The year was 2002 and the lead singer of U2 had been reading Eugene Peterson's translation of the Bible (The Message). Bono enjoyed it so much that he waxed lyrical about it during an interview with Rolling Stone. He even read sections of it to his dying father and spoke of the book being 'a great strength to me.'
One can only imagine publisher's reaction when they discovered the biggest rockstar on the planet had endorsed one of their Bibles. But when Peterson himself was shown the Rolling Stone interview, he asked, with all sincerity, 'who's Bono?'
Fast forward 13 years and the two men have formed a fascinating friendship. Peterson has now been to U2 gigs, and last year Bono visited Peterson's home in Montana. The result of that latter visit is a newly released 21 minute film which shows the two men in deep discussion about the Psalms (watch it below).
Perhaps the secret to this unlikely friendship is the way neither man has put the other on a pedestal. As Peterson and Bono sit around a table to discuss the Psalms, they come to the scriptures as equals. Peterson is the wise scholar and Bono is the artistic freethinker. Their ideas compliment one another. Here are some of the best bits:
Bono's favourite hymn
Bono: 'I remember the psalms from the Church of Ireland as a child. I remember thinking 'great words, shame about the tunes'. Except for 'The Lord Is My Shepherd' which was a great tune and I really liked that. [The Psalms] have this rawness and brutal honesty...the pslamist is brutally honest about the explosive joy he is feeling and the deep sorrow or confusion. I often think, 'gosh why isn't church music more like that?'
Why the Pslams aren't pretty
Eugene: 'I got started with translating the psalms by translating a psalm for just one single person. To try and get them to realise praying wasn't being nice before God. The psalms are not pretty. They aren't nice. I would ask them to pray this psalm using my translation...It's not smooth. But it's honest. We're trying for honesty which is very very hard in our culture.'
A challenge for worship leaders
Bono: 'I would love [it] if this conversation would inspire people who are writing these beautiful gospel songs [to] write a song about their bad marriage. Write a song about how they're p***** off at the government. That's what God wants from you: the truth. That truthfulness will blow things apart. Why I'm suspicious of Christians is because of this lack of realism. And I'd love to see more of that in life, in art and in music.'