Bono and Eugene Peterson: An Exclusive Interview

Kara Powell Brad M. Griffin | Apr 26, 2016
“How long... to sing this song?”


These lyrics from the 1983 song “40” animated the deepest groanings of a generation—or two!—through the music of the band U2.

I (Kara) have actually sung these lyrics live with Bono (well, along with the 40,000 other fans at the concert in the late '80s). The words resonate so deeply because they speak authentically about human experience.

Pain.
Loss.
Questioning God.
Questioning life.

The words are directly from Psalm 40, one of the many lament psalms that articulate these questions and cries in expressions that translate across centuries. But sometimes these words and phrases leave us even more confused.

Eugene Peterson describes reading the psalms as a 12-year-old boy and being utterly perplexed by the language.

But the more heread, the more he was introduced to the power of metaphor, until 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 through 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?”

This exclusive new short film released today by FULLER studio tells the story of how these two imaginative human beings eventually corresponded, developed a friendship, and finally met.

Bono recently paid a visit to the Petersons’ home in Montana. David Taylor, Fuller’s Brehm Center director at our Texas campus, sat down for a chat with both of them in this rare and intimate interview.

They talk about raw emotion, cursing, 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 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 that the 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, it's 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 crack open the potential of the psalms—for ourselves, and for young people.

You’ll find the full 20-minute film and a boatload of helpful resources at Fuller’s all-new FULLER studio site.

Watch Film Now


Fuller Seminary announces the launch of FULLER studio—an online site of formation resources for the Christian church and all who seek deeply informed and embodied spiritual lives. FULLER studio offers fresh videos, podcasts, reflections, stories, and other materials drawn from our world-class faculty and extended global community.

We are honored to host the world premiere of a short film with Bono (U2), Eugene Peterson (The Message), and theologian W. David O. Taylor reflecting together on the Psalms, produced by Brehm Texas and Fourth Line Films.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


More from this author
Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


More from this author

More From Us

Hello, WELCOME TO FYI
Join the community

Sign up for our email today and choose from one of our popular free downloads sent straight to your inbox. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about our sales, offers, and new releases.

Join the community

Sign up for our email today and choose from one of our popular free downloads. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about our sales, offers, and new releases.