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Calvin College on U2

College class on U2 explores religious influence of a rock band.

Dwarfed by a giant bank of TV monitors, the rock star Bono gyrates across the arena stage—a dancing shaman channeling the ecstasy of thousands of U2 fans.

"In waves of regret, in waves of joy, I reached for the one I tried to destroy," he sings passionately. "You said you'd wait till the end of the world."

Hands reach out to him as he walks among the faithful. Video clips show tidal waves crashing, lightning flashing and a woman wailing.

The soundtrack to apocalypse? No, it's a splice of a TV special about a U2 tour of the early 1990s.

It's also a sign of increased interest in the spiritual significance of this immensely popular Irish rock group.

The images are taken in by a class of Calvin College students, who are probing what Bono and his band have to say as Christians to the world of pop culture.

"You hear U2 everywhere," said Bemis, one of 14 students gathered in a Calvin video theater on a recent morning. "They have so much more influence as Christians than most other people who claim to be Christian."

Tim Gruppen calls them "brutally honest."

"They say a lot of things many Christians would be ashamed to 'fess up to, some of the struggles they have," Gruppen argues.

But why a class on U2, one of the world's most adored rock bands, at a conservative Christian college?

"Religion and rock 'n' roll can meld together," insists Katie Arbogast. "U2 does the best job of it."

Many scholars and clergy agree. They say U2 is an important spiritual influence on a youth culture more enamored of popular media than of the church.

"What they have to offer is a vision," said Mark Mulder, who is teaching the U2 course during Calvin's three-week interim semester. "They're saying there's something wrong with the world. But at the same time, they ...

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