"Grace interrupting Karma"

In October Jana and I took our two boys (ages 12 and 9) to the U2 concert in Dallas. We had a great time and it encouraged me to fill in the gaps of my U2 knowledge. I first heard of U2 during my senior year of high school. I had some friends into the punk scene and they told me about this hot new group out of Ireland. That is how I was introduced to albums Boy, October and War. Later that year The Unforgettable Fire (still my favorite album) came out and, due to that brand new show--MTV--U2 burst into the mainstream. They later reached their tipping point with The Joshua Tree.

I lost track of U2 after The Joshua Tree, largely missing Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop. I picked back up with the band in 2000 with All That You Can't Leave Behind.

After the concert I wanted to satisfy my curiosity about the band, how they started, their spiritual journey, their off-stage lives and activities. So this holiday I've been reading the book U2 by U2, an autobiography of the group pulled from hundreds of hours of interviews. It's a great read, with the voice of the book moving from band member to band member in a chronological sequence. The sound of the book is like the band sitting around conversationally telling their story from start to finish.

There is a lot of gospel in the book. With a great deal of insight offered by Bono about his lyrics and biblical allusions in them. Here's a quote that struck me today. It's a quote from Bono about Grace, the final song from All That You Can't Leave Behind:

[Grace is] my favorite word in the lexicon of the English language. It's a word I'm depending on. The universe operates by Karma, we all know that. For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction. There is some atonement built in: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Then enters Grace and turns that upside down. I love it. I'm not talking about people being graceful in their actions but just covering over the cracks. Christ's ministry really was a lot to do with pointing out how everybody is a screw-up in some shape for form, there's no way around it. But then He was to say, well, I'm going to deal with those sins for you. I will take on Myself all the consequences of sin. Even if you're not religioius I think you'd accept that there are consequences to all the mistakes we make. And so Grace enters the picture to say, "I'll take the blame, I'll carry your cross." It's a powerful idea. Grace interrupting Karma.
Here are the lyrics to Grace:

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

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5 thoughts on “"Grace interrupting Karma"”

  1. I know. Too funny. I wrote that, then deleted the pic of the boys for this one, and never changed the text. However, I'm very grateful my kid doesn't look like Bono...

  2. It is interesting in Buddhism (since this is obviously a poke at Buddhism) there are mechanisms for "Grace", just as in Christianity there are mechanism for effort ("works"). Indeed, forgiveness and free gifts must enter the picture of any culture of the mind.

  3. i saw U2 in Norman, OK. That was the absolute best concert i've ever been to. And that despite the fact that the played very little old stuff.

    i think the earlier U2 is really the brilliant stuff. Just about every early album sounds so inspired--so, "hey, i don't care if i'm one person, i'll change the world if it kills me." i like listening to U2 because it makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger than your little circle of life. Some of their music has stirred me even more than some hymns i sing on Sunday morning. HOWEVER, i'd say after Joshua Tree, they really lost their inspirational edge in my view. Their music really sounds so much more image-conscious and "trendy" than pre-Joshua Tree. Track-for-track, War is still my favorite album. But all the early ones are good.

    What did you think of the show in Dallas?

  4. I just found your site when I googled "for every action there is a reaction theology". Surprised found someone just down the road from Brownwood.Working on a sermon based on Mt. 21:33-46, parable of the wicked tenants". I would be curious if you have any thoughts about this idea. P.S. - also Communion Sunday. Also, spot on U2.

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