< Links of the day | Main | Links of the day >

May 25, 2004

Songs for a Desert Island II

I am a sucker for pop music with religious imagery or a religious message of some kind. In fact, I am a sucker for any kind of pop culture material that uses religion to get a message across or tells a religious story in a new way. The Matrix immediately comes to mind, but that is a whole different story. Today is about the music, and today's Song for a Desert Island comes from the band U2, probably the best band in the world for the past 20 years. U2 is well known for its unique sound, no doubt, but what I appreciate is the sheer beauty of their lyrics. From "I Will Follow" to "Grace" I have always been surprised with how thought provoking and how out of the ordinary thier lyrics are. Being a Christian I have also appreciated how their lyrics make me think of my faith in new ways, and, yes, sometimes ways that aren't comfortable. "Until the End of the World," "The First Time," "Wake Up Dead Man" all bristle the average Christian as being ... well ... un-Christian. Besides their most overtly Christian album October, a common theme of U2's music is "crisis in faith." U2 dares to look at the questions and doubts that we all have concerning our faith whether we believe or not. We all doubt and U2 dares to look at that doubt right in the face and confront it.

That is why my second Song for a Desert Island is "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

Quite possibly the most misunderstood of all of U2's song "I Still Haven't Found" convinced many believers that U2 had finally renounced their faith completely. Bah! It actually angers me, this "holier than thou" attitude. Listen to the song closely and you'll find probably the most beautiful gospel song written in the past 20 years.

I have climbed the highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

Most people have a difficult time separating the song from the singer. Is this an autobiographical song? Is Bono singing this from the heart? Perhaps. But I actually think Bono is singing for all of us. Faith is hard work, and believe me, I know. Why does it seem God is so far away? Why do I need to "scale these city walls" only to find that this doubt still lingers?

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire
I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

In this stanza Bono tells the other side of the story. Where else do we go to find the answers to our questions and doubts? The video for "I Still Haven't Found" was filmed in Las Vegas, perhaps the most concentrated population of people searching and never finding what they are looking for on the planet. Bono tells this story of maybe a meeting with a prostitute, of a person holding both the "hand of the devil" while also speaking with the "tongue of angels." This person is choosing something other than God, but he is finding that he still hasn't found what he is looking for.

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well, yes, I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
And my shame
All my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

The most powerful and overtly Christian segment in the entire song. Bono sings of belief in a passionate way using imagery that should be familiar to any Christian: "kingdom come," "colors will bleed into one," "carried the cross." The person in this song believes, wants desperately to believe, but can't shake his doubts. Or is it that simple? The easiest interpretation of this song is the "crisis in faith" angle, of the believer on the brink of losing it and tumbling into despair. However, you could also make an interpretation that this song is a sermon of sorts. Are you really satisfied with your relationship with God? Have you really found what you are looking for? Does the Bible not tell us to keep striving for the perfect relationship with God, to never let up, to always try to get closer? It is easy to point a finger at U2 and accuse them of singing a song of despair and doubt, but it is much harder to look at our own lives and see complacency and laziness. And I am no exception.

What this song says to me that I am not alone. We all have doubts and imperfect relationships with God. It is human nature. The first step is realizing it and crying out I still haven't found what I am looking for! I know there is something better out there, and I know I can work harder to find it.

I think what upsets most people about this song is that U2 doesn't offer an easy way out. There is no satisfactory conclusion. There is no reconciliation. Just a person singing, "But I still haven't found what I'm looking for." Is this and end or a beginning? Obviously U2 leaves that up to us.

So there you have it, the second Song for a Desert Island. I hope the next time you hear this song you will think of it in a new way. Stay tuned for the next Song for a Desert Island. You might be surprised at what it is.

Posted by snackeru at May 25, 2004 7:59 AM


I really think Wilco's last cd, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, has a real spiritual side to it. Songs like "Jesus, etc..." can mean different things to different people. When it came out people thought it referred to 9-11 because of the "sky scrapers scraping against one another" line but the song was written pre-9-11. I have managed to get an advance copy of their new cd, A Ghost is Born (don't worry record companys, I will be buying a copy when it is released June 22, I support bands I like but that is another topic), and it is also great.
Back to stadiums. Shane, do you think the Gov is insisting on this Medtronic thing (reported today) being included in a special session because that would help justify helping out another Minnesota business (the Twins)? I think he is laying some groundwork.

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at May 25, 2004 2:33 PM

Jim, yes, I enjoy Yankee Hotel Foxtrot very much. Jesus etc. probably deserves a post of its own. It is very compelling from a lyrical standpoint.

Like I said in a post below, I heard last weekend both Steve Sviggum and Dean Johnson say that they expect a special session and that a stadium will "probably" be a part of it. I read the same article about Medtronic, but I did not immediately think Pawlenty was setting up an excuse to also help fund a stadium. Although I'm sure stadium supporters will use it as a reason. I sure didn't like Erik Paulsen's quote at the end of the article though. The thought of a special session is the only thing keeping my stadium fires burning, so to speak.

Posted by: Shane at May 25, 2004 4:13 PM

Hey, late noticing this, but great take on the song. Shameless self-promotion: Steve Stockman has a sermon on this song in "Get Up Off Your Knees" where he reads it side by side with Philippians 3. He sees it very much the way you do, I think.

Posted by: Beth at July 21, 2004 10:57 AM

Hey! Thanks for the comment. By the way, I love your site! It is something I've been looking for for quite a while. I've read Stockman's book Walk On, and I will definitely have to check out your's. I think it is humorous that you got so many essays regarding I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. That is easy pickings. I will probably tackle "The First Time" next. That is a great song. Very thought provoking. Anyway, thanks for the comment. I'll probably be a frequent visitor to your site!

Posted by: Shane at July 21, 2004 1:01 PM

I can't believe it, my co-worker just bought a car for $70517. Isn't that crazy!

Posted by: Betsy Markum at May 19, 2006 3:19 PM

eXTReMe Tracker
View My Stats