Earlier this month, the National Prayer breakfast was held in our nation's capitol. Over the years, the breakfast has been a comfortable occasion with a mild mannered sermon/homily presented by a well-known religious leader. I can think of a few occasions where the message got a little uncomfortable for the audience.
The first I can remember was the presentation gave by Sen. Mark Hatfield in the early 1970's. It was at a crucial point in the conflict in Vietnam and with President Nixon and Henry Kissinger in attendance, Hatfield cried out against the moral shame of the war. Another uncomfortable moment happened just about 10 years ago when Mother Teresa spoke about the horrors of abortion in front of President and Mrs. Clinton.
Now most of the time, as I said, it is pretty low key until the Rock Star with an admitted Messianic complex, U2's Bono arrived to speak this year. Now Bono has been involved with the campaign to encourage the government to increase their funding for the poor and sick in Africa, the One campaign (www.one.org
) . He has also spoke about the debt forgiveness of third world countries (www.data.org
Bono was in great form as he spoke. For example, "You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind." He followed that statement by looking at Bush and said, "Mr. President, are you sure about this?"
Bono began to talk about his upbringing with one parent Catholic and one Protestant in Ireland. He grew up seeing the war of religions and through it all, has come to a good understanding of scripture, especially the Old Testament. He spoke clearly about helping other countries is not an issue of charity but of justice. Bono made it clear that if it was charity, Americans and much of the world would help because we are good at charity. Remember the Tsunami and Hurricanes in the GulfCoast. We gave.
Bono also encouraged folks to stop asking God to bless what they were doing. He said, if you're doing what God is already involved in, it is already blessed. Final comments are normally the ones to stick with a listener and Bono's did too.
"I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did - or did not to - to put the fire out in Africa. History, like God, is watching what we do."
Prophet? Maybe not in the Old Testament type of "repent or die". Or maybe so. Change your way or your reputation will die along with the millions around the world.
The full text of Bono's remarks can be read at www.data.org/archives/000774.php