phaedra Taylor, the author's wife, corresponds to the chapters and are sold separately from The Rabbit Room.

Bono’s afterword echoes themes he wrote about in 1999, for the Introduction to Selections from the Book of Psalms, and which he spoke about in the Fuller Studio film. Some 20 years later, he is still impressed by how the Biblical poets wrote honestly about the range of human emotions, particularly feelings of anger, abandonment, fear and doubt.

Bono is also still interested in King David as a bluesman, writing, “But it’s when David is at his lowest ebb, when he is feeling the most distant from his God, that he discovers how to renew that relationship, how to start the conversation again. . . . In the cave of despair, the blues saves us.”

Taking a cue from Taylor’s focus on the Psalter as encouraging readers to talk to God “open and unafraid,” Bono recalls David also approached God in this way, once having “danced like a dervish before the Lord almost butt naked. … It is a striking image of joy and humility, and as good a definition of being a singer as I can offer. To sing--to really, really sing--the soul has to kind of expose itself.”

Bono discussed King David's nakedness in the Fuller Studio film too, and presses the point even more by mentioning it a second time in the afterword. “David Taylor's take is ‘open and unafraid’ alright. He really goes there, exposing himself to God in the most beautiful way," Bono writes. "He might have called the book Naked, because if you don't find your own self feeling a little exposed here, it might be time to take some armor off. The Psalms see right through us. See right into us.”

He also doesn’t miss a chance to sound a refrain of his about contemporary church music being too one-dimensional: “The complexity of the Psalter is what's missing in so much ‘religious’ music—and what's so appealing to the artist."

The Afterword includes a few more reflections from Bono that feel fresh and more personal this time, as he brings his perspective of being a singer--and a famous one at that--to bear on what the Scriptures say about “being known.”

That Bono wrote for Open and Unafraid is not advertised on the front cover, but a blurb is pulled from the Afterword and credited to him on the back cover. Taylor said Bono “was generous with his time and words. His offer to write an Afterword represented an incredible kindness to me in light of his massively busy schedule.”

When I asked Taylor if he was surprised that Bono the rock star, the frontman for U2, was so willing to lend his voice and status to promote the Psalms, and the Christian message in general, he replied: 

"I think it's rather astounding that he keeps talking about Jesus in all the places that one may least expect, or want, Jesus to show up, especially in settings that are decidedly post-Christian or anti-Christian (for good and understandable reasons, perhaps). But Bono is able to get away with it, not just because of the integrity of his music-making--that it remains excellent year after year, decade after decade, and therefore remains hard to dismiss, unless one chooses to be capricious, idiosyncratic or unduly unfair about it--but also because of the integrity of his life. He walks the talk. Then there’s the integrity of his marriage to Ali of almost 40 years, in an industry that invariably wrecks marriages. And, there’s the integrity of his relationships, not just with his bandmates but with every person he meets along the way, both great and small."

 

 


To learn more about Bono’s connections to the Psalms, Eugene Peterson and David Taylor’s film for Fuller Studio, follow these links to articles written by current or former @U2 staff writers:

 

And for even more:

  • Read Bono’s Introduction for the 1999 Grove Press’ Pocket Canon series Selections from the Book of Psalms here.

 

© Calhoun / @U2, 2020