By: Christopher West
Two of my biggest interests in life are theology and music. In fact, before I discovered John Paul II’s theology of the body and decided to devote my life to studying and teaching it, I had pursued a career in the rock and roll world as a drummer, guitarist, and singer/songwriter. If John Paul II has been the biggest influence in my theological life, without a doubt, the Irish band U2 has been the biggest influence in my musical life.
Ever since I first saw them on MTV in 1983 (it was the video for New Year’s Day), I have followed their career with great interest. Their music is in my blood and speaks deeply to my soul. The band’s rather unconventional faith in Christ is well known. Their songs are steeped in biblical imagery. Long before I had any faith of my own, I think that “spirit” in their music attracted me and possibly even helped open me in some way to Christ.
U2 & TOB
One of the many causes that Bono, the band’s singer, champions is fighting the spread of AIDS in Africa. I have thought for many years that Bono would be very interested in the idea of “sexual redemption” taught in John Paul II’s theology of the body as a means of getting to the root of the AIDS crisis. In fall of 2005, in a meeting seemingly orchestrated from heaven by John Paul II himself, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Bono and introduce him to the late Pope’s teaching. I gave him a copy of my book Theology of the Body for Beginners and we had a very lively exchange about the Scriptures, sex, redemption, and the Catholic Church.
Fast forward to late December 2006. A friend called me on the phone and said, “Have you heard the new U2 song? It’s called ‘Window in the Skies.’ You’re not going to believe it.” I typed the title into Google and listened with amazement. It’s a song about how Christ’s resurrection can redeem the sexual relationship. The chorus repeats the joyous refrain, “Oh can’t you see what love has done? Oh can’t you see what love has done, and what it’s doing to me?” Here is a sample of some of the verses:
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed
The sky over our head
We can reach it from our bed
If you let me in your heart
And out of my head…
In the bridge, Bono echoes the joy of Eden — and one of the main themes of John Paul’s teaching — when he cries: “I’ve got no shame, oh no, oh no!” Then, admitting the many ways he has hurt his wife (Bono has been faithfully married to his high school sweetheart for nearly 25 years), he says, “But love left a window in the skies, and to love I rhapsodize.” As the song ends, he offers the same hope “to every broken heart, for every heart that cries — love left a window in the skies.” So, has Bono been reading up on the theology of the body? Perhaps. Or, maybe as John Paul II himself emphasized, these are simply truths that find an echo in every human heart and Bono has tapped into it.