Is Bono a great leader of our time? Part II

Continuing my thoughts on whether Bono could or should be considered a great leader of our time.  (Part One is here).  There are two more things I’d like to flesh out.

Consider the excesses of some of the major U2 tours like the Zoo Station tour of Pop Mart.  These were the most expensive productions of their time, the expenditure and excess being a part of the message about materialism U2 were trying to convey.  The masses of television screens were in some ways a scathing social critique that has been vindicated by the Plasma frenzy of the Noughties.

I can understand that in some eyes Bono wears some of the hubris of those tours and the U2 message.  If one doesn’t get irony it’s easy to make simple assumptions.  However, I’d contend that something which has endeared Bono to my generation is that he is honest about his flaws.

Bono rarely seems to make the attempt to gloss over his flaws and mistakes.  In an age where spin doctors reign supreme and most public figures operate behind a heavily lacquered veneer of respectability, Bono has a refreshing and engaging honesty.  Such candour endears him to his generation.

Bono and Lance Armstrong

Also, removed from his swaggering stage personas, Bono appears to be reluctant to blow his own trumpet.  If anything he borders on scathing on himself.  Here’s a couple of interesting quotes from an interview with Bono run in Rolling Stone magazine in 2005.

In talking about the bible, Bono said:

It’s a plumb line for me. In the Scriptures, it is self-described as a clear pool that you can see yourself in, to see where you’re at, if you’re still enough. I’m writing a poem at the moment called “The Pilgrim and His Lack of Progress.” I’m not sure I’m the best advertisement for this stuff.

And earlier on the gospel message:

As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian. Although I don’t use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to. I feel like I’m the worst example of it, so I just kinda keep my mouth shut.

In saying so he sounds suspiciously like another historical great leader, Paul the apostle:

Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners”. I realise that I was the worst of them all, and that because of this very fact God was particularly merciful to me. It was a kind of demonstration of the extent of Christ’s patience towards the worst of men, to serve as an example to all who in the future should trust him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Bono might keep his mouth shut about his Christianity, but his actions scream it.  While his philanthropic endeavours have inevitable critics, it’s not churlish to suggest that Bono is within the Top 5 of today’s influential philanthropists.  And arguably he was a major influence on some of the other names on that list – think Bill Gates.

And perhaps Bono status as “great leader” will be judged on his tireless use of his star power to provoke activism, campaign for third-world debt relief and shine a light on poverty and the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

I recently came across a quote from Philip Clayton which sums up an approach to theology that is perhaps reflective  of what many of my peers think too.

Theology after Google does not divide up the world between the “sacred” and the “secular,” as past theologies so often did. All thought and experience bears on it, and all of one’s life manifests it. Thus the distinction between one’s “ministry” and one’s “ordinary life” is bogus. All of one’s life as a Christian is missional.

And Bono is certainly missional and evangelistic is his quest to bring about the core values of the Kingdom of Heaven into this present age.

Far from settling for the hubris of the rock star lifestyle, Bono has used his fame and fortune, and the doors they open, to good effect – to shine light in darkness and bring about God’s purposes here on earth.

And for mine that gives him a shot at great leader status.

Postscript: The photo accompanying this blog is a fitting one.  Bono and Lance Armstrong share some similarities – flawed heroes at the top of their chosen fields with a tireless commitment to philanthropy (Armstrong through his Livestrong campaign).  With the Tour de France kicking off this weekend, it would be wonderful to see Armstrong prevail.  (Okay I admit I like the thought of someone who shares my year of birth winning the toughest sports event on the annual calendar.  It will make us all seem less old).

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