FULLER studio | – Bono & Eugene Peterson | THE PSALMS

This short film documents the friendship between Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) revolving around their common interest in the Psalms. Based on interviews conducted by Fuller Seminary faculty member David Taylor and produced in association with Fourth Line Films, the film highlights in particular a conversation on the Psalms that took place between Bono, Peterson, and Taylor at Peterson’s Montana home.

The film is featured exclusively through FULLER studio, a site offering resources—videos, podcasts, reflections, stories—for all who seek deeply formed spiritual lives. Explore these resources, on the Psalms and a myriad of other topics, at [support us]

© Fuller Theological Seminary / Fuller Studio

a Fourth Line Films production, in association with Fuller’s Brehm Center Texas and W. David O. Taylor

Bono:
[Video message, 2002] Mr. Peterson, Eugene, my name is Bono. I’m the singer with the group U2 and wanted to video message you my thanks and our thanks from the band for this remarkable work you’ve done. There’s been some great translations, very literary translations, but no translation that I’ve read that speaks to me in my own language, so I want to thank you for that. Take a rest now, won’t you? Bye.

Eugene Peterson:
I’d never heard of Bono before. Then one of my students showed up in class with a copy of the Rolling Stones—Rolling Stones?—and in it there was an interview with Bono in which he talked about me and The Message. He used some slangy language about who I was, and I said, “Who’s Bono?” They were dumbfounded I’d never heard of Bono, but that’s not the circle I really travel in very much. That’s how I first heard about him.

Then people started bringing me his music, and I listened to his music, and I thought, “I like this guy.” After a while I started feeling quite pleased that he knew me.

[Interview at Point Loma Nazarene University, 2007:]
Dean Nelson:
Yes, but the rest of the story is that he invited you to come and hang with them for a while. You turned him down.

Eugene Peterson:
I was pushing a deadline on The Message. I was finishing up the Old Testament at the time, and I really couldn’t do it.

Dean Nelson:
You may be the only person alive who would turn down the opportunity just to make a deadline. I mean, come on. It’s Bono, for crying out loud!

Eugene Peterson:
Dean, he was Isaiah.

Dean Nelson:
Yeah.

Jan Peterson:
The Old Testament is a long, long book, much longer than the New Testament, and it did take a long time and a lot of devotion on both of our parts to have that happen.

Bono:
I have to say, in the last years, Eugene’s writing has kept me as sane as this is, if you call it sane, which you probably won’t. Run With the Horses, that’s a powerful manual for me, and it includes a lot of incendiary ideas. I hadn’t really thought of Jeremiah as a performance artist. Why do we need art? Why do we need the lyric poetry of the Psalms? Why do we need them? Because the only way we can approach God is if we’re honest through metaphor, through symbol. Art becomes essential, not decorative. I learned about art, I learned about the Prophets, I learned about Jeremiah with that book, and that really changed me.

Eugene Peterson:
Then several years later…This was about 4 years ago, 4 or 5 years ago…Bono would like Jan and me to come to Dallas for a concert. We went to the concert. He was very sensitive to us. We were really well cared for, had really good seats. I’d never seen a mash pit before. That was my introduction to the mash pit. Is it a pit?

(Voice off camera):
It’s a mosh pit.

Eugene Peterson:
Mosh pit. Okay. You can see how uneducated I am in this world.

We had a 3-hour lunch. We just had a lovely conversation. It was very personal, relational. He didn’t put me on any kind of a pedestal, and I didn’t him, so we were very natural with each other. Through that 3-hour conversation, I was just really taken by the simplicity of his life, of who he was, who he is. There was no pretension to him. At that point I just felt like he was a companion in the faith.

[About U2’s song “40,” based on Psalm 40:]
I think it’s one of his best ones. He sings it a lot. I mean, he does this a lot. It’s one of the songs that reaches into the hurt and disappointment and difficulty of being a human being. It acknowledges that in language that is immediately recognizable. There’s something that reaches into the heart of a person and the stuff we all feel but many of us don’t talk about.

Bono:
[Quoting from The Message’s translation of Psalm 40:]
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked. Finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch. He pulled me from deep mud, stood me up on a solid rock to make sure that I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song…

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Comment (43)

  1. "this world we live in..is a world with a lot of crosses"….that just made me so deeply sad. But at the same time so deeply happy. it blew my mind. It's exactly what forgivenes and Love is all about.

  2. Some people leave a legacy of pain, hurt & suffering but some like Eugene: love ,peace & understanding of our struggles. His voice was the reflection of it.Like “ nothing bad can happen “ . Thank you Bono, for travelling to Montana .Very special,beautiful ,intimate & helpful with my walk with God, struggles with faith & suffering.

  3. I haven't teared up over a youtube video in years. Listening to Mr. Peterson talk about the crosses of life, watching his beautiful eyes, as he spoke of "Doing something about that, through scripture, preaching, and friendship" as his days are getting shorter on earth, brought tears to my eyes. Thank You to all who were involved in bringing this interview to the world.

  4. When Bono starts talking about honesty around the 14 minute mark, it reminded me so much of the experience of Bill Mallonee and the band, Vigilantes of Love. He wrote an amazing song entitled Love Cocoon, which celebrates the beauty of sexual love in a similar manner as the song of songs. Against his wishes, the record label put this song out as a single, and he was slated by Christians for the songs honesty. That so expresses the problem we have in our poor usage of art and, far more disturbing, our theology.

  5. The Psalms, King David's trouble's very high intelligence is in these poems to our Creator
    some Psalms were written by King David's men but we can learn a lot from them how this human condition is and we can learn or burn our choice to make. I love rock stars they are honest to themselves like King David to our God Almighty. God bless Bono and U2, amen

  6. It is through times of suffering that we find strength, Hope and Faith.

    Perhaps pain is the spark of change, that makes us more complete.

    God is everywhere and within.

    Teresa Sellers, 10 years living and caring for the Dementia and Dying in a long term care facility that I founded.

  7. I'm still looking for a good explanation on why people of faith believe there is a God. I usually get a reply citing the Bible, which to me is not a good explanation or reason, as I see the Bible as a book of fiction written by mortal men.

  8. Only just saw this discussion. I clearly stumbled upon it by Grace. I have loved U2 since I was 15 years old. I am now 53. I am heavily involved in my church community but I sometimes feel frustrated and isolated by the lack of honesty, and I was brought to tears hearing Bono talking about this. What I mean is, I have experienced severe mental illness in my immediate family, a marriage almost broken through alcoholism and a lack of honesty. Yet for many of my Christian friends, they do not want to talk about this stuff. They seem to want to keep things on a 'feel good' level. But I know that God can be found in the mess and the chaos. This is the reason that U2's music has always spoken deeply to me, and continues to. It takes faith, and then looks deeply into the eyes of real life with all of its struggles and contradictions and sufferings. It is honest. Thank you Bono and Eugene Peterson for this inspiring conversation. It has helped me greatly.

  9. I have sung that song for years. The Lord is my shepherd. And the Lords Prayer. The nuns version. I need to pick up my Bible and read it more than I do. I find myself looking things up. Then I’ll keep going cuz it’s so incredible. Then months will go by. I’m ashamed of myself . I pray constantly. Not like “Oh help me” but I’m constantly talking to God. Especially now. Crazy times.

  10. That was lovely. Two men from totally different cultures meeting and finding a common ground and respect for each other. A really good film. The subtitles made me laugh at times, but I suppose whoever wrote them did their best so I shouldn't judge too harshly.

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