Bono: Why isn’t Christian music more honest?

Bono finally met Eugene Peterson and their conversation resulted in this documentary

Originally published in Christian Today

U2 musician Bono has criticised modern Christian music for its ‘lack of honesty’.

The comments came out of a conversation with Eugene Peterson, a pastor and theologian best known for the “Message” translation of Bible. They discussed the poetry of the scriptures and in particular the book of Psalms which Bono described as “brutally honest.”

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In a documentary entitled The Psalms, the star said: “I often think, ‘God, why isn’t church music more like that?'”

The short film explores the pair’s unlikely relationship after Bono first praised Peterson’s work in 2002. They eventually met but only after Peterson had turned down an opportunity to meet the U2 singer while he was completing a piece of work.

Interviewer Dean Nelson expressed his shock that Peterson could turn down an invite from the Irish star. “It’s Bono, for crying out loud,” he told Peterson. “Dean, it was Isaiah,” Peterson responded, referring to his unfinished work.

In the film the two discuss their shared love for the Bible and the vulnerability of its authors.

“In the Psalms you have people who are vulnerable to God in a good way. They are porous and open,” said Bono.

“I find in Christian art a lot of dishonesty, and I think it’s a shame,” he continued.

“I would love if this conversation would inspire people who are writing these beautiful … gospel songs, write a song about their bad marriage. Write a song about how they’re pi**ed off at the government. Because that’s what God wants from you.

“I am suspicious of Christians because of this lack of realism.”

In the documentary Peterson talked about the difficulty he had translating the Psalms.

“It’s not smooth, it’s not nice, it’s not pretty, but it’s honest,” said Peterson. “I think we’re trying for honesty, which is very, very hard in our culture.”


  1. Oh I wish worship leaders in every church on planet earth would read this article! Well done Bono and Petersen!

  2. Hugh G Wetmore

    Yes, spot on Bono! God longs to hear His people sing “PSALMS, hymns and spiritual songs”. Yes PSALMS – the openly honest, transparent, real-life PSALMS. See God’s Command in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-20. But when we do sing Psalms, we sanatise them of any raw emotions and unpleasant doctrines. We pick up on a Psalm-phrase and then go off on our own treacle tangent. We choose Psalm 42 “As the deer pants for the water” and then we sing about “gold and silver and apples of eyes and Friends and Kings”. Sentimental stuff not found in this Psalm at all. We try to improve on God’s inspired Word! Shame on us! We ignore the HONEST expression of wistful longings in lonely places v4, admitting our depression v5,11, mourning because God has forgotten me v7, the pain of being mocked for serving God v10 … and the Spirit’s own answer “Hope in God!” v11. Let us sing honestly the real Psalms, not just the Sentimental Psalms that give us those warm, fuzzy feelings of so-called ‘worship’. Listen to Bono’s rebuke, coming from outside the Churchianity of so many of the syrupy songs we sing. Bono is actually “admonishing” us for our faulty songs, songs which in their own lyrics should be “admonishing” us with God’s real Word (Colossians 3:16).