Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.
Psalm 63:3

Monday, March 28, 2011


Still loving the book and I'm almost finished. 

Can I share some of my favorite excerpts? It's a ready? I can't republish the whole thing, so these are just pieces. If you read the interview I posted before, some of this may be familiar. {Michka Assaya's words are in boldface.The highlights are mine.}

God, in His sneaky-up-on-me, perfectly-timed way, is using this book to articulate some of the  wrestling matches I've had with my faith. Who knew Bono would clear so much up for me?

On his faith: 

p. 85
I do see the good in people, but I also see the bad – I see it in myself. I know what I’m capable of, good and bad. It’s very important that we make that clear. Just because I often find a way around the darkness doesn’t mean that I don’t know it’s there.

p. 186
Who was the first televangelist you saw on TV?

It was a preacher who was asking his audience in TV land to put their hand against the screen to be healed. So there were people, old ladies with bronchitis, old ladies with broken hips, and probably people with cancer, all over America, getting out of their armchairs and putting their hands on the TV. It broke my heart. But remember I was a believer. Though I understood the power of the Scriptures they were quoting from, and I did believe in the healing powers of faith, I was seeing it debased and demeaned. But unlike a lot of people, I understood the language. What’s always bothered me about the fundamentalists is that they seem preoccupied with the most obvious sins. If those sins, sexual immorality and drug addiction, come out of unhappiness, then I’m sure God wants to set people free of that unhappiness. But I couldn’t figure out why the same people were never questioning the deeper, slyer problems of the human spirit like self-righteousness, judgmentalism, institutional greed, corporate greed. You only have to look to unfair trade agreements that keep the developing world in the Dark Ages to see the hypocrisy I’m talking about. These people talk about the debasing of culture. What about the debasing of hundreds of thousands of real lives?

p. 221-22
It’s true. Yeah, smashing other people to pieces doesn’t need the same conviction. Most terrorists want to change the material world. Well, add eternity to that, and people can go a lot further to pursue their ends. It’s a big prize, isn’t it, eternity? It’s not a two-term or a three-term presidency. [laughs] But of course, this is always a corruption of some holy thesis, whether it’s the Koran or the Bible. My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed be that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now, that’s not so easy.

What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love.”
There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometime divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament , it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

p. 223
Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there once was conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship.

p. 225
Just for the last time, I would like to go back to our tour of the dark side of religion. Appalling things seem to happen when people become religious at too early an age or when their experience of life is nonexistent. Don’t you think?
Zealots often have no love for the world. They’re just getting through it to the next one. It’s a favorite topic. It’s the old cliche’: “Eat shit now, pie in the sky when you die.” But I take Christ at his word: “On Earth as it is in Heaven.” As to the first part of your question, in my experience, the older you get, the less chance you have to transform your life, the less open you are to live in a challenging way. You tend towards love that’s more comforting and safe.

As I told you, I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

I haven’t heard you talk about that.
 I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics – in physical laws – every action in met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that ”As you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

The son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s mortality as part of you very sinful nature and let’s face it, You’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled…It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.

That’s a great idea, no denying it, Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?
No, it’s not farfetched to me, Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah.  At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this.  So what you’re left is: either Christ was who He said He was – the Messiah – or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched.

p. 228
He was a bit like you, wasn’t He?
No, He only thought He was Bono! [laughs for quite a while] No, but seriously, if we only could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. All I do is get up on the Cross of the Ego: the bad hangover, the bad review. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my shit and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is the man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there It is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

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