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U2 and Community

If I, in my aging Boomer days, were to pick my Top Twenty All-Time Favorite Songs, of course there would be a Beatles song, along with Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, something from my prog-rock phase, a particular Jon Foreman tune, and without a doubt, “Pride (in the Name of Love”) by U2.

As one of the great rock voices of his generation, Bono belts out “in the name of love” with anthemic passion.


It stirs my heart every time.


In the beautifully well-done audio version of his book “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story”—read irresistibly by the author—Bono recounts a concert in Phoenix in the late 1980s. It was during a time when U2 were asked to be part of the push for the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday. Several states were refusing to sign on. To this day, Mississippi and Alabama honors MLK and Robert E. Lee on the same day. Just because. And as a reminder, Lee was the commander of a treasonous insurrection that split the Union in order to maintain race-based chattel slavery. Apparently, human ownership and free labor were critical components in their economic model.


But I digress.


Anyway, the tour had been booked when U2 realized Arizona’s controversial and racist governor at that time—Evan Mecham—was refusing to make it a holiday. They decided to go ahead with the concert and actively campaigned against Mecham. Death threats were received, including the warning that if they performed “Pride”, Bono would not be alive by the end of the song. The venue was subsequently swept for explosives and firearms...and the concert was on.


By the third verse, Bono’s nervousness was evidenced. He closed his eyes, and in a half-kneeling position, he somewhat apprehensively belted out the last verse:


“Shot rings out in the Memphis sky. Free at last, they took your life. They could not take your pride…”


When he finally opened his eyes, he realized that he couldn’t see the stadium crowd. U2’s bass player, Adam Clayton, was “blocking the view, standing right in front of me. He’d stood in front of me for the length of the verse.”


U2 has now been a band—and friends—for nearly fifty years. For any of you musicians who have any road-wearying experiences, that’s nothing short of a miracle. They split everything equally, even their publishing royalties, no matter who wrote the song. Of course there have been challenges along the way, personally and relationally. But they’ve protected their commitment to one another and, in some ways, even above their own music.


But Phoenix captured a moment of solidarity, as well as a picture of community. In a way, a public display of John 15:13. And what’s interesting is that while Bono is a believer, Clayton is not.


In my eldering years, I’ve come to realize how precious friendships are and how difficult they can be to maintain and nurture as a leader. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long. And I’m not sure I know why that is the case—I’m fairly certain it has to do with where we are on the mission-versus-harmony spectrum—but it is something leaders must be aware of…and learn to balance. If only for our own protection when belting out our heartcry.



Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.  JOHN 15:12-13 THE MESSAGE


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