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No poet—and Bono, the 42-year-old lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, considers himself a poet—enjoys having his verse scrutinized. And no musician likes to have to explain what a song means.

Nevertheless, for more than 20 years Bono's fans have been attempting to gauge his spiritual well-being by what he sings, what he says in interviews, talk shows, and awards programs, and what he does or doesn't do in public.

For many Christians of a certain generation, combing through the lyrics of U2 songs (nearly all of them written by Bono) in search of biblical images or references to Jesus Christ and his teachings is almost a sport. Consider it a cross between exegesis and Where's Waldo?

He doesn't attend church regularly. He prays frequently. He likes to say grace before meals. He tries to have a "Sabbath hour" as often as he can. His favorite Bible is Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message. He hangs out with Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, but on a recent visit to Nashville he spent the morning palling around with Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.

Bono knows the subject of his personal faith is of great interest to others, although he's certain that interest is misplaced. The inquiries don't seem to bother him—Bono seems comfortable with who he is. He just celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary with his high-school sweetheart, Alison Stewart, his band had one of its most successful years artistically and professionally, and he has found his calling, on and off stage. Rarely has Bono talked explicitly about his faith and beliefs. But as he has begun to recruit churches this past year in the fight against AIDS in Africa, that seems to be changing.

'Hi. I'm Bono.'

Born Paul David Hewson in Dublin, Ireland, to a Roman Catholic ...

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