Running to Stand Still – A Theology Lesson from Bono

I hopped in my truck today and began driving down the road. I had a plan to go to a house I’ve been renovating with a friend. Life has been hard lately for numerous reasons, and so when I face some difficulties, I have a few CDs (don’t laugh) in my truck, and I listen to them. George Strait seems to identify with my problems sometimes, but today it happened that U2 was up to bat.

The Joshua Tree has been a favorite, and I still love the songs. I’ve heard the song Running to Stand Still countless times, but I’ve never REALLY listened to it. I even know the words or some of them. I hadn’t thought through what Bono is trying to say. Okay, I’m behind the times, obviously, but I played the song at least five times and was dumb-struck by the lyrics. 

If you don’t know, the song is about a heroin addict living in a place called the Ballymun Flats in Dublin. One line is “I see seven towers, but I only see one way out,” describes the seven-building tenement. The helplessness with which this song screams I’ve related to being under the bondage of legalistic, authoritarian churches and church leaders.

A stretch, you might say, No, I don’t believe so, and allow me and these lyrics to explain.

Here are the verses that grabbed hold of me, but as I continued to relisten and then read the lyrics, it became even more apparent.

                You got to cry without weeping

                Talk without speaking

                Scream without raising your voice

                You know I took the poison

                From the poison stream

                Then I floated out of here

Bono is a brilliant lyricist, musician, and singer, and dare I say, theologian? Probably not, but if you’ve ever been in an overly controlling environment, living in a fishbowl-type church you’ll recognize these words speak not only to heroin addicts but to high-demand church survivors.

What do you do? How do you get out if you are in an environment like this?

                And so she woke up

                Woke from where she was

                            Lying still

                Said I gotta do something

                About where we’re going

Please do something about it. There are many great resources out there to help you make a move away from the control-oriented group/pastor/members/elders or whatever. Help is available; many of us out there want to help and are willing to talk.

Get in a real church. Find a pastor that is a humble man. Alpha-male leaders are probably trouble. Find a gentle and caring leadership group. Find a church that preaches the gospel by and about the grace of God. Ensure they actually live out His grace in their lives.

Depending on the amount of time spent in such a place, healing can take a while. It’s not easy. I know. Seek out a godly friend to confide. A good friend is closer than a brother. Show compassion to others as the Lord repairs you. Find your purpose in what you’ve been through to help others.

There is so much I could say, but please take a few minutes and listen to this song. Perhaps it will affect you as it did me today.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).


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