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How Bono’s Childhood Neighbor, a Famous Artist, Helped Him Find Faith in Jesus

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Over the years the faith of U2's Bono has been well-documented, but recently his childhood neighbor and best friend let fans in on how their relationship shaped Bono's relationship with God.


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Lindsay Elizabeth

Over the years the faith of Paul Hewson, known famously as Bono, has been well-documented, but recently his best friend let fans in his childhood and how it shaped his relationship with God today.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Derek Rowen, better known at Guggi, an Irish artist, opened up about his childhood and growing up with Bono.

“Myself and Bono, we weren’t like the other kids in the street and we knew we weren’t,” Guggi shared during his “My Cup Overflows” art exhibit in Los Angeles.

“I was seen as an oddball, a freak,” said Guggi. “We didn’t know what to say when they would want us to name our favorite football players because we didn’t know any names. We could get beaten up for supporting the wrong team or not supporting anybody.”

Bono and Guggi may have not had football in common with other kids their age, but what they did have in common between themselves was their faith.

According to RNS, Bono’s parents were Catholic and Protestant, but it was Guggi’s father, Robbie Rowen, who pushed the boys to pursue their faith.

“Bono came to his faith through my dad. And I came to faith through my dad,” Guggi recanted.

In a 2005 interview with RNS, Bono said that Robbie Rowen was “straight out of a Flannery O’Connor novel—it was like the prophet Jeremiah lived on our street.”

“I always remember the color of the language he used when he preached at us and the conviction of the words he used,” he added.

When the two boys were teenagers, Bono lost his mom, which ultimately led him to spend a lot of time at Guggi’s home with his religious father. In the interview, Guggi recalled how the boys had attended a Christian camp in their teens, and spent a lot of time bonding together.

In a 2017 conversation with David Taylor, a theology and culture professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, Bono shared how his mother’s death was what ultimately led him to Jesus.

“I became an artist through the portal of grief,” Bono said. “My mother died at her own father’s gravesite. As he was being lowered into the ground she had an aneurysm. I was 14.”

“I began the journey trying to fill the hole in my heart with music, with my mates, my bandmates. Finally, the only thing that can fill it is God’s love; it’s a big hole but luckily it’s a big love,” the singer added.

Bono’s faith

Bono has never shied away from talking about his faith, and his personal relationship with God, and has only become increasingly vocal in the past couple of years.

In May, Fuller Studio’s produced a short film called Bono & Eugene Peterson, which detailed the unique relationship between the two.

The two friends bonded over a love for the Psalms, and the vulnerability of David. In the film, Bono credits Eugene’s writing with keeping him sane, and teaching him so many things about the Bible he didn’t know prior.

One of U2’s songs, which Bono sings, is called “40” and is based on Psalm 40.

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the mire and clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long, to sing this song

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and fear

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long, to sing this song