During the Heart of America tour in late 2002, which he organized to raise awareness of aids in Africa, rock singer Bono of U2 took a radical step: He pleaded directly with his fellow Christians.

Between visiting truck stops, high schools, and daily newspapers, Bono also dropped in on a few megachurches and Wheaton College. Bono has declined to speak with American evangelicals' mass media for years, and we're thankful that the urgency of his cause has changed that—see this issue's cover story (page 38). But Bono's excursion into American evangelicalism was missing one crucial element: a sense that he felt much respect for the evangelical culture he was lecturing.

In the more purple of his prosaic moments, Bono claimed that the church:

  • Will be "made irrelevant" if it does not respond adequately to Africa's aids crisis.

  • Practices a "hierarchy of sin" that condemns people with aids as deserving the affliction because of sexual promiscuity.

  • Has "pervert[ed] the gospels and the Holy Scriptures since they were first written."

MacPhisto, a satirical onstage character that Bono adopted during U2's concerts in the early 1990s, claimed that Pope John Paul and the Archbishop of Canterbury were doing Satan's work. Bono has taken a kindlier view of the pope since they talked about mutual concerns on Third World debt. Perhaps he will lighten up on the Archbishop of Canterbury now that Rowan Williams, a man of the Left, has ascended the throne.

Bono's full-throated judgments on the church prompt this question: Just how would he know? He has, after all, avoided the church since breaking with Shalom, a Watchman Nee-inspired group in Ireland, in the early 1980s.

This arm's-length experience of churches leaves Bono with a paper-thin ecclesiology that ...

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