I'm waiting for some smart person out there to dissect Bono's sermon Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast for its theological implications and political ramifications. I somehow ended up at the event along with Bono and his red-tinted sunglasses. I was hoping against all hopes that President Bush or his wife Laura would ask to try them on. I sure wanted to. All I can say is that Bono is a rock star for a reason. He certainly knows how to capture an audience at a charge of nearly $100 a pop.
The event garnered little attention in The Washington Post: this Associated Press report was turned around into a Reliable Source note that included this quote and a "tithing" explainer:
If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I'm here because I've got a messianic complex.
It's easy to cast doubt on Bono's sincerity. Celebrities are easy to criticize for lacking genuine motivations. But what person that has reached an international stage other than Mother Teresa can claim genuine sincerity? Can any of us truly do a work of charity out of a pure heart? Bono certainly does not shy away from admitting that he is using his rock star status to get into important people's faces about international problems (thanks to this website for providing a transcript:
Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural ... something unseemly ... about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the South of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert ... but this is really weird, isn't it?
You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind.
Mr. President, are you sure about this?
It's very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned -- I'm Irish.
I'd like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws ... but of course, they don't always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you're here.
And with that, Bono launched into his "homily" on how the laws of the United States should be in line with what he believes are God's laws: justice and equality. Last time I checked there were more like 10 laws and the concept of loving your neighbor. Bono said to do this the United States should tithe an additional one percent of the national budget towards international aid:
I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to ten percent of the family budget. Well, how does that compare the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than one percent.
Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America: I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing ... Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.
Sounds nice, but 1 percent is something like $26 billion and what international aide organization is going to manage that type of cash? Certainly not the United Nations. Maybe Bono's up to the challenge.
But at an event that was purposefully interfaith for the first time in its history, the speech kept the audience that included senators, Congress members, ambassadors and foreign dignitaries spellbound. Bono provided the message with which everyone could resonate. And did anyone there remember a word President Bush said?