File this under, “You learn something new every day,” I guess…
It bugs me that this show that all my kids seem to watch (for some reason) is named after a U2 song. But I also assumed that the U2 song is named after something else, too, a little deeper and more significant. So I Googled “One Tree Hill.” After wading through dozens of pages of WB schedules, fan sites, actor biographies, and various pop-culture tripe, I discover that One Tree Hill is a place in New Zealand, a volcanic mountain outside of Auckland that is/was sacred to the indigenous Maori. There’s some interesting history here about how there used to be one tree on the hill, and then there were two, but now there aren’t any. But it’s still called One Tree Hill.
So far so good. But what’s the connection between the song and the place? Turns out that Bono wrote this song, and dedicated the entire Joshua Tree album, to a close personal friend of the band Greg Carroll, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1986. Carroll was from Auckland, and a Maori, and met the band in New Zealand; hence the close connection between One Tree Hill, the band, and Carroll.
Let’s take a look at the lyrics:
And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang - his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground.
Bleeding poets? Jara? Song a weapon? Hands of love? What’s that all about? The answers surprised me. Victor Jara was a Chilean poet and folk singer who was arrested by Pinochet. Different versions of his death abound, but the most poetic version is this: put on trial/exhibition in a soccer stadium, Jara refused to silence his protest song. His torturers had his hands cut off and he bled to death, a witness to the cruelty and tyranny of Pinochet’s regime.
A witness…a martyr. In the Bible, Genesis 4, God reproves Cain for the slaying of his brother Abel. How does God know that Cain has done this? “The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground” (verse 10). Abel’s blood is the witness against Cain. Jesus himself calls Abel the first martyr as he speaks against the Pharisees in Luke 11.
And what about the blood of these martyrs, these witnesses? To whom are they witnessing? The writer of the book of Hebrews explains it like this (Hebrews 12): they are witnesses of Jesus, who was not a martyr but a victim, a spotless Lamb who was killed for our sakes, murdered like Jara in front of hundreds. Jesus’ blood cries out to God from the ground as well, but it is not a cry for vengeance like Abel’s, or a voice of condemnation like the words against the self-righteous legalists. Jesus’ blood cries out to God for our forgiveness, to write our names in heaven, to enroll us as members of the new covenant of grace. Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel, the words of Jara.
And speaking of heaven, look at the last verse of the song:
I'll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red
Over One Tree Hill
When will the stars fall from the sky? When will the moon turn red? Bono knows what St. John saw revealed to him by God ― these things will happen, literally and figuratively, on the last day. The full moon will become like blood, and the stars will fall to the earth like leaves to herald Christ’s coming (Revelation 6). Remember that this is a song for Bono’s friend, who preceded all of us into death. Abel, and Victor Jara, and Greg Carroll are not gone forever. We will see them again, when we see these signs, and more. When we see a new heaven and a new earth. When we see Christ himself, descending from the clouds in glory.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he. (Zechariah 9)
Maybe you already knew all of this. Maybe, like me, you didn’t.
But even if you did know this already, isn’t it nice to be reminded?
Coffee-in-hand: Faculty Lounge Swill.