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I don't know who I can talk to. I've got people who want to kill me . . . people who want to hate you or love you or take a bit of you. -- Bono

Bono's Best Sermon Yet

Sojourner's Magazine
The National Prayer Breakfast is normally a time for reaffirming spiritual truths and testifying to the power of faith in people's individual lives, but not so much a moment for prophetic and controversial social utterances. There have been exceptions -- when Sen. Mark Hatfield spoke courageously about the moral "shame" of the Vietnam War in the presence of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger (I know a lot about that prayer breakfast speech because I helped write it when I was a seminarian in Chicago); when Mother Theresa spoke about the sacredness of life and raised the issue of abortion with the Clintons on hand; and yesterday, when Bono spoke like a modern-day prophet about extreme global poverty and pandemic disease and called upon the American government, with George Bush and Congressional leaders present, to do much more.

The speech was the most explicit about religion and the role of faith that I had ever heard Bono deliver, and his insistence on the biblical requirements of justice and not just charity was reiterated over and over again. In a small session with religious editors afterward, Bono spoke about how the churches had led on the issue of debt cancellation with the Jubilee 2000 campaign, on HIV/AIDS, and now on global poverty reduction. "You're the bigger crowd," he said, "much more than my stadium audiences." He said the church will just hear "fanfare" from musicians.

But Bono is offering far more than fanfare, as his talk below demonstrates. To the religious editors he stressed how the justice issue is "really it," and said that the churches had to figure out how to make that clear to people and that "movement is the way" we will finally succeed. Bono said he believed that something is moving now and we have to create the momentum to accomplish our goals. On the way to the car afterward, we spoke together about how really crucial that movement building is, how nothing else will suffice to make the changes in our world that are so vitally and morally necessary, and how the strategy in the religious community is so key. We also talked about the Isaiah 58 passage he had quoted in his speech -- that when we respond to the poor as the prophet instructs, "God will cover your back." This is one speech you will want to read and pass on to your friends.

© Sojourners, 2006.