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Religious Nuts, Political Fanatics: U2 in Theological Perspective [Paperback]

By Robert Vagacs (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   95
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.78" Width: 7.02" Height: 0.27"
Weight:   0.38 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2005
Publisher   Cascade Books
ISBN  1597523364  
EAN  9781597523363  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Weaving the threads of U2's lyrics, scripture, and theology into one cord, this book tracks the Irish rock band's theological insights and perspectives through their poetry. Along this lyrical path we encounter the characters of the Drowning Man, the Wanderer, and the Sojourner. Though seemingly different, they are one and the same, and they represent each of us. If you're a U2 fan, a theologian, or both, "Religious Nuts, Political Fanatics: U2 in Theological Perspective" will offer a different angle of popular culture and theology.

Publishers Description
Description: Weaving the threads of U2's lyrics, scripture, and theology into one cord, this book tracks the Irish rock band's theological insights and perspectives through their poetry. Along this lyrical path we encounter the characters of the Drowning Man, the Wanderer, and the Sojourner. Though seemingly different, they are one and the same, and they represent each of us. If you're a U2 fan, a theologian, or both, ""Religious Nuts, Political Fanatics: U2 in Theological Perspective"" will offer a different angle of popular culture and theology. Endorsements: Vagacs isn't imposing a theological agenda on a secular band. Rather, he is taking up the theological invitation, indeed the theological challenge, inherent in the artistic vision of U2. This book isn't so much a theological exposition of the meaning of U2 lyrics as it is an entering into a conversation with the band because there are important matters that need to be discussed, places of darkness that need some light. This book opens our eyes to light that is shining in the midst of the darkness of a postmodern world. U2 is not the light of the world. Jesus is. Rob Vagacs joins U2 in following that light, helps that light to shine brighter through his theological engagement with their music, and invites us to walk in that light. --Brian Walsh, from the Introduction ""Too much Christian writing about U2 is hampered by not really being about U2 at all: its grasp of the band's vision stops at citing a few obvious lines from the big hits. Vagacs goes deeper, inviting us to an imaginative roundtable where albums, B-sides, and live performances join Biblical and contemporary authors in conversation on the great U2 themes of exile, eschatology, justice, and redemption. And a stimulating conversation it is: alert to intertextual echoes, always ready with an apt citation, and as interested in analyzing the Wanderer's postmodern disorientation as in extolling the joys to be tasted in That Other Place. Even those who've read every word ever written about U2 will find some new ideas here, and, I hope, follow them home."" --Beth Maynard Co-editor of Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog ""Vagacs manages the near impossible--he makes fun-to-ponder observations no one else has made before about U2 and their Death and Resurrection Show. He does it by allowing the songs to comment on each other and by letting bright lights like Walter Brueggemann, Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart in on the conversation. Religious Nuts, Political Fanatics is a lovely book."" --Angela Pancella Staff writer, About the Contributor(s): Robert Vagacs received his theological training at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. He and his wife reside in Waterloo, Ontario.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Simply perfect.  Apr 2, 2008
I have read just about every book on U2. This is shorter than gems like 'One Step Closer' or 'Get Up Off Your Knees', but the best by far. The author starts with a little personal insight into his love for U2, and then uses his credible background to spin out well organized, well written chapters on various theological topics in U2. One chapter in particular, "The Babylonian State of Zooropa", was about the most philosophical insight into Bono's lyrics I'd ever read. Ever. It even inspired me to teach a lesson at my church based on "Zooropa" and "Pop" (which are the 2 most underrated albums ever, as the author even seems to recognize).

I applauded how much and how wonderfully this little book executed in its perfectly short length. It was small; a quick read with very much insight and thought provocation. Buy it NOW.
Nothing but quotes from other books  Aug 28, 2006
I read One Step Closer first and found it a great book. Easy to read with a lot of insightful commentary.

Then I read this book and just did not like it at all. It reads like a college term paper and is nothing but quotes from other authors. I just don't see how that qualifies as a "new book".
Moves in mysterious ways...  Apr 19, 2006
My first introduction to the 'theology' of U2 and its applicability to modern worship contexts came from the book 'Get Up Off Your Knees : Preaching the U2 Catalog' by Raewynne J. Whiteley. This book is addresses some of the same material, and is a good companion to Whiteley's book.

Vagacs makes the apt point that music of U2's sort is the poetry of the modern age. Adults young and old don't tend to learn poetry, but they do remember song lyrics, and many of these song lyrics contain deep, meaningful, spiritual content. Vagacs taps into the categories of biblical interpretation and meaning-making of Walter Brueggemann (one of my personal favourites), and looks to the medium of modern rock and roll ('potent poetry' that 'allows the artist to express raw emotion and high intellect simultaneously') to be a means toward an 'alternative universe of discourse'.

It isn't simply in the lyrics of U2 songs that the call to fulfilling a moral purpose, a gospel statement if you will, comes into being. Bono has taken upon himself the task of educating and drawing the media spotlights to issues of world poverty, hunger, and financial mismanagement that is a somewhat ironic stance for a 'pop star'. However, no one else seemed to be stepping up to the plate. Bono was honoured with the Bill and Melinda Gates by Time magazine, not for fame and fortune, but rather for turning fame and fortune into a force for good in a specific, savvy and increasingly effective way.

There are elements in U2 songs that all Christians can find familiar - hope and despair, faith and doubt, longing and desire, dealing with injustice and finally finding grace. All of these things, from lamentations to psalms and proverbs, have parallels in both biblical and U2 lyrical words. Vagacs deals with the idea of the postmodern (an idea he admits is difficult to define, particularly in so short a work), and demonstrates in many ways that U2 is a postmodern embodiment of many biblical themes.

Vagacs includes a litany inspired by U2 lyrics, merged with themes and words from the gospel of Mark. Vagacs also includes a discography, source lists, and a recommended readings list. These are handy things for those who might want to further their study, or incorporate U2 into actual worship services.

Vagacs includes a glossary of terms at the start, rather than at the end. This is both for U2 fans who are not theologically/philosophically trained, as well as for those theological types who don't have a wide exposure to modern popular/rock music. Vagacs states, 'My hope is that this book will be of interest to U2 fans, offering them perhaps another perspective on U2's lyrics. I would also hope that those who are Christian, or religious, would recognize that the marriage of theology, faith and popular culture is not only possible, but relevant and fruitful as well.'

Simply Brilliant...  Mar 30, 2006
Vagacs covers U2 from their early days of "Boy" to their most recent release, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb", and dismantles the meaning behind U2's lyrics in a way I have NEVER read about before. He does it so brilliantly... read on below.

Vagacs easily intertwines the meaning of finding one's self in this world from the idea of orientation, disorientation, and finally reorientation. From U2's first release, "Boy", in 1979, they sing about faith, God, growing up, and spirituality. After this came "October" which has the most easily recognizable songs of praises to God, and one would almost think U2 was on a Christian record label. Later came "War" with the famous "Sunday Bloody Sunday" in which Bono sings, "To claim the victory, Jesus won." With these early releases, U2 knows their orientation in this world belongs with their faith in God. However later then comes "The Joshua Tree" in the mid-eighties in which they start to question things around them and further seek to orientate one's selves into society and where God and everyday social, political, and everyday life meets. It's a journey where "The Streets Have No Name", and where "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".

Thus soon came that moment when some criticizing "religious nuts" misunderstood U2's creative side for thinking they lost their faith. It was a time during three very different U2 releases within a short period of time between 1991 to 1997. We had it all from the great ground-breaking "Achtung Baby" to "Zooropa", and lastly to "Pop". This was the representation of what we call disorientation in life. The sex, the drugs, and the rock and roll... yet somehow if you REALLY listen to the music and get past all the hype of Bono dressing as the devil, Mr. Macphisto, and etc... during Zoo TV, Pop Mart--- the lyrics are VERY honest in seeking God amongst all the evils and temptations of our world. Also hasn't anyone ever stopped and realized that Mr. Macphisto is Mephistopheles from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's book entitled "Faust" about a man who sells his soul to the devil for all the riches in the world. Furthermore, Bono at that time of U2's career had read "The Screwtape Letters" by the Christian writer C.S. Lewis. I also suggest reading in the bible, James 4:7, "Resist (mock) the devil and he shall flee from you." Bono was mocking the devil, not trying to be the devil. "Pop" ended with a great song "Wake Up Dead Man" in which Bono longs for Jesus to wake up in this world and do something... it's a Psalm of lamentation in a well-written form. On "Achtung Baby"-- we get to wonder if Judas will ever be redeemed by Jesus and receive eternal life-- really listen to the words of "Until The End of The World". The best line of the song is "With waves of regret and waves of joy, I reached out for the one I tried to destroy..."-- was Judas in waves of regret praying Jesus would forgive him for kissing his cheek and giving him to the cross for his crucifixion; and yet in waves of joy I think Judas knew Jesus would forgive him. After all, Christ died for all our sins, and I like to think Judas is forgiven.

Lastly, we come back to finding ourselves in our world of chaos and indulgences. U2 released in 2000, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" in which we find ourselves getting reoriented with ourselves, and stopping to realize that all worldly things are the things that we can leave behind. You can't take your riches and your selfish needs into heaven when we die. And their latest release, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" begins with a song "Vertigo" in which Bono imagined in his head as he wrote the song a virtual night life of dancing the night away, and not finding anything substantial until he sees "the girl with crimson nails has Jesus round her neck, swinging to the music...", and it is here that he realizes His love is what is teaching him "how to kneel". Atomic Bomb ends with a great little not well-known number called "Yahweh" in which is sung "take this heart and make it break" as the very last line of the song. In the bible it is written that only when we let our hearts break and be opened anew can we find God again. God seeks out the meek, and it is the meek who shall inherit His riches and His glory and His grace. Only in this reorientation can we renew faith in God.

In this book, Vagacs takes you on the journey of life, and you take on this journey with you "all that you can't leave behind" which is faith, love, grace, forgiveness, and God. I highly recommend this book to any one who is a U2 fan, or is seeking a little meaning into God and faith.

Love and Peace or Else,
The BoNo FReaK (-;
Bono and Jesus  Mar 13, 2006
Vagacs does many unique and intriguing things in this little volume. He examines the collective works of U2 through the theological lenses of Walter Brueggemann to interpret their albums and specific songs. The categories he borrows from Brueggemann are the themes of hope amidst despair, social justice and eschatological anticipation, exile in a scorched land, and finally grace and resurrection.

Vagacs was drawn to undertake this endeavor after attending a U2 concert, which raised a number of questions in his mind. He states: "They prompt me to ask what is it exactly about U2's music that captivates people from such a diverse demographic, not to mention geographic, diversity? Is it their consistency, or their cohesiveness as a band? Is it their commitment to the music and each other? Is it U2's concern and involvement with social justice issues? Perhaps it is simply the fact that they generate great music?" (p.ix)

Vagacs believes that there are 4 categories of readers for this book:

1. You are neither a U2 fan nor a Christ follower.

2. You are a U2 fan with no real connection to Jesus Christ.

3. You are a Christian with no real connection to U2.

4. You are both a U2 fan and a Christ follower.

No matter which category you are in, this book can be informative, both on the history of U2 and the progression of thought through their music, and the spiritual imagery and implications of their work album by album. No matter which of the four you are, this book will open your eyes.

Brian Walsh in the introduction states: "Rob Vagacs does not come to worship at the shrine of U2. That would be a blasphemy to his own faith and a terrible disservice to the band. Rather, this book opens our eyes to light that is shining in the midst of the darkness of a postmodern world." (p.xvi) I believe it sums up the book well. This book will not herald U2 as the light, but as light bearers in a darkening world. This book will help you see light around you, whether in other people, music, or even theology.

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