U2 has a respected and admired career in rock ‘n’ roll, a type of music notorious for rewarding artists who sing about more base things than the world and one’s place in it.
The band — or in some cases just frontman Bono — has played pop star, pariah, prodigal son and proselytizer. But the spirituality coursing through 30 years of U2’s music has never earned U2, who play the Toyota Center on Wednesday, the tag of Christian rock band, a stigma of sorts in mainstream music. The band has deftly kept its spiritual and secular sides in proportions that wouldn’t limit its reach.
Greg Garrett, a professor at Baylor University and author of We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2, suggests Christian rock has become a toxic phrase in pop “for a good reason. We have Christian art in which the art is less important than the Christian part.
“U2’s beliefs filter into their work, but that’s not their primary reason for making music.”
The Rev. Genevieve Razim, associate rector at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, says, “as an Episcopalian, I always had a hunch that cool and Christian were not mutually exclusive; U2 affirmed that for me.
“There were so many messages from the media that being a Christian meant being rigid and square and intolerant, and here was this rock band asking bigger questions and expressing their faith.”
So the band has for years made songs about peace, justice, spirits and mysteries, and done so in a way that suggests an inclination toward elevation, from its early use of psalms to a panoramic worldview today.