U2 frontman Bono, who moonlights as an activist for the poor and sick in Africa, is crediting evangelical Christians and former President George W. Bush for saving 9 million from the ravages of AIDS, a campaign the musician said is blessed by God.
"This should be shouted from the rooftops. This is a heroic American story," Bono said in a remarkable radio interview with Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family, to be broadcast by the group Tuesday.
Talking freely about God, his marriage, and his relationship with Jesus in the interview provided in advance to Secrets, Bono said that evangelical Christians helped him sell the Bush administration on fighting AIDS in Africa, which he compared to the biblical humanity in tackling leprosy.
"It was the evangelicals that did that," said Bono. "Because they, like myself, pestered George Bush and the administration, who actually deserve praise for starting this out," he added of the $15 billion President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief program.
The interview marked a shift for Focus on the Family as it expands its ministry to offer a voice to those not typically considered Christian-focused and broaden its reach to new generation.
"The way Bono lives out his faith is a message we are trying to emphasize with families every day," said Daly.
In the interview, recorded at New York's American Bible Society, Bono didn't hide his ties to God or the lessons he learned from his example. "I believe that Jesus was, you know, the son of God," he said, adding, "Jesus isn't letting you off the hook."
Bono, whose ONE Campaign is encouraging rich nations to forgive debt to poor nations, described the New Testament as the blueprint for justice and personal redemption. "Jesus begins his ministry by, what, by quoting Isaiah. He walks into the temple and he said, 'That the blind may see, set the captives free, that the poor'--all the sort of justice agenda. That's how Christ began," said Bono.
He also compared Jesus to radical punk rock music. "Jesus didn't have many manners as we now know," he said. Recalling a story where Jesus told a man not to wait and bury his father but to follow him immediately, Bono rejected Daly's "cold-hearted" characterization. "Seems punk rock to me. He could see right into that fellow's heart. He knew he wasn't coming and he was just, it was pretense. We've gotta be a bit more cutting edge, not look to the signs of righteousness. Look to the actions."
Bono is currently working on a new album with U2 and gave Daly a high compliment after the Focus on the Family chief quoted C.S. Lewis: "When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that's left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less."
Said Bono, "That could turn up on the next U2 album." Then he smirked, "But I won't give him or you any credit."
Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.