St. Paul (Hewson aka Bono) on the difference between grace and karma

Posted by bryanzug - 2011/07/06

Roo & Tug —

One of my favorite missionaries of all time is a fellow named Paul Hewson. When he was a kid, his friend Guggi gave him the nickname Bono. That’s what most folks call him these days.

He and I share a deep affection for a faith of Mere Christianity that plays itself out in the narrative of the public square. We identify with a circle of friends like G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Mother Teresa, and MLK.

One of my favorite riffs of his concerns how the natural way of the world around us is completely upended by Jesus — how the reap what you sow rule of the universe known as Karma is completely turned on its head by the Grace of Jesus.

I’ve pasted the full quote below.

I especially like the part where he describes how love interrupts this natural devolution of things.

That’s pretty cool.

Much love —


Excerpt from the book “Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas

Bono: …the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace…

You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics–in physical laws–every action is met by an equal or an opposite one.

It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it.

And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, you will sow” stuff.

Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep shit.

It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace.

I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

How I came to follow Jesus Part 1: A Funny Start

Posted by bryanzug - 2011/02/21

How can he walk across a field salted by the retreat of the last glacier with countless stones and pick out arrowheads?

Why can the human eye detect a tiny artificial form lost in nature’s torn and turbulent cosmos, a needle of data in a haystack of noise?

It is a sudden, sparking connection between minds, he supposes. The arrowheads are human things broken loose from humanity, their organic parts perished, their mineral forms enduring—crystals of intention.

Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon

: : :

Roo & Tug —

The story of how I came to follow Jesus has a funny start, a puzzling middle, and what I imagine will be a chuckling eye watered end.

First you should know this about how it began:

God tricked me into the whole thing. And here’s how He did it.

: : :

I was eight years old and I hated doing yard work. Really really hated it.

We had a big yard and lived in the desert, so the work was hard. But mostly I hated it because I was lazy. Television and fort building were much more interesting to me than subduing my particular section of creation.

My best friend at the time was Doug Maddi. I always liked his name because when you reverse the first two letters it sounded like “mug daddy”. This is very funny when you are eight.

Growing up, no one in my family practiced any particular kind of faith (a phenom that Richard Hughes, one of my Pepperdine professors, would later identify to me as ‘civil religion‘). While a vague sense of God, justice, and the golden rule floated around the house, I had never been to a church of any kind.

But when I’d spend the night at Doug’s house I would go with him to Sunday School.

This is funny when you think about it, because Doug’s parents did not go to church either. But his yard was a lot smaller than ours, so I don’t think the yard work thing figured into his motivation.

So on Sunday mornings, we’d walk to the Methodist Sunday school a few blocks away, the one with a 1960’s hippy Jesus “One Way to God” finger painted on the chimney of the Sunday school house.

When I realized I could get out of more and more yard work, I began going on my own every Sunday morning.

: : :

I should also mention here that there was a girl involved.

Her name was Mim. I had had a crush on her for the longest time and she was best friends with Doug’s sister. Her parents taught some of the Sunday School classes in the hippy Jesus building. So when we went to church, I got to hang out with Mim and her parents.

It didn’t really matter that Mim was not into me, because I was pretty good at memorizing passages of the Bible.

In her parent’s class, if you were good at that, they’d compliment you a lot and take you to Knott’s Berry Farm a couple of times a year.

There weren’t a lot of compliments floating around my house at the time, so I’m pretty sure that figured into my motivation as well.

At Pepperdine, when my sociology professor, Larry Keene, later pointed out that we tend to like people who first like us — something he called the junior-high-do-I-like-you-I-don’t-know-do-you-like-me law of love — I wondered whether I had started following Jesus for the wrong reasons. I’ll riff on that one later.

But at that time it’s safe to say I was in it for the trifecta of laziness, a girl, and some compliments.

If it weren’t for the white haired old lady, I might have gotten away with it.

: : :

Before we broke out into the group with Mim’s parents, all the classes would gather to sing those songs — the ones that introduce you to big themes that you never really doubt as a kid.

We sang “Jesus loves the little children” and I got saturated with the idea that God is good and loving.

We sang “Father Abraham had many sons” and I got initiated into the notion that God had been up to something intentional for a very long time.

We sang “The horse and rider fell into the sea” and I got steeped with the sense that God is a just protector who does not abandon His children.

The lady who led the singing was the white haired great-grandma flavor of old.

In between the songs, she would tell us the basics of the faith — the things C.S. Lewis calls “Mere Christianity“.

She said that we had all shaken a fuck-you-fist at God when we did things that were wrong (my paraphrase), and in that we were at an epic impasse with this holy just Creator.

This was news to me because I thought I was only shaking a fuck-you-fist at my brother and my parents when they acted like idiots.

Was this grey haired old lady actually calling out as arrogance something that was merely an observation of the obvious?

How could I be the one on the wrong side of the equation? I was the good son. The one who went to church. The one with straight A’s. The one with all the cub scout badges.

But the story did not stop there.

The grey haired piano playing gramma told us about how Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead to pay the debt owed to God for our rebellion.

She told of Jesus as a great rescuer who had come to save us from ourselves (and not primarily from external forces or others).

: : :

Over the course of about 6 months in 1978 I was an eight year old who wrestled these angels.

As we built up to Christmas, I began asking more questions of my family — why we celebrated Christmas when we didn’t really believe in this Jesus as rescuer.

That was the first time I remember asking my dad questions he had no real answer for.

But it was obvious to me that something had happened millennia before that had caused entire cultures to orient themesleves to the events in question.

If the baby Jesus was able to stock my shelves with this many Star Wars toys, there was definitely something afoot at the root of the story.

These are the connections an eight year old makes. These are the pattern recognitions of a light saber obsessed boy.

So on Christmas Eve, having just turned nine, I remember praying something along these lines…

“God, I’m not sure how all of this fits together, but I figure that if a world who does not really acknowledge you gets as worked up as Americans do at Christmas, then there may actually be something to this King of the Universe deal.”

“So I figure I’ll hedge my bets and ask you to be my Lord.”

“Good night. I’ll see you in the morning amidst the wrapping paper.”

More soon about that puzzling middle.

Much love —


A Good Friday / Easter diversity challenge to my friends from other meta-physical (or materialist) tribes

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/04/10

Roo & Tug —

It is Good Friday / Easter weekend here in Seattle and I wanted to invite some of our neighbors to church. Not to be converted to Christianity, but to gain a deeper understanding of the the big “S” story arc that informs who we are as a people.

This seemed like as good a place as any to post it.

Much love —


: : :

A Good Friday / Easter diversity challenge to my friends from other meta-physical (or materialist) tribes

Amigos and Amigas —

It’s a very humbling experience when someone graciously lets me know that I don’t know what the fuck I am talking about. There is a kind of love wrapped up in that sort of exchange that runs deeper than most of the surface levels we usually connect on.

One context where that has happened to me in the past is when I’ve made drive by comments about tribes and sub-cultures that I really have never spent any substantial time interacting with or trying to understand.

Gay tribes. Muslim tribes. Online community tribes. Blue tribes. Red tribes.

You get the idea.

I’ve learned a ton and become a much more generous person by meeting and getting to know real people (with real names!) from tribes very different than my own.

And since it is Good Friday / Easter weekend, I thought I’d issue a little challenge of my own.

If you are not a Christian, go to church for a Good Friday service and an Easter service.

Most Christians agree that Easter cannot be understood if it is divorced from the horror of Good Friday. And if you have no appreciation for the horror of Good Friday, and that Christians believe that we are personally responsible for that horror, well, as they say, you don’t understand much.

So please come. Seriously. 4 hours over 1 weekend doesn’t seem like a lot to ask to me.

The Zug’s will be at our church in downtown Seattle on Friday at 7 and on Sunday at 9. Look for the geek film crew with the tripod in the front and come say hello.

Much love to you all —


My Mother is an engineer, My Daddy is a healer

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/02/08

Roo & Tug —

There is a common theme to the works of art that move me. One that goes back to this notion Blaise Pascal wrote about ages ago.

Man is neither angel nor beast; and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the beast.

Blaise Pascal, Pensées (678). 1670

Whether it is a masterpiece like Magnolia, a song like Bruce Cockburn’s The Burden of the Angel Beast, Andrew Bird’s recurring theme of the Noble Beast, or The Choir’s rollicking list of the multiple personality disorders of our humanity in Kissers and Killers.

Peter Kreeft has a wonderful exposition on this idea of Pascal’s in his book “Christianity for Modern Pagans” where he writes —

The two fundamental human heresies, the two banes of modern philosophy, are animalism and angelism. Man has lost his place in the cosmos, the place between angel and beast.

Chesterton says, describing St. thomas’ philosophy of man, that “man is not like a balloon, floating free in the sky, nor like a mole, burrowing in the earth, but like a tree, with its roots firmly planted int he earth and its branches reaching up into the heavens.”

Some examples of “angelism”, which ignore the concrete earthy, embodied nature of man, are Platonism, Gnosticism, Pantheism and New age humanism. Some examples of “animalism”, which ignore the spiritual nature of man, are Marxism, Behaviorism, Freudianism, Darwinism, and Deweyan Pragmatism.

The two most life-changing revolutions in modern times were the scientific-industrial revolution, which taught man to live and think abstractly, like an angel; and the sexual revolution, which taught man to live and think like an animal. the first knows onlyt he head, the second knows only the hormones. Neither knows the heart.

The angelist reduces the world to a projection of the self; the animalist reduces the self to a species in the animal world. thus angelists find Pascal’s Christian man too animalistic, to earthy, to wretched; and the animalists find him too unearthkly, too idealistic, too hopeful.

Chesterton (in Orthodoxy) says:

Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness… One explanation… would be that he might be an off shape.

But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall.

Modern philosophy has lost its sane anthropology because it has lost its cosmology. Man does not know himself because he does not know his place in the cosmos; he confuses himself with angel or animal. He is alienated, “lost in the cosmos”…

This is the main pattern I look for in life. The one I am always drawn back to. This question of right angles or curves. This idea of male or female. This notion of love or logic. This pitting of design against functionality.

And wherever the conversation starts to move beyond the words “either/or”, I stop and listen very closely.

When the answer begins to whisper the poetry of “both/and”, I stop to pitch camp for a bit.

When the question of “is it God” or “is it man” is answered with a distinct yes, well — it’s a pretty safe bet that you will find me smitten and hanging around.

Soooo, when you come across this pattern, ages from now, when your mother and I are gone — you can rest assured that we are in the room, nodding along and saying — hmmm, this here is something special.

Much, much, love —


: : : : :

“Kissers And Killers” by The Choir

You know I love you
I think you’re so good
I like the people in my neighborhood
My mother is an engineer
My daddy is a healer
And everybody gathered here
Wheelers, dealers

Lovers, depravers
Freers, enslavers
Clowns, wicked sayers
Kissers and betrayers

Bones and ladder
Somehow rhyming
Man of Sorrows hanging
Iscariot swinging
A curious polarity
Finders, weepers
Why have you forsaken me
Losers, keepers

Lovers, depravers
Freers, enslavers
Clowns, wicked sayers
Kissers and betrayers
Saviours, deniers
Prophets, impliers
Well wishers, liars
Killers, death defiers
Killers, death defiers

I light a candle
Well before dark
They tell me jesters hide out
In the park
I never was a cautious man
My brother is a broker
And everybody in the band
Jokers, fire-stokers

Lovers, depravers
Freers, enslavers
Clowns, wicked sayers
Kissers and betrayers
Saviours, deniers
Prophets, impliers
Well wishers, liars
Killers, death defiers
Killers, death defiers

“Fuck Cancer” is a perfectly appropriate response

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/11/24

John Spalding, Fuck Cancer

Photo courtesy of the talented sarah joann murphy
Roo & Tug —

A friend of a friend died last night of cancer. His name was John Spalding and he used to be in a few bands with our friend Mr. Jeff.

Mamacita and I didn’t know John — I do remember seeing him at a Raft of Dead Monkeys house show in 2000 or 2001 — but even though we did not know John, we’ve both had this visceral reaction to the disease that killed him yesterday —

Fuck cancer.

I want to say as your dad that you will have responses like this to some things in life — whether they come at you from the periphery or dead on — and I want to let you know that it is a perfectly appropriate reaction.

An important part of the big Story which surrounds us is that we are all dumbstruck in these moments by an intense notion that THIS IS NOT THE WAY THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.

Especially when someone is young and talented or so very good and undeserving of untimely death — Folks like your Grandpa Gordy, my friend Marc Kaser, my friend Stuart Berry, my friend Tom Music, my friend from Gnomedex Derek Miller, or a visionary like steve Steve Jobs.

And I want to take this timely moment to encourage your future selves on some very important points.

When these sort of “FUCK CANCER” moments hit you — I want you to take some time to ask where these deep reactions of justice and fairness come from.

= = =

There are three books that have persuaded me that Jesus is the capital “S” Story of what life is all about.

In one of these books called “Mere Christianity” (written as an explanation of where God was amidst the devastation of the 1st and 2nd World Wars), C.S. Lewis has an amazing section about two chaps arguing in a bar over something.

The important point he makes has nothing to do with what they are arguing about.

Instead, he points out how quickly they appeal to a notion of “that’s not fair” in their discussion.

He uses that bar conversation to illustrate how deep and natural this idea of fairness is ingrained in us (and all of humanity).

I will go into greater detail on this later, but I wanted to take a moment to point out three things —

  1. Your Mamacita and I believe that the only rational explanation for this sort of reaction is that God is real and good in the concrete and understandable sense found within the Bible — and that this Goodness is what we footnote in these viseral reactions.

  2. I want you to look closely at the picture above of Mr. Jeff — look at that wicked smile — that grin is a book of systematic theology put in a t-shirt and walking around a club in Seattle — that smile contains one of the most important and juxtaposed truths that Jesus puts in the hearts of folks who follow him in spirit and in truth — it holds “FUCK CANCER” and “physical death is not the end of the story” in a dramatic and deep tension.

  3. These are the things that poetic lives are made of.

Rest in Peace John Spalding.



Bumps, bruises, and uncanny inoculations

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/11/13

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.

The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within.

We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.

We are enlarged in the waiting.

We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Romans 8:22-25 (The Message)

Roo & Tug —

Again — hindsight years from now will tell you how these tilting at windmill notions of your Mamacita and I have turned out.

Just yesterday, out of a simple question to Roo, about who you had eaten lunch with at school — we moved from a standard issue “how was school today” debrief into a war zone of “why can’t we all just get along” race relations.

Seems a girl at school said you could not eat lunch with a certain group of friends because you are white.

This prompted an unkind reaction in your heart, and with that that, in one fell swoop, the weight of the knowledge of good and evil had fallen heavy on the household.

And you are only 5.

And this is only kindergarten.

Mamacita and I jumped into action — conversationally digging into an incongruent comment — emailing your teacher for her help on getting to the bottom of things — working through what it means to be generous in the face of horrible actions.

We talked through how God woos us to Himself through his kindness in the midst of our fuck-You-itiveness.

This is where we’ve chosen to put down roots — and time will tell what fruit this approach bears.

It’s the sorta thing that makes us, as your parents, turn in our sleep — Are we doing the right thing? Shouldn’t we be shielding you more from such a world? Isn’t a mashup of “Charlotte’s Web” and Rodney King a little over the top?

And right now, the best answer we’ve got is that it seems wiser to us to work our way through these things as they come — to not sequester either of you from the sorrow and reality of the world until some far off day.

Instead, we’re struck by the uncanny inoculation offered by a life of bumps + bruises + a large dose of loving and protective oversight.

Here’s hoping it all works out.

Peace —


Matrimonial Expectation Pyrotechnics

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/11/08

Tug & Roo —

The coolest weddings we get to go to have a line where the officiant sets fire to the “happily ever after” expectations that we all tend to smuggle into such gatherings.

These matrimonial expectation pyrotechnics often go something like this —

Officiant — “I’d like to take a moment to point out the only problems that exist with this marriage…”

Crowd thinks — “WTF? Why talk about problems on what is to be such a happy day?”

Officiant continues — “The only two things that have me worried about this marriage are…”

Long pause (this draws a crowd in)…

“Him,” pointing to the groom.

“And, her,” pointing to the bride.

At this point, the crowd always laughs — and those who have been married for any length of time laugh harder.

One of the reasons we are followers of Jesus is because the story of Christianity makes the most sense to us in explaining the big story of what life is all about.

This is what we call the Meta-Story — or “The Story” that frames all other small ‘s’ stories.

A core element of this Meta-Story that Jesus is pretty persuasive on is this —

Responsibility for the problems we see in the world (from daily relationships to the grind of work to natural disasters) is, first, to be laid at our own feet.

Before we go pointing fingers at any “other” person or entity, we need to take a very hard look at ourselves.

Only when we have begun to look at our part in any problem can we hope to make any real sense of any conflict or situation we face.

That’s all for now. More later on how mud pies figure into the equation.

— Daddio

Rejoice with those who rejoice

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/11/05

Love must be sincere.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Honor one another above yourselves.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.

Share with God’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice;
mourn with those who mourn.

Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.

Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

The letter from Paul, who had been a murderer,
to the Believers gathered in Rome.
Chapter 12, Verses 9-17

Roo & Tug —

Years from now you will reflect on the dawning of this day, when a black man was elected president of the United States, not because of the color of his skin, but because of the infectious content of his character.

One of the funny things you will eventually notice about your old man is that I tend to overflow with intense hope coupled with intense skepticism.

In times when everyone is criticizing one another, you will likely find me calling for the spread of gracious dollops of “benefit of the doubt” (which is, in many ways, the ancient wisdom of Ruth).

In times when everyone is dancing in the streets, you will most likely find me cautioning against the unexamined zeal that glorifies something just before crucifying it (which, in many ways, is the ancient wisdom of Thomas).

But I think today is a day to stave the skepticism, and join others in calling this a time to rejoice.

Much Love —


What has you worried?

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/11/04

Roo and Tug —

A few of the values we hold as a family are those of service, creatvitity, and the examined life. I helped pastor Tim from church produce this video last week that interviews folks in the Financial District in downtown Seattle.

With the election, financial crisis, and wars going on right now, we figured we’d ask —

  • What’s got you worried?
  • What gets you through?
  • Where do you turn when the shit hits the fan?
Here’s what people had to say…

Much love —


(Note: I edited out the “shit” part cause we showed it in church on Sunday and some people can’t get past “colorful” language, even though Jesus and Paul used it a ton — I will write more on that later).

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