Bono: The Beliefnet Interview
It's one thing to confer with Pope John Paul II, former President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, or even conservative senators like Jesse Helms and Orrin Hatch. It's quite another to sit for hour after hour with the under-secretary of this-and-that or academic economists or World Bank functionaries, as Bono did--that's the labor of a true man of faith. "I never thought it would get this unhip," he complained to me at one point.
So when Beliefnet approached me about interviewing Bono on his work for debt relief and its relation to his spiritual life, I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask him. After all, religion is hardly an abstract issue for anyone raised in Ireland. Now 40, Bono was born in Dublin, the product of a mixed Catholic-Protestant background. While his lyrics and U2's music have always been suffused with an undeniable spiritual consciousness, Bono and the other band members have stringently resisted being claimed by either religious or political side in Ireland's ongoing "troubles." While informing every aspect of what he does--"God bless" is even his standard telephone sign-off--faith has never been a subject Bono has approached with much ease.
U2 is busy rehearsing for its upcoming world tour, but Bono decided to take a short break--and a genuine leap of faith.
"I've successfully avoided talking about my faith for 20 years," he said after we completed this interview, which he did by phone from Ireland. "But with you, I felt I had to. I said, 'I can't turn this guy down--he's been on every blinkin' boring story!' And I thought to myself, it's OK to open up a little bit. The problem is, when I do these kinds of things, the way it turns out in the tabloid papers here and in England is, 'Bono Pontificates on the Holy Trinity.' And then we're off! But at the same time, I can't let them gag me. These are the unformed, unfocused thoughts of a student of these things, not a master."
While the Jubilee 2000 Coalition accomplished a great deal, it failed to achieve its ultimate goal of complete debt forgiveness. The coalition has disbanded, but the work goes on. What is the current initiative, and what is your involvement in it?