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One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Christianity, metaphorically, has many "keys." Many prominent voices play major keys, promising blessings and offering comfortable settings. Christian Scharen, the author of One Step Closer, introduces a minor key--the theology of the cross--that fits U2's voice.

"The theology of the cross fits U2 because it avoids the all too common proclamation of faith, hope, and love that ignores the present realities of doubt, despair, suffering and injustice. It is a tradition that looks at the world and speaks the truth about what it sees: the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the words of the church reformer Martin Luther, the theology of the cross `calls a thing what it really is.'"

This book helps "make sense of U2's style of talking about God, Jesus, the Spirit and the Christian life in a holistic way." It's an excellent resource for those wanting to understand the spirituality found in the band's lyrics.

It also serves as a mini-lesson in theology, especially as it pertains to the cross and the different forms of communication found in the Bible. The author provides keen insight into the psalms, the wisdom literature, the parables, prophecy, and apocalyptic writing in the first section of the book. In each chapter a different pattern of speech is examined with examples of how U2 mirrors the style and content of that particular form.

The second section focuses on the theology of the cross. With U2, it's a way of singing "truthfully and unflinchingly about God and the world God loves. It is a way of speaking that highlights faith over certainty, hope over despair, selfless love over the self-indulgent pursuits that tempt the church and its leaders to grab power and money for themselves." Once again the author provides specific examples from the band's music.

The last section introduces the idea of living the truth as a way to live the cross. It provides an account of how U2 lives out their faith. For U2, following God means doing the truth.

One can easily come away with a greater understanding and admiration for what U2 is all about. The band deserves credit for not succumbing to the popular self-fulfillment trends in the Church.

What's especially valuable is the author's ability to introduce readers to the Christian tradition by illustrating from U2. His thoughts on cross-centered theology are rewarding and worth more than one read.

This is a scholarly but easy to read work. The author displays a mastery of theology and U2. He more than adequately supports his contentions through Scripture (almost exclusively from The Message Bible) and an analysis of the band's lyrics and interviews. This book is a valuable edition to the growing volume of literature on U2.

It would have been helpful if the author would have elaborated more on some of the controversial elements of U2. Though it may be a minor thing, their seeming indifference about drinking, smoking and swearing is hard to understand. Their critical attitude toward the Church and some Christians is understandable but a little troubling.

Some Christians feel that U2 is not Christian enough. Ironically, you can see from reading this book that U2 follow in the tradition of the cross by speaking honestly and pointing toward sacrifice and service toward others. In so doing, they have turned it around and indirectly challenged the Church and individual Christians to be more Christian.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'll start with the book's most insignificant offense and work my way up.
First, a lot of lyric quotes have very minor differences from the lyrics printed in liner notes of U2 releases. A small issue, but in turn very distracting when the author is trying to sound authoritative on his subject, especially when correct lyrics are so readily available. Oh well, whatever, nevermind.
BUT...there's also a claim that Adam Clayton converted to Christianity which I couldn't find substantiated anywhere else, including the book he claims as its source (the interview with Bono book, a much better read btw).
Scripture is sometimes paraphrased in a way that makes it hard to find what he's talking about (as for the "opening of Isaiah" he quotes, I still haven't found what I'm looking for (commenters are welcome to help me out).
My most ill-at-ease feeling about this book comes from the way the theological stuff is presented. It seems that the author just wants to get it out of the way so he can get back to talking about how awesome U2 are. Especially considering the book is aimed at those "seeking God," this is a little perplexing. I, myself, am not seeking U2. I know how awesome they are. I would suspect that anyone who cares enough about them to read books about them does as well.
Speaking of reading books about U2, unless this is your first encounter with anything that's been in print in the last, I don't know, twenty years, you won't read much here you didn't already know. The book is bogged down with U2 facts that even casual fans probably know (Rattle and Hum wasn't well received by critics, Adam had a problem with booze, Bono was involved in the Jubilee campaign, blah blah blah). What's worse, is that the facts very often have nothing to do with the point he's trying to make! Presenting U2 trivia in this manner doesn't give you much credibility. I think it does the reader a disservice to not assume his or her level of familiarity with the subject. Again, if this is your first read about U2, you might disagree on the importance of including biographical details and U2 history, but the book is presented as being for those "seeking God," not U2.
If you are interested in U2 as Christians, the two other books "Walk On" and "Carry Each Other" are much better written and much more interesting. You'd do better with those.
I appreciated the U2 as icon introduction, but I do want to caution U2 fans who are actually seeking God to seek him in the Bible, and keep listening to U2. U2 are great, they've always been and always will be my favorite band. You do feel God's presence at their concerts, and I have certainly felt the Holy Spirit at work in my soul when one of Bono's lyrics strikes me in a way it never had before.
For those genuinely seeking God, though, don't look for him in U2. Look for him in his Word to us, and rejoice that such a fine group of musicians and social advocates have done the same.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Christian did a fantastic job on this book. I MUST SAY FOR THOSE SEEKING GOD or curious about god, religion, spirituality it is easy to understand. Nothing complicated such as the olde world bible and at times frusting for many deciphering words writen in the Holy Bibles. It is directed for those in their early years as christian later states in the books ending....... As well as a refresher course for those of us who have walked this path and know GOD... A pleasurable at your leisure type of reading at your journeys pace to be comfortable without any pressure of religion being pushed on you or feeling like you have to run to church because someone says the bible says you have to. you can develop your own personal closeness to GOD in the comfort of your own being and will. And one doesn't even have to be a U2 fan to understand.. With understanding the words coinciding with their songs of personal experiences and overcoming tradgedy as well celebrating triumphs successfully ; humbly they touch base with being human and given the grace to express themselves through a healthy release as well as messages of hope to every generation ..... AND TO REMEMBER BE PATIENT WITH OTHERS AS GOD HAS BEEN WITH YOU.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
I thought the book was fun to read. A friend of mine used it as a guide for a church group study on the Theology of U2. It was a hit. We ended up discussing really important issues like Justice, and Money, etc. We would read a few chapters and watch the videos and then discuss. The way the book is structured is what positively differintiates it from other U2 books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Books about U2's theological implications have become growth industry in recent years. As Bono and company have become a cultural institution, the frowns people once pulled at the idea of finding spirituality in a pop band now seem naïve and dated. And U2's unabashed use of Biblical language and Christian themes seems like an excellent bridge to connect spiritual seekers with faith when they, ahem, still haven't found what they're looking for.

Christian Scharen's contribution to this industry is a distinctly Lutheran, grace-based angle on the band. Scharen writes mainly for people who are curious about U2's spiritual implications but are not familiar with their Biblical basis. He unpacks U2 with the care of a literary scholar, matching that effort with an exegesis of the spiritual message. And though he quotes greats like Martin Luther and Henri Nouwen, he never forgets to explain his points in plain language.

This book is densely written and rewards slow reading. Scharen is a detailed and careful writer. At times it feels like he's reviewing U2 concerts and albums, so it's hard to tell if some chapters are about U2 or Christianity. But this book opens up more angles to U2's multivalent spirituality than I'd imagined possible. Who knew an Irish rock band that's played to packed houses for thirty years could also me a mission movement?

I recommend this book for two audiences. First, like Scharen, I'd like to see U2 fans who want to learn more about the band's spiritual focus read this and have their questions answered. Then I'd like to see Christians who want to learn to communicate their faith in a pop-oriented world study how this band has done exactly that. This book, and U2, may well be the translation key that lets both such groups speak to each other, face to face, like equals.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
In his book, One Step Closer, author Christian Scharen weaves two inter-related themes to teach a powerful lesson of theology. The foundational theme is that of the Theology of the Cross as opposed to the Theology of Glory. Built on this foundation is how the music of the Irish rock band, U2, illustrates this idea of God's interaction with the world and the human race.

The book is organized in two main parts with the first part giving examples of how the Biblical literary forms of Psalm, Wisdom, Prophecy, Parable and Apocalypse are woven into the lyrics of the band's music. The second part looks at how the Theology of Cross informs the band's view of the themes of Faith, Hope, Love and Eschatology. In each chapter there are examples from U2's songs that illustrate the points being made as well as additional references for further listening.

While the book does contain biographical information about the band, it is not a history of the band or their music. Rather it is an attempt to explain the perspective and theology that informs what the band does in it's songs and how this perspective, based on the Theology of the Cross, can be used to interpret the modern and postmodern experience.

I would strongly recommend this book to fans of the band's music, Christian leaders seeking to connect with the band's message and Bible study leaders looking for new and relevant material to teach or discuss.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Christian Scharen does not hide the fact that he is a U2 fan. This book seems to mainly be written for those who are both fans of U2, and Christians trying to figure out what it really means to be a Christian. I like the author's use of some pretty deep theological sources (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, and Henri Nouwen among others), as well as basic quotes from the popular press and from U2 themselves.

The possible danger comes in seeking too much, both from this book, and from U2 themselves. Back about 1990, I saw one of Bono's first national network TV interviews in the US, and he said something that I think we should all remember. It was something along the lines of this: "Some people want to elect me to be the pope or something. And I obviously wouldn't make a very good pope." U2 are in their element as a rock band that breaks the 1970s to 1980s mold of what a rock band should be. I love it when Bono talks economics with the Chairman of the US Federal Bank, and blows his doors off! I think U2 are a "Voice crying in the wilderness." But also be aware that they are human, and will make mistakes, go off on tangents, and generally screw up every once in a while. Look where they point, don't look for the answer in them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Excellent job of encapsulating U2, their faith, and the gospel that guides them. This is a book for seekers, but also for believers who want more depth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book help us to understand the music of U2 in a deeper way. Some of the symbolism in their music can be lost to many because of the Irish background we are unfamiliar with or the depth of insight they have gained from their Bible study. I really enjoyed how this put it all in perspective. It has opened up their music to me in a fresh way.
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on November 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you know me well at all, you know that U2 is my all time favorite band. I had the amazing opportunity to see them live the last time they came to Atlanta and it was well worth the price of admission. The fact that they sang one of my favorite songs, 40, made my experience "even better than the real thing" (sorry, I promise no more U2 song title puns). One of my life-long friends got me a book for Christmas several years ago and I just finally got around to reading it. One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen takes the reader through twelve different topics regarding Christianity and shows how different songs in the U2 music catalog fit within these topics.

The topics covered include: Singing Scripture, Psalms as Thanksgiving and Lament, Wisdom as Desire and Illusion, Prophecy as Judgment and Hope, Parables as Offense and Mercy, Apocalypse as Ecstasy and Healing, Singing the Cross, Faith (Not Sight), Hope (Not Possession), Love (Not Power), Now (Not Yet), and Singing the Truth. (Read my entire review at: [...])
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