On the Move: Love is on the move, mercy is on the move, God is on the move

I try to be patient with my friends and colleagues in the Christian bookstore business, and I sometimes get a bit defensive when smart and edgy folks dismiss the mom and pop shops that sell the Jesus junk and too little serious literature. Most of them, the “Christian store” owners, are good, good people, working hard with little financial security.
But I do get on my high horse sometimes, and rightfully so. There is so much dumbness, so much that is tacky and weird, in the material culture of the evangelical scene. And, the ethos of the “Christian Booksellers Association” industry, while improving, still allows for such perverse silliness—golf balls with Bible verses sold with the serious claim that they can be evangelistic if lost ones are found, the new line of Christian breath mints (yes, once again, they are called Testa-Mints; I couldn’t make that up), tee shirts which rip off well known ad campaigns (as if that is oh-so-clever) and more bad books than even our most jaded cynic can imagine. We were considering stocking the laminated Bible that you can take in a Christian hot tub, though, but decided to pass…
Sometimes I write letters, scold sales reps (why, oh why, would anybody publish the nonsense in that Stephen Baldwin book, where he affirms anti-intellectualism? And why would an otherwise reliable publisher allow him to do a forward for a book for college students?) I had a protest piece published in our trade journal not too long ago when they awarded the Left Behind novels (less than stellar writing lined with even less than stellar theology) for their significant cultural impact. Yes, they’ve made an impact all right, with cultural creatives and literary critics mocking us worse than our captors in Psalm 137. God’s people at least didn’t deserve that taunting.
But I digress, with my little CBA industry rant. My point today is, well, my point is that you can fight back. A case of colossal stupidity has once again emerged from the belly of the CBA beast. I’ll tell you about it shortly.
First, this great news: the brand new book by u2 frontman, Bono, published by the nervy folks at Nelson-Word (perhaps atoning for some really dumb books in their publishing past) has just been released. It is called On The Move (W Publishing Group; $12.99) and it is a significant collection of photographs of Bono’s first trip to Ethiopia, and a brief chronical of his later work in Africa. These black and white photos, some not seen before, were taken by Bono himself (with shots of him by Kevin Davies.) The text of this small gift book is the much-publicized National Prayer Breakfast speech which Bono delivered last January. It has been widely circulated, and is a powerful, passionate, obviously Christian and serious call to faith, action, obedience and justice. The speech is accentuated with these powerful pictures, giving it an edgy, pomo artsy feel. For more traditional readers, the speech text is reproduced in the back in straight-line paragraphs. It really is worth reading, and this book is really worth having. You could use it nearly as a lectio devino meditation, using the pictures of gloriously human African kids as icons. And you can read the speech in one sitting, using the full edition in the back pages.
Here’s the thing that irks me. Some stores are refusing to carry it. Sales representatives are being criticized, the W publishing group being chastised, for daring to carry a book by this renegade Christian rock star. Forget that the book carries a glowing endorsement by Billy Graham! Forget that all the proceeds go to fight AIDS in Africa! You know what Stephen Baldwin says about that nonsense.
So, my sales rep thanked me for buying a bundle. To hear that some stores haven’t taken any, that some are mad about it, that some sales reps in some parts of the country have not only found the product ignored, but condemned, well, that just makes me wanna holler.
My plan? Let’s sell a bunch of these. Let’s show ’em that we care, that some stores are happy to support this (supposedly controversial) project, and will do well by them. Let’s make sure that the next publisher that wants to do something like this doesn’t back off because CBA stores didn’t sell enough of On The Move. I went out on a limb and ordered more than I should have. I believe in this little book and I believe that our circle of friends and customers will know what to do with it.

I don’t know how long we can do this, but for now, I offer this: buy two, get one free.

You can keep one, give one as a gift to a friend, and donate one to a library, resource center, youth group, coffee shop, beauty salon, or other give-away spot. What do you say?
The speech is worth reading and pondering. It is worth sharing and discussing. The pictures are excellent, the project very cool, the packaging exciting and artistically moving, DATA and the ONE campaign very reliable. Mostly, it is about showing God’s love in compassionate and just ways. It is about a man who leverages his celebrity for the poor, and a publisher willing to get the evangelical community on board. I want to move these, and will give some away. You’ve got to help us, though. Buy two, get one free.
AND: while supplies last, I will do this. Buy two, get one free, AND I will include a book about Christain faith and poverty, some kind of pro-justice, faith-based paperback. I’ve got tons of this stuff around here, and will give some away, to anybody who takes us up on this offer. Just let us know you want the blog special. We offer some free stuff and you can take it from there.

God is not silent on the subject… Bono
On the Move Bono (W) $12.99
Buy two
Get one free
and another free, related book, too.
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com 717.246.3333

16 thoughts on “On the Move: Love is on the move, mercy is on the move, God is on the move

  1. There are legitimate criticisms of Bono. See here, for example:http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=662Appologizing for other Christians who do not share your politics is also a troubling trend.Rhapsodizing about Bono’s snapshots being icons or U2 concernts being worship services hardly does a service to the truth.Ivan Illich has many good things to say about this kind of cult of celebrity.

  2. Hey Byron, good to talk to you, as always!A couple of things:1. Some might be prissy moralists, I donÕt know. You certainly know that world way better than I, but I found the effect of your remarks to be, essentially, that any store who refused to carry the book was guilty of either being dupes or hypocritical fake Christians. This appears to be the way several of your commenters took the post as well.2. Whether or not Bono is a Òtrue ChristianÓ is not for any of us to say. In the realm of prudential wisdom however (such as a store may exercise in deciding what to stock), his antics do leave room for questions. And IÕm not talking about the cussing. For example: http://ctlibrary.com/89593. What does it mean that someone might not ÒgetÓ Bono? This kind of language seems a bit Gnostic to me. 4. The apologizing remark was directed at ÒUnbelieving BelieverÓ who was anxious to apologize for ÒChrist followersÓ everywhere. I am automatically suspicious of any claim that generates amens from the crowd sporting ÒLord, deliver me from your followersÓ bumper-stickers.5. I have never heard the suggestion that we meditate on the image of God in any group of people. I am not sure what that means. Is this a historically practiced spiritual discipline? Certainly we are commanded to love, to have compassion. Is this what you are getting at? If so, it would be better not to use the language of worship to get at it.6. No, you did not say that U2 concerts were worship services. You did say that this book is a lectio divina, a divine reading, and that the photographs were icons. I imagine those from a robust tradition of holy readings and/or iconography would object. At least they should. I have heard it said by EO practitioners that it takes 25 years to become an iconographer. I object strenuously to the dumbing down of Christian tradition and discipline. The Bono book may be good, but it is not a holy reading and its photographs are not icons. I threw in the line about worship services because though you did not say it, your comments were very much in line with many many others who have said it. (Even worse, you may have heard of the ÒU2-charist,Ó see http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2006/10/the_u2charist.html). In fact, the whole U2 schtick, taken with BonoÕs hostility to Òorganized religion.Ó can be seen as an attempt to create a substitute church with its own liturgy, secret knowledge, and path to self-salvation through social justice. I acknowledge that this is probably an overly harsh judgment, and not yet true, but the trends are alarming and ought not be encouraged. 7. I donÕt think you are guilty of any kind of cult for wanting to sell this book. Not at all. I do think many people verge on a kind of cultic attraction to Bono and U2. This kind of thing should not be encouraged by developing the kind of rhetoric that pits the few who ÒgetÓ it against the rest of the ÒpharisaicalÓ church.8. I donÕt think I ever suggested that we ought not care about large foreign problems? Where did I say that? I donÕt think that, and canÕt imagine ever having said it. Caleb

  3. Caleb,You raise good points and I hope our readers are paying attention. I appreciate it.Here, though, are a few things I’d want to have said in reply.1. I am sorry my tone made it sound like the stores that don’t carry this book are dupes. I thought I called it colossal stupidity, which is maybe worse. I ran it by a trusted friend and asked if I was being to harsh on my CBA compatriots, and that person thought I was not being mean-spirited. Anyway, I stand a tiny bit corrected as I am sure there are some store owners who have integrity and theological chops and have their reasons. I framed it my comparing it to the people that sell the evangelisitic golf balls and the TestaMints. For those who have more serious concerns–I don’t know, people, say at Eight Day or some place like, I would have immense respect for, but I figured it was clear that I took this Bono boycott to be symptomatic of a lack of thoughtfulness and a suspicious of “worldly” and non-CBA authors on the part of traditional CBA stores. I should have at least noted that some might have legitimate reasons for their concerns.2. His antics indeed have had very unfortunate implications and repercussions. An otherwise brillant SNL performance turned unexpectedly raunchy, and soured the whole thing for me. I think a case could be made that his earthiness and raunch has some redemptive tone too it, either—he seems to have a relatively pure heart, and it doesn’t strike me as nihilistic or mean. I had a Reformed friend that used to smoke, “to keep the pietists” away. It was a clever line, but stupid; and I understood where he was coming from, even though I’d rather not be that unreconciled to our conservative brothers and sisters. So I do worry about all kinds of stuff like this and appreciate your concern.3. Gnostic? Awww, come on now, that hurts. I am sure you’ve heard a hundred times the phrase “I don’t get that” or “I’m not sure I get where she’s coming from” or “Don’t you get that?” I guess saying you’ve heard it doesn’t prove it ain’t gnostic, but it is a common saying implying that somebody connects with and understands someone’s speech or behavior or art. I find that the high-culturaled intellectual elites–good ones, thank goodness–at First Things aren’t particularly involved in rock and roll culture and may not be the best judges of the aesthetics of pop culture. To accuse someone of being unaware of how best to determine the validity of a genre of art doesn’t mean I’m gnostic at all, but that there are right and wrong ways to do the textual analysis of any art. Why I think they are not schooled in such knowable norms is another matter, and I could be wrong. I just don’t get why you think that is gnostic. Hee, he.4. Not about me so I’ll skip it.5. This is important to me. I didn’t say, to be precise, that the book IS a lectio devina. As I understand the phrase, lectio devina is something one does. And it can be done, I believe, with nearly any text. It is not a technique, exactly, but a heart attitude and style of meditative reading, and I commend that one reflectively meditate–more for formation than information, the saying goes–on the deeper meaning of the text and the Bible verses it cites, as a way of opening ourselves to the possibility that God might nudge and shape us in the holy encounter with the printed page. I do not know that this is controversial, reading slowly and reflectively in a holy posture hoping to find God’s ways revealed with greater clarity by a lectio process. So, yes, it can indeed–espeically given that it is a Christian sermon—be appropriated in that dicsiplined way.Can pictures be icons? This is a good, good quesiton, and I argued in a Sunday school class a few weeks ago for a more precise use of the term. I understand that iconographers and those who write them and those who read them have a venerable tradition and it ought not be taken lightly. (Learning to reflective read the icon isn’t that hard, though, and there are lovely books that I’ve enjoyed as I’ve studied this. I have a good friend, a bit of a Methodist mystic, who studied under an Orthodox iconographer and my buddy has taught me a bit. So I used the phrase loosely, but there are those who commend a similiar posture when relfecting using imaginative prayerfulness when viewing any token, item or picture. The Bible commands this regarding the beauty of creation, of course, so why not a photo of creation? I appreciate your warning, and perhaps I should be less casual in using the phrase icon. But the imago dei in another human is a glorious thing indeed and I mean no sentimental dumbing down of historic practices to suggest we can use spiritual practice to reflect deeply on the glory and the pain of photos of African image-bearers of the Holy One.8. I believe it was in conversation about why you didn’t like my endorsement of Campolo. I suppose you didn’t say we shouldn’t care, but implied, as I recall, that since these big problems cannot be solved locally and the liberal thinking has taken over the ways we think about solving them, we would be wise not to get too wrapped up in global projects of this sort. Maybe I misundestood then (although, as I recall, I used the example of immigration reform, a large and complicated political policy question that presses on us here, since we have the prison that houses politcal asylees. Much of their fate rests in national and international policy debates, so enter that fray we must. We are our “brother’s keeper” of course, and in this world, global policy matters matter. I know you have thought hard and long and written often about this. Want to link to any on line piece that our readers whose interest might be picqued in your perspective might go for a look-see?Thanks again.

  4. Caleb and Byron…Good to see you two going at it again. I find these discussions very fruitful.The First Things post was informative, and I think anyone who pays any attention to what Bono does should give it a read. If the numbers are to be believed, that fact $100 million was spent to raise $10 million is a bit troubling. And bootstrapping our work with the poor with consumerism is a dangerous road to travel.Regarding “caring” for the plight of Africans and Caleb’s last point: I’ve been reading Ellul’s Perspectives on Our Age (by the way, I’m assuming this came from you, Byron, via Scott Calgaro), and makes a point about the importance of “thinking globally, acting locally.” For most of us, this is the best, most authentic way to live, because we can make a difference in someone’s life. The danger, I think, with the “cult of Bono” is that people believe that by purchasing a wristband, or a shirt, or sending money to across the ocean, or voting for someone, that they are effectively “doing their part.” That’s not say that Christians shouldn’t dedicate their lives to helping these less fortunate wherever they are, but let’s not convince people that simply voting or donating money is authentic Christian action.

  5. Byron, thanks for the kind words, and I do take your point about the photos, and think it is a good and valid one.On justice and charity. What Bono said was not that one was more important, but that justice was a higher standard. This is what I think is Biblically wrong, for charity is actually the higher standard. This is fundamental to the gospel, is it not? Even the heathen love their families, the true test is loving one’s enemies. This is charity over justice. Consider the parable of the servant who was forgiven much yet demanded justice from the one who owed him little. Consider Paul: “yet the greatest of these is charity.” I also think Bono is probably confused about what justice really is, but that is another matter.I remember one night behind your store playing legos and watching Sesame Street with Micah at about 12:30 in the morning. That was one of the times I distinctly remember thinking that having my own kids some day would be pretty cool.Denise,My stereo is up. Do you intend to suggest that by turing it up further still I might be prevented from thinking?Brian,I haven’t read that Ellul. I will have to add it to the list. What is Calgaro up to these days?

  6. Denise, you probably won’t like what I have to say, but I think it would do you some good if you let it.Your approach to this discussion is incredibly naive and reckless. This kind of thing is the reason Evangelicals get steamrolled and/or suckered repeatedly in matters of statecraft.This discussion is about power politics, pure and simple. I do not deny that such things are driven by many motivations, some more, some less admirable, right, and true. Bono’s address was not a “sermon” in any meaningful sense of the word. He was not addressing a church, let alone his own parishioners. He was making a policy speech to the most powerful people on earth.In this context, urging one to “lighten up” and “dance a little” is a well-learned Evangelical reaction that desires to paper over the messiness of the accumulation, consolidation, and wielding of worldly power with “niceness” and gestures toward “can’t-we-all-get-along” sentiments. This is either silly and removes one as a serious player in such debates, or, when employed more cynically as a means of stifling dissent, it is to be resisted as a closing of the collective mind.Joy is a Christian virtue and spiritual discipline. Niceness is not. What you are suggesting is not joy. Either that or you are not at all paying attention to the context of this discussion.Many will undoubtedly object to me laying things out in such a manner, but I regard this kind of discourse in something of a medieval way where words are weapons and ideas are not the idle work of blog-chatterboxes but, as Harry Stout has put it, “utterly serious pursuits worthy of being treated in life-and-death terms.”There is no other appropriate way to treat these kinds of exchanges for, as you say, we do not know one another, and even those of us who do know one another a bit should never fall into the trap of assuming that this medium is an appropriate or dependable way to carry on human relationships which depend, it must be said, on more earthy (and joyful) entanglements.

  7. Overstate? Me? :)Sure, I enjoy U2’s music. However, this really begs the question, and perhaps heightens its importance, of truth. As your friend and mine reminds us, the question when we confront art must be: is it true? And if we are insisting on roping Bono’s political activism in together whollistically with his art (I was trying to keep them separate), I think there is a serious question about whether or not, taken as a whole, it is true.The seduction of music can be used for good or ill, as I’m sure you discussed with your students, and I do not like or think it is responsible to be put off from questions of truth by claims about how one is so “moved” by the art and I ought to be likewise moved.This business about not parsing too deeply is just a cover for shoddy thinking and bad habits that we would prefer didn’t see the light. I do not mean that as a rebuke to Denise personally. But just to the ideas and words I see showing up under her name. If her husband is really committing idolatry, it is not OK to shrug this off as a “no parse” zone.If Bono is misusing scripture and lobbying the most powerful government on earth with bad ideas, it is not OK to simply waive away these concerns by an appeal to the “joy of the art.” Nor do I think it is OK to confuse matters by calling his speech a sermon. Not only was he not addressing a church, he in no sense has received, nor does he present himself as having recieved, the call of, let alone certification by the Church, of a clergyman. This kind of blurring the lines between rock bands, nation states, and churches is very dangerous, very volitale stuff, and it does Christianity no favors to not be alert to these things and confront them head on.The words as weapons thing was also from the Stout essay, sorry for the confusion. It is here if interested:http://www.ctlibrary.com/bc/2005/novdec/6.29.htmlPaul uses his words as weapons quite often. See, e.g., Galations 2.Caleb

  8. Ha! Great story.Weapons are sometimes gifts. That is the paradox of the gospel, no?I know I consider many a thump on the head I have received as gifts. I’m sure I am in line to receive many more such gifts, so thump away.CS

  9. It has been awhile since I visited your Blog Byron – my loss.If the “buy two get one free” is still being offered I’ll buy four and take two – if not – I’ll buy four anyway.Patrick Walker

  10. My note to Caleb– now, obviously, no amount of volume could prevent YOU from thinking. Nor me, for that matter.I don’t know you, so it feels a bit strange because I might come off wrong: one of my concerns from living in Christian communities is that we can sometimes get so focused on whether something is utterly correct, that we lose track of playfulness and joy, and especially to lose track of the poet’s joy when he is writing and finding just the right turn of phrase… I say this, having lived many years among people quick to criticise my character due to the content of my turntable, just when my musical tastes were really beginning to open new worlds for me. So, not to say don’t think, but rather, a time to think, a time to dance (knowing fully well that both you and I think while dancing because that’s what thinking people do). Does that make any more sense? My theologian husband and I joke about a traffic light that reads “parse/don’t parse” about some topics. So I don’t parse his baseball fandom too carefully, though it verges on idolatrous, in my mind. There are other topics he agrees not to parse for me– or to parse with some other person instead of me. Does that mean thinking is shut off? We’re just making room for the other’s odd joy. I’m not saying to you “don’t parse,” but hoping you also find joy. And perhaps you do, even while parsing. And perhaps I need not parse your joy for parsing… and of course I’d not say “don’t parse Bono ever,” but more, dance, find joy. Maybe the joy is there, and it doesn’t come out in your writing, to one who has not met you. Do forgive me if I’m completely off-base. I’m off to add some joy to my turntable now…

  11. Y’all need to chill out and turn up the stereo. I read the First Things piece, and it doesn’t add a bit of tarnish to a talented celebrity who is using his name for good things, mostly things that Christians can get behind. I also think Bono raises faith issues for non-believers in a particularly brilliant way. I’m always ready to forgive him his excesses, just as I hope folks will be willing to forgive mine. U2 is a little slice of the strangest sort of grace– it never looks like we expect it, when the show hits the stage or the new CD comes out. I find myself heartened and moved, each time I encounter this band. They are bards, poetic truth-tellers who do not ever claim infallibility. I’m glad they are on the planet. As I am glad you are on the planet, Byron.

  12. Well, I went and read the prayer breakfast talk. Not bad, for a rock star É :)One thing that should be made clear: this is a political policy speech. He is advocating a specific political government policy and cloaking this in religious language. Regardless of what one thinks of such things, it should be known that this is the case.For having a stated love of separation of church and state, Bono easily conflates the missions of the two in ways that go unstated and unrecognized. He has a great deal of confidence in Washington. A confidence I do not share.Bono is, I believe, wrong that justice is a higher standard than charity. This is biblically incorrect. It confuses his whole argument.Bono is likewise wrong in his theology. It is not correct as a rule that ÒGod is with us if we are with them.Ó This too confuses his argument.Bono is, I believe, historically simplistic in his understanding of the relationship between the law of nature and the law of the spirit. This too confuses his argument.There is a lot more that can be said here. It would be best if the conversation could proceed without suggestions of anathema one way or the other.Caleb

  13. Love is on the Move. God is on the Move, but not in all bookstores. It is not surprising that a message that rings so close to Jesus’ message would be ignored by religious people of the day. Just like Jesus, Bono will have many people who feel far from God hear these words and join God on the move. LetÕs hope followers of Jesus are able to hear and head the words of this radical follower of the Christ as well. If Christians find themselves more concerned with Bono’s video crotch thrusts than they are with his message to join God in loving the down trodden of His creation then I grieve for this world and offer the starving, HIV infested children of Africa my most sincere apology for “Christ Followers” everywhere.

  14. Thanks Byron for your CBA rant. Refreshing! Go for it and blessings on you and all your efforts in following the crucified and risen One.

  15. Well spoken. As an endorser of the book, I am happy that you have found good reason to bring it to whomever will read it. I have heard and repeated more than once that pop culture-christianity is about as aromatic of the Gospel as a steaming pile of horse poo. I applaud you for approaching the sale and gifting of this book as you have. Apparently, Jesus was not enough of a reason to love the sick and the poor. And Africa, and AIDS are too messy for the kind of disposable Gospel these mainline Christian stores are comfortable selling. ….Maybe if they just take Bono’s quotes and put them on inspirational posters with photos of beautiful streams and eagles flying,,,, -Dan

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