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Idol Chatter

As Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” edition was hitting newsstands Sunday night, Bono, one of this year’s honorees (along with Bill and Melinda Gates) was on stage in Charlotte, North Carolina, wearing a headband reading “COEXIST” spelled out with the Muslim crescent, Jewish Star of David, Christian cross, and other religious symbols, according to a story in Charlotte News and Observer entitled “Our Minister of Music.”

“Coexist: what a beautiful, simple thought, and it’s getting harder to hold onto,” Bono reportedly said, adding a prayer “that we do not become a monster in order to defeat a monster.”

Bono, considered the world’s most famous rock star, is now perhaps the world’s most famous lay Christian, and could probably give Billy Graham and the pope–what’s the new guy’s name?–a run for most-famous Christian, period. Bono is on record doubting his own faith, and his activism has come with critiques of organized Christianity. But increasingly his statements about religion endorse Christian theology and practice (see this interview from a recent book in which he says he feels closer than ever to Roman Catholicism and sees grace moving in the world more than karma). His emergence as a religious figure comes to the chagrin of secular folks who love his music but can do without his preaching (see the concert review above), and to church folks who see his criticisms of the church as shallow, not to mention leftist.

Bono’s most pointed critique of American religion, at any rate, is not anything he has said against the Religious Right, but precisely in how he talks to, and has won over, both Blue and Red America. Hours before his Charlotte concert, he visited Jesse Helms, the conservative former North Carolina senator, whom Bono credits with getting AIDS drugs to half a million Africans. “He is doing marvelous things,” Dot Helms, the senator’s wife, told the News and Observer. “He is an exceedingly smart man and also a deeply committed Christian.”

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