There will be more forthcoming on “Reverend” Beth Maynard’s appearance at Cedarville University. It would appear they didn’t like me making this information known to the public here at AApprising Ministries. Over at the excellent website Current Christian.com Pastor Greg Linscott ran Cedarville Hosts Presentation on U2 By Woman Pastor a post concerning my previous piece Cedarville University Hosts The “Reverend” Beth Maynard Teaching On Emergent Church Icoms U2 – *Updated*

Brian McCrorie then left a comment where he shared an email he had received back from Dr. Scott Calhoun, who is Associate Professor of Language and Literature at Cedarville University and the man seen on the video in my previous piece introducing “Pastor” Maynard. You might note that among his interests listed on his bio is U2. Calhoun had apparently become aware of these two posts concerning Maynard and he says:

Dear Brian,

Thank you for contacting us. We’ve learned of the blogs over the past few days.

This event did take place and it was a co-sponsored event between the Student Life Division and the Department of Language and Literature. It was pre-approved by the university Administration.

The university invited Beth Maynard to come because she is extremely knowledgeable about the topic of U2, theology and culture, and the university thought it would be a service to our students to hear an informed, academically oriented presentation on a topic of considerable interest to both our culture and the church.

Mrs. Maynard is an author, a respected cultural critic, and holds a Master’s degree from Boston University. She did not speak in a chapel service and students were not required to attend her evening event. Students could choose to attend or not attend this free and open lecture.

We often have our students reading, watching, or listening to intelligent people who have thoughtful ideas to share or an informed critique to offer on a given topic. This is, we’ve found, not only a good way to create a healthy learning community and train our students to participate in this academic culture, but also a good way to prepare them to engage our culture upon graduation.

Our Baptist doctrinal convictions do not, of course, support the ordination of women. We do not see having an academic presentation by an ordained woman on a topic she is well-qualified to speak on – U2, theology, and culture – as being at odds with our doctrinal statement or our mission as a university.

I appreciate your inquiry and your invitation to us to allow us to explain our rationale.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me further,


Dr. Scott Calhoun
Associate Professor of Language and Literature Cedarville University

Stay tuned to this article here, because as I said there will be more later, but for now here in the transcript for the first Video Clip. It opens with Calhoun, who is also personally acquainted with Maynard, opening the program and providing her introdcution.

Dr. Scott Calhoun of Cedarville University:

Reverend Maynard holds a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude (with high honor) from Amherst College, and a Masters of Divinity summa cum laude (with highest honor) from Boston University. She’s a popular speaker on the intersection of music, culture and Christian theology, and has attended at last count 12 live U2 concerts, most of them (unintelligible) I believe. Reverend Maynard is with us tonight to present The Goal is Soul: The Work & Witness of U2.

I’m Dr. Calhoun and I teach in the Language and Literature Department and, ahm, it’s a privilege to have Reverend Maynard with us tonight, and it’s, ah, great to see all of you here as well. Dr…Dr Maynard–Reverend Maynard is going to, ah, make a presentation and then we will have some time for question and answers, and um, we’ve got a small enough group that I think we’ll all be able to have a nice conversation afterward. And I will come around to each with the microphone so you can hear each other.

And then afterwards we have the book table in the back with, ah, some of the books, ah-eh, that Reverend Maynard will be mentioning available for purchase. Those books will also be in the, ah, Campus bookstore next week if you don’t, ah, have a chance to get them tonight. Bu-, let’s go ahead and welcome Reverend Maynard to the stage.

“Reverend” Beth Maynard:

Thank you very much Dr. Calhoun. Thanks all of you for coming out this evening, and to the language and literature folks and student life for bringing me here. I’ve had a great time on the Cedarville campus and am delighted to kind of close out my couple of days here by meeting with you folks.

Scott said that I had been to twelve U2 concerts and the first U2 concert that I went to was in 1987, back when the band wore blue jeans and crosses and flinty righteous expressions. I wanted to see them because they sang about two great taboos: God and politics; and I wanted to see them because I thought they were cool. When I was waiting for the show to start in the old Boston Garden–and these were in the days in the days when Larry Bird was playing for the Celtics, so it really was the OLD Boston Garden–I was alone and there was a guy standing next to me who kind of stuck up a conversation and he asked me a question. He wanted to know if I had ever seen U2 live before, and when I told him ‘no’ he shook his head in envy, and he said “You will remember this night for the rest of your life.”

I thought that was pretty cheeky, and so I asked him, “Why?” And he said, “Have you ever been to church?” It seemed like a strange question to me back then but in the 20 intervening years hearing people talk about a U2 concert as being like church or even sometimes as being better than church has become a cliché and I assumed that when secular people say that they mean that U2 concerts are the closest thing they know to what they think church is supposed to be, and Christians I hope mean that the God that we know and that we find in worship we also see showing up in the concert hall.

But that metaphor does occur to both groups and I suppose that’s one reason that I got involved in a book of sermons that interacted with U2 songs. That’s not the only reason, for example we wanted to raise money to fight AIDS in Uganda, but that is one of the reasons. Anyway, they do have the book back at the book table, and it’s got sermons, it’s got a Bible study bringing U2 songs into Bible along with scripture, a couple essays and a forward by Eugene Peterson who you probably know as translator of ‘The Message.’ So, end of commercial.

There is our book but there are other books along the same lines, in fact it’s become kind of a cottage industry. There’s Steve Stockman’s spiritual biography ‘Walk On,’ there’s a book called ‘Religious Nuts, Political Fanatics’ [by Robert Vagacs], there’s ‘One Step Closer’ [by Christian Scharen], there’s ‘U2 and Philosophy’ [by Mark Wrathall], Tony Campolo has written about U2, Phillip Yancey and Brennan Manning has met with them, Bill Hybels has interviewed Bono with the Willow Creek leadership summit. There was a winter term seminar on U2 at Calvin College in 2004, and this past fall a full semester course out at Fresno Pacific University, and here we are tonight.

“So what is going on with all this?” Now I hasten to say that we did not–and I doubt anybody else working on these issues did–pick U2 because we think they are invariably shining models of personal holiness. Nor did any of us pick U2 because we love celebrities, nor did we pick them because we think the Bible needs any star power to make it interesting–perish the thought. And I also don’t think anybody, at least anybody with any integrity, picked U2 because they thought it would get them or their church or their school written up in the local paper.

But what I want to think with you about tonight is; well, if none of those reasons, why then? Why U2’s work? What are some of the things about this band’s music that caused it and them to get brought into dialogue with Christianity and analyzed by Christian leaders so often? Before we get into that though, I’d like to give you just a little quick tour of the band’s history, I want to do a bit of their religious history and their artistic history.

– End Video Clip 1 –

[Video resumes in covering the ‘phases’ of Christian faith. Mentioned first is the ‘phase’ of being a new believer: happy, naive and narcissistic.]

“Reverend” Beth Maynard:

…in almost narcissistic delight in this wonderful new life in Jesus that we’ve found, and U2 has music that is about that phase. But if people have a healthy relationship with God, He eventually calls them to let go of that narcissism and turns them outward so they can step out in mission to serve others and to act in the world on behalf of Christ and behalf of this faith–and U2 has music about that phase. Then, as people do that work, and as life throws them the curveballs it throws pretty much all of us, nearly everybody has times of doubt and struggle. Nearly everybody at some point starts asking, “Why are bad things happening in the world”; and U2 has music about that phase.

And then finally if you stay in connection with God and you work through any questions you have with Him, most people get to a time of deeper recommitment. You’re not as quite as naive and starry eyed as you were at the beginning but you’re ready to reaffirm that yes, God is love and Jesus is the Way and some truths are just too central to be left behind. And U2 has music that’s about that phase.

So wherever you are in your own walk of discipleship, there is probably going to be something in U2 that you can connect with and also, in fact there is probably something God can use to draw you on to your next phase. It’s really just a cycle throughout life, you know, we commit and we grow and we struggle, and we re-commit, and we grow more and we struggle more and we re-commit again. U2 has been honest enough to depict all of the parts of that journey artistically rather than pretty it up, and that’s rare among Christian artists I think.

Another reason people work with U2 a lot–especially if you’re a preacher–is it’s very Biblical. The citations and the allusions to scripture in U2’s work are numerous and fluid and effortless. Just try and track a few with me:

In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum
Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome.
[Bullet The Blue Sky by U2]

Genesis 32.

I would believe if I was able
I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table.
[Crumbs From Your Table by U2]

Matthew 15. We just heard it before this session [during a video presentation]:

You’re packing a suitcase for a place
None of us has been
A place that has to be believed
To be seen
[Walk On by U2]

John 14.

See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
[Beautiful Day by U2]

Genesis 9.

Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be Thy will
[Yahweh by U2]

Matthew 5. Even the much overplayed iPod number “Vertigo” is a meditation on victory over temptation that revolves around a paraphrase of the Devil’s words to Jesus in Jesus’ temptations:

All of this… all of this can be yours
Just give me what I want and no one gets hurt
[Vertigo by U2]

And honestly, I’m barely scratching the surface–very Biblical. A fourth reason U2 assume that real Christian faith will naturally engage with society. You know there’s kind of an old dichotomy in the Christian family in which those two concerns were kept apart. People who cared about making the world a better place didn’t care about knowing Jesus, and people who cared about knowing Jesus didn’t care about making the world a better place. And I think–I hope–that that old dichotomy is dying. In fact let’s be prophetic and claim it: that dichotomy is dying!

And while it would be silly to claim that U2 are in some way a model for all of the folks who are helping it die at the moment, I don’t think it’s silly to claim that U2 have played some role for several Christians in encouraging a vision that doesn’t cut the gospel down to either spirituality or social justice. That was true even before Bono entered his new vocation as an advocate for Africa, and it certainly is more true now. Some of you may have seen in Newsweek recently that when surveyed younger evangelicals named Bono their top exemplar of Christian activism. I think this would be a good theme to watch a video on and the video we’re going to see combines some of the things that we just…

– End Video Clip 2 –

[Film resumes during discussion about the intentionally vague nature of U2’s lyrics as revealing a true thirst for God]

“Reverend” Beth Maynard:

…Christianity–institutional religiosity–isn’t connected well with. Now that happens [vagueness] in part because lyrically, I think they clearly seek to do that–[they [U2] raise those questions and it happens [vagueness] because they show us real thirst for God, to the point that back in the 80’s even a secular reviewer once wrote about their “bloodlust for the infinite.” But they’ve showed us not just thirst but they’ve showed us real joy in God, and we’ll see some of that in a second video later.

I am positive–you know; why else would you have a chaplain prayerwalk your venues? I’m positive that U2 take quite seriously the task of creating an environment in their shows where, in their words, “God can walk through the room.” I do think they draw on their charismatic background to do that but people who are interested in liturgy and ritual bring their own very rich analysis to the ways U2 shows are structured. And maybe some of you have read the survey by George Barna, when asked how often they experienced God’s presence in organized worship services, over half of regular church attendees said “Never” or “Rarely” – and I gotta tell ya, I feel pretty confident saying that U2 would beat us there.

And the last reason I want to highlight tonight, is that U2’s work is theologically literate. In other words, it engages with faith in a way that involves some very complex theological themes. Part of the way that they do that–despite the fact that they have what seems to be a very robust classical Christian theology underlining their work–part of the way they do that is they don’t so often write directly about that theology per se. Instead they simply depict how life looks from that theological vantage point, from the Christian standpoint. So finally, what I want to do is just run you through some of these theological themes that you are likely to encounter if you listen to U2, looking at the world, looking at the world through the eyes of their faith.

U2 sing a lot about the tension about the promise of the kingdom–new heavens and new earth–and the present reality. We talked about this a bit under that rubric of social justice. The vision of the kingdom that they carry in their heads is clearly what is motivating much of their writing. Some phases of their career they really major in communicating the kingdom. Other phases in their career they’ve really majored in communicating the pain of the absence of the kingdom. But for U2, the kingdom is the thing.

U2 sing a lot about the questions and struggles that are part of any maturing faith, and during their work in the 90’s they really sort of re-vitalized the tradition of the lament Psalm. At the end of the 90’s in fact Bono wrote an introduction to the Psalter, which you see the cover of up there [on screen]. And in that introduction he said, “For me, it’s in despair that the Psalmist really reveals the nature of his special relationship with God: honesty, even to the point of anger.”

Maybe because of that value on honesty U2 sing a lot about sin and their own hypocrisies. In some of their work U2 have at times fallen into almost lacerating self-examination. Their favorite sin to write about is idolatry, in other words, setting something else up as God in your life, as ultimate in your life. They do a great job of depicting both why idols seem like a really good idea at first, and then why they turn out to be a very bad idea indeed.

Two themes that have preoccupied them particularly recently in their work, one is perseverance: remaining faithful for the long term, fixing your eyes on those things that are going to endure, rather than on those things that are passing away. And another theme that has been really big recently, has been rebirth or reclaimed innocence. You could almost say that their whole last album is sort of an extended version of Nicodemus’ question from John 3, “Can a man go back into his mother’s womb a second time and be reborn?”

And finally, one more thing theologically that U2 love to explore, they love exploring the territory that has normally been reserved for medieval mystics, the whole notion of longing for God as bridegroom. Sometimes they’ll draw on female imagery to do that as in the songs Mysterious Ways and Grace but more often they choose the pronoun “You” and let us guess who they mean.

You’ve probably heard people joke about “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. Gotta tell you, U2 write the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs to end all “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. My favorite instance, I think, and this also apart from being an example of the bridegroom thing, is an example of how the band writes Biblically when you can’t even pinpoint a particular passage that they have in mind. Listen to the Biblical language of this, my instance of this is probably this song:

You say you’ll give me a highway with no one on it
A treasure just to look upon it
All the riches in the night

You say you’ll give me eyes in a world of blindness
A river in a time of dryness
A harbor in the tempest

But all the promises we make
From the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you
[All I Want Is You by U2]

There’s certainly other themes that U2 evoke, probably other reasons Christians have been working with their material so much. But you know, that the kind of shimmering delight in and longing for God that those lyrics evoke, that leads me back to the cliché I started with, that sometimes U2 are better than church. What are they known for? Above everything else, for live concerts that maybe, 5 nights out of 7, deliver on transcendence.

–End of Video Clip 3 –