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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Favorite Songs - Zoo Station by U2

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

The last several songs I posted about in this series of favorites were all written by Christians and were also very far from rock and roll in their style. This one is the almost the polar opposite. I say "almost" because the words can be understood to convey biblical truth, as I'll explain below. But first let me warn you that if you are a Christian who doesn't like rock music or you don't have a clear conscience about listening to music made by unbelievers, then the video above is not for you. I believe, however, that your conscience could possibly be changed at some point by considering the idea that the style of music itself is not right or wrong, and this style is more appropriate for certain lyrical topics than non-rock styles.

I've often used another song by U2 as an example: the throbbing and thrashing music of "Bullet the Blue Sky" fits the topics of hateful injustice, racial violence, and brutal oppression much better than a pretty piano played in a major key with lilting operatic soprano vocals. In fact, the latter wouldn't fit those topics at all, nor the righteous anger that we should feel about such evils. "See them burning crosses, see the flames higher and higher" and other similar lyrics call for a powerful emotional and visceral response from the artist and the audience.

Also, before I get to "Zoo Station," I want to say something about the professed faith of Bono and at least two of the other U2 band members. You may have noticed that I implied above that they are not Christians, and you might be surprised by that. They say they are, especially Bono, but they also have clearly expressed perspectives that are far from biblical on significant issues. They have denied (and even criticized and mocked) the Bible's teaching about sexual morality, for example, having consistently championed unmarried and homosexual relationships for several decades now. Bono is also rather famous for being a heavy drinker, without any remorse except for the consequences, as far as I can tell. I was a huge fan of U2 in my youth and I appreciate many things Bono has to say about faith, especially in his lyrics, so believe me I would love to think that he and his bandmates are true Christians. But unfortunately I have to admit their beliefs fall more into the category of "antinomianism," which according to the Scriptures is a damning false doctrine. One passage (among many) that speaks to this issue is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

My love for U2 music definitely has cooled somewhat since I realized that Bono is promoting an unbiblical version of Christianity, but I still appreciate some of the band's lyrics and music as an example of "God-haunted" art that often rises above the weaknesses of the artists themselves (like Mozart's and Beethoven's do in the classical realm). The best example for me personally is the song "Zoo Station," which is actually inspiring to me as a Christian, in addition to being really catchy and enjoyable.

Bono was in Germany around the time that the Berlin Wall fell, saw a sign for a train stop called Zoo Station, and thought that was a fitting metaphor for the wild ride that is life in this world. His lyrics capture and elaborate on that metaphor so well that I can't help but smile every time I hear them, and I often put the song on and sing along when I'm down about my circumstances or need some motivation to get back in the fray in some way. This song is about facing and embracing life in this crazy, broken world, but I think it also hints at Someone who is with us on the ride and will give us an even better life one day...

Zoo Station

I'm ready, ready for the laughing gas
I'm ready, ready for what's next
Ready to duck, ready to dive
Ready to say I'm glad to be alive
I'm ready for the push

In the cool of the night
In the warmth of the breeze
I'll be crawling around
On my hands and knees

Oh yeah... Zoo Station
Oh... Zoo Station

I'm ready, ready for the gridlock
I'm ready to take it to the street
Ready for the shuffle, ready for the deal
Ready to let go of the steering wheel
I'm ready for the crush

Oh... Zoo Station
Oh... Zoo Station

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright...

Time is a train
Makes the future the past
Leaves you standing in the station 
Your face pressed up against the glass

Oh... Zoo Station

I'm just down the line from your love
Under the sign of your love
I'm gonna be there
Tracing the line
I'm gonna make it on time
Just two stops down the line
Just a stop down the line

The last group of lines (listed on U2's website) are barely audible on the original recording, but in concert Bono almost always emphasizes "Gonna be there! I'm just down the line." He has said repeatedly that the lyrics on Achtung Baby were actually the most spiritually deep that he had ever written, though for various reasons that depth was intentionally hidden under a veneer of rock and roll tropes that made it seem like the band was abandoning the faith they formerly sang about. So I don't think it's much of stretch to think that one of the reasons the narrator of the song can have excitement and hope in this crazy, broken world is because it's not the last world we'll be living in. And I think it's likely that "ready to let go of the steering wheel" is a reference to the spiritual surrender that U2 has explored in other songs, both before and after this one.

Regardless of whether Bono is singing about facing and embracing this wild life with the help of God and the hope of heaven, that's the way I take it, and that's why I keep coming back to Zoo Station again and again.

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