A Pretentious and Presumptuous Man

A friend of mine at work and I were talking awhile back.  During the course of our conversation, the topic of music came up.  When I mentioned that U2 was my favorite group, she exclaimed, “I love U2!”

Of course, my next question was an easy one:  “What’s your favorite album?”  She was like, “I really don’t have one.”  Fair enough.  I asked, “What about a favorite song?” She said, “I really like their song, ‘One love.’”

STOP!  I’m sorry; I thought my friend said she was a U2 fan.  No favorite album! Really?  It took everything inside of me to refrain from saying, “One love?  Don’t you mean, “One?”  Are we talking about U2 or Bob Marley?”  While I pretended to act like I was enjoying this part of our conversation, I walked away believing, without a doubt, she was NO U2 fan.

Later that night, as I was driving home, a thought hit me.  The problem wasn’t that she saw herself as a fan.  The problem was mine.  I was exhibiting two very unhealthy traits of human behavior that, thankfully, in this case, did not led to disastrous results.  I was being pretentious about all that I knew about U2 and presumptuous about what I thought she should know about them.  After all, she said she was a fan.  Come to think of it, I didn’t have a favorite album (Achtung Baby) right away.  I couldn’t have told you the real names of The Edge or Bono (Paul Hewson & David Evans) until many years after becoming more familiar with the group.   Why then, would I expect her to possess as much knowledge or have as well-informed opinions about them when she was just learning about their music?

I made a decision that night to introduce her to some of my favorite cuts by the band.  That she never knew that’s how I felt, didn’t justify my attitude. The next time I worked with her, I gave her a CD with some of my favorite music by them.  “You need to check these songs out,” I told her excitedly.  Just a week ago, I offered her a chance to borrow my DVD from their most recent tour at the Rose Bowl.  Why?  If she has expressed interest in something that I love and have loved for a longer period of time, then I want to invite her on the same journey I’ve been on, with hopes that she might love them like I do.

Thankfully, something as simple as liking U2 has minimal, (if that), consequences.  However, I think many can fall into the same trap when engaging with culture about things that really matter.  I love studying apologetics, theology and philosophy.  It excites me to learn.  I see the beauty, worth and value in studying these things.  But, what happens when I start talking to others, even with those who may express a similar commitment to Jesus, in the same pretentious manner I displayed earlier?  I end up missing the mark and those I talk to may throw the baby (the message) out with the bath water (the messenger). 

The Christian commitment is expressed by loving God and my neighbors.  My love for God and others has grown as I’ve studied, learned, prayed and been challenged by those who both agree and disagree with me.  I am going to resist the urge use what I’ve studied as a weapon, but rather, as tools to invite others to join this journey.  Sort of like giving a friend a CD who has an idea of U2, but has yet to be introduced to some of their “deeper” material. To seek and find truth, experience grace, participate in God’s Kingdom and know what it is to live in this vibrant, love-filled relationship, is an irresistible offer.

The challenge for me is to avoid the pretentiousness and presumptions that I can often make when talking to someone.  People’s objections can be valid.  They (the objections) can often serve as masks for something else. What if someone has an attraction to Jesus, but doesn’t see how He makes sense in their life or even in the larger picture?  (Like Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”)? My hope is that I will always be willing to equip others with the resources and provide for them the relationship to help them see why it all makes sense.  A winsome attitude and approach can engage others in more meaningful and life-changing ways.  My hope is that I always remember this.   

And yes, my friend is a U2 fan.   My favorite song?  Depends on the day.  Why would I expect her to have one?  I know, totally not right.


Welcome to U2 Gospel.

Those of you who know me well, and some who know just a little bit, might get a little chuckle at the title of my blog. I’ve wanted to start a blog for quite some time. The problem is, I’m very long-winded and I tend to be all over the place. If you need proof, I’ll post some of the feedback over the years from my professors. At the same time, I believe there is an inherent value to put some of what I’m thinking down for different reasons. One, it’s good to get things off my chest. Secondly, I’m actually interested in hearing what others have to say about what I’m thinking. You don’t have to agree with me on every point. In fact, you may disagree with me altogether, but I’m learning something priceless about friendship the older I get. The truest of friends are willing to listen, talk and ask. So, consider this blog an extension of that idea. We live in a world where people rarely talk to each other, and while that’s a topic for another day, that’s no way to live life (although it just may be the safest).

Where do I begin? How about my love for U2? OK, that sounds great. I’ll start there. I’ve always been a bit of restless soul. Not so much unhappy or miserable, just a bit restless. Not sure why, but I’d like to chalk it up to my sense of adventure (of the non-camping/outdoors variety). I remember sitting in my AP Spanish class in high school and my teacher, Senora Linares, was pointing at a map while teaching. The thought hit me as I sat there while she spoke, “I want to change the world!” I know, big idea, right? The world seemed so big and so small all at the same time. In some ways, it still does. How does a 17 year-old chase a dream to make a difference? Well, that process has been 19 years in the making (where does the time go?) and most days it has felt like I’ve taken two steps forward and 20 steps backwards. However, those two steps forward make all the difference in the world. During these last 19 years, U2’s music has become and still serves as a soundtrack for that dream to change the world.

Those who know me are also aware of my real, deep and abiding commitment to Jesus. Yes, it’s true that during those same 19 years, I’ve wrestled, struggled, cried, doubted, matured and solidified that relationship as well. I grew up, like many of my friends, in a religious environment. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my upbringing and my life’s experiences, both positive and negative, but I felt, for the longest time, that there was a disconnect from my own experience, my ideas about God and the world at large. U2’s music actually helped me transition through a very awkward time. I would liken it to a spiritual puberty. No, really, that's how I would describe it. Sounds weird, but I think it captures well what I went through.

So, you see, what the Gospel is (more on that topic later) and more importantly, WHOM the Gospel is all about captivates and consumes every fiber in my being. When U2 plays and Bono is singing, it’s often what I think about. This blog will be about more than just U2. However, this will be a lens into my life, my hopes, fears, and loves, my weaknesses, failures, optimism and faith. Sometimes it will be light, other times serious, but mostly in between. I hope to invite gracious and honest reflection from anyone patient enough to read. I am also hoping to learn from others who can add a more deepened understanding of my own limited knowledge. I’m hopeful that this will come from those who not only share my commitment to Christ, but especially from those who don’t. I will try to keep it short-ish. But like Bono sings in “40,” “How long to sing this song?” Looking forward to sharing and to getting to know you all better.