Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Take Yahweh...

... on "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb", by U2.

When U2 were doing their postmodern bit (Zooropa, Achtung Baby), it seemed a great loss to mainstream Christianity. The quality of their songs was still great, but it was hard to argue that they were presenting an authentic Christian message. Bands like Delirious? tried to pick up their mantle, but although competent, just didn't quite seem to achieve the same quality.

With their latest album, U2 have returned to a position a lot closer to the mainstream of Christianity. Take Yahweh, for example.

Well, firstly it's a good enough song in its own right. Next, as has been observed elsewhere, it represents a modernisation of an older song, well loved by evangelical Christians: "Take my life and let it be", by Frances Havergal. The words are incredibly layered. For example, it includes the phrase:
Take this mouth,
so quick to criticise:
take this mouth,
give it a kiss.
In addition to asking God to kiss the mouth, the singer is asking God to make the mouth able to kiss. The same depth is present in the phrase:
Take these hands,
don't make a fist.
- not only "don't make these hands into a fist" but also (using a colloquial expression) "don't make a mess of these hands".

Then there's what they are doing with the song in the live shows. The last line of the song:
Take this heart and make it break
- a reference perhaps to Psalm 51:17 to
Take this city and keep it safe.
- a benediction (which comes almost at the end of the concert).

In one bound, then (or actually probably over the course of a decade - they have been heading back this way for some time), U2 have moved back to a much more orthodox, less ambiguous Christian position.