There is a bizarre theological/behavioural conundrum that goes on in Christendom. The most general definition of belief (and I say general) is that Catholics believe that doing good things get you to heaven whereas Protestants believe that it is not about your works but about God’s grace, he loves you no matter what! Why then is it that Protestants spend their lives worried about whether they are doing the right thing and Catholics seem to live pretty relaxed lives?! Why is it that Catholics know how to party but Protestants (at least the practicing kind!) rarely go out?!
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight is about the committed spiritual pilgrim wanting to party. The chorus is again almost Calvinistic in its theological intent. Reformer John Calvin believed in “the perseverance of the saints.” St Paul put it well in his epistle to the Philippians when he told them he was “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” There is assured belief that the slow pilgrim climb up what is a mountain, not just a hill, that leads to the light will be completed but that for tonight Bono needs to party!
The verses are a little more frivolous and humorous although, as always with U2, never pointless. Bono is being a magpie again, listing odds and ends of thoughts that you can see him say in a conversation or interview and then think, “I need to jot that one down.” I particularly like “Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot” because it is where me and Bono share in a lucky story! U2-ophiles will be well aware of Bono using, “The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear” in interviews for some years.
However, in this song that latter line follows a crucial line that takes us back to the conundrum at the top of this review. When Bono sings, “Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear” (a straight life from 1 John 4 v 18) he cuts to the heart of how relaxed or stressed out the Christian pilgrim should be. If we believe this line from the Scripture and have an overall view of the way Scripture holds the flesh and spirit together, holistic fun and spiritual discipline, our lives would be able to have a few crazy moments in our road to home.
If I can give a chunky quote from Bono’s recent New York Times article about Easter I think it takes us to the heart of this song and speaks into this song’s meaning:
Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm — and it crescendos this time of year. The rumba of Carnival gives way to the slow march of Lent, then to the staccato hymnals of the Easter parade. From revelry to reverie. After 40 days in the desert, sort of ...
Carnival — rock stars are good at that.
“Carne” is flesh; “Carne-val,” its goodbye party. I’ve been to many. Brazilians say they’ve done it longest; they certainly do it best. You can’t help but contract the fever. You’ve got no choice but to join the ravers as they swell up the streets bursting like the banks of a river in a flood of fun set to rhythm. This is a Joy that cannot be conjured. This is life force. This is the heart full and spilling over with gratitude. The choice is yours
U2 have held in tension the Carnival and Lent aspects of the Christian tradition since the very start. There was a time when they thought the two couldn’t live together but they have discovered, and in I’ll Go Crazy... have declared, that the two can be part of the same human pilgrimage.