Prophets are hard to find these days. But there is one in our midst, wearing a leather jacket, long hair, colored shades and some stubble. Perhaps it’s the camel-hair clothing and leather belt of the 21st century.
Bono was born Paul Hewson, but a high school buddy stole the name “Bono Vox” from a hearing aid store — Latin for “good voice” and gave it to him. He shortened it to “Good,” and he’s lived up to his namesake: he has not only made some incredibly soulful music, but he has also called presidents, kings, governments and nations to bring shalom — wholeness — to the poorest countries in the world.
For instance, check out the sermon he gave a couple of weeks ago at the National Prayer Breakfast. In it, by quoting Isaiah 58, he challenged the United States to the ONE Campaign — to give 1% more of the U.S. budget to overcome AIDS and extreme poverty through measures like fair trade, debt relief, fighting corruption and providing basic health and educational needs. He therefore lives a double life: one as rock star swaying to a social-conscious beat and the other as statesman rubbing shoulders with government elites to call them to something higher.
I liked him as a musician, but I love him as a prophet. He’s not a bad preacher either.
Like Bono, artists — meaning everyone from musicians to poets to dancers to filmmakers — are the prophets of our time. Sure, sometimes they boast about poppin’ Cristal or at other times croon about a mushy, cuddly sentimental version of love. But when they find their true soul and humanity, they can inspire a generation. It was no accident that the musicians of the Old Testament came from the Levites — the priestly tribe. It was no coincidence that the Old Testament prophets wrote in poetry — the street rap of their time. They were prophets, using the arts to subvert prevailing norms and call people to a more loving, risky and gracious standard.
So get out there and sing, scat, dance, step, jam, riff, write, type, act, shoot, direct, paint, sculpt, carve — this world could definitely use a few more prophets.