Bono & Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Eugene Peterson describes reading the psalms as a 12-year-old boy and being utterly perplexed by the language. But through the psalms he was introduced to the power of metaphor, and ultimately, the psalms “showed me that imagination was a way to get inside the truth.” Pairing that imagination with biblical scholarship, eventually Peterson rephrased the psalms—and then the rest of the Bible—into modern language in The Message translation.

The Message translation deeply moved Bono and U2 in the early 2000s, and when Peterson found out about this, his first response was, “Who’s Bono?”

 

Tells the story of how the two eventually corresponded, developed a friendship, and finally met. Recently Bono paid a visit to the Petersons’ home in Montana. David Taylor, Fuller’s director of the Brehm Center at our Texas campus, chats with both in a rare and intimate interview.

They talk of raw emotion, cussing, Scripture, and violence. They wonder together what it looks like to respond to the real world authentically before God. Bono asserts, “The only way we can approach God is if we’re honest—through metaphor, through symbol.” Peterson follows, “Praying isn’t being nice before God . . . The psalms are not pretty; they’re not nice.”

This authenticity about life and about prayer has fueled U2’s music across three and a half decades. Often what draws young people to music is its openness to releasing the full emotion of life. Or as Bono explains, “The truth can blow things apart.” We found in our own research with young people that a vast majority of Christian teenagers have significant questions and doubts about God, but precious few talk to anyone about them. That’s tragic, because it’s not doubt that is toxic to faith, but silence.

One of the best things we can offer to young people when they struggle is a relationship where they can be honest, raw, and lay everything on the table. A lot like the psalms. We’re grateful for these two leaders who help all of us open the potential of the psalms for young people.

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