Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reading: Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller

Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller is a book that carries the slogan, "nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality."  This slogan is what stood out to me when I found this book on Amazon.  I took a wrong turn shortly after, having just noticed that the book had been adapted into a film, and so, as usual with me, I went to iTunes to watch the film's trailer.  I was highly disappointed.  The plot line seemed cheesy and unoriginal while the acting was mediocre from what I observed.  I decided I didn't want to put money on the line in hopes I would love this book if I bought it because the movie didn't look all that great.  Luckily for me, my library had one copy of this book and I quickly checked it out.  I guess I should have just bought it.
Don Miller is a highly renowned "Christian" author.  I put the word Christian in quotations because it is my belief that there is no bridge between the spiritual and the secular.  Belief is apart of everyday life.  However, labels can't always be avoided and it wouldn't be honest of me to not label Miller because...well, he writes about his Christian faith!
It seems that Miller feels the same way about the idea of the spiritual and secular not being so different.  The book's slogan implies just as much...and does exactly what it says.  Miller takes the mundane everyday world with it's confusion and hatred, conflict and triumphs and molds it into a novel that meets the reader where he/she is.  It doesn't provide boring, straight commands but dives into the nitty gritty and asks the reader to make their own conclusions about their faith.
Miller contemplates many things including politics (left or right?), sin, desires, romance, atheism, and more, and contemplates these issues in terms of the Christian faith.  Sounds dull right?  Not at all.  Miller's modern ideas really hit home for the new generation of Christians.  His voice is radical and challenging which is essentially what Christians are called to do.  He dares to ask, and answer, the complex questions that many Christians seem to avoid and he does so with flying colors.  Miller seemed to be speaking the words that I had felt like I had wanted to say for such a long time but never knew how. 
"'If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether or not we are really following Jesus." (pg 185)
The writing style of this novel was very reflective and borderline stream of consciousness.  Someone
suggested to me that it seems like the book was written as if it were a blog.  Perhaps people see honesty when they come to a blog - that a person is taking their time to bare their soul to the public and hope it doesn't get smashed in the process.  That is what Miller does in this book.  He puts all of his thoughts on the line and does it un-apologetically which is refreshing to see from a "Christian" writer.  It shows that even though he is a Christian, he doesn't have it all together.  Instead of putting on a fake look, Miller is honest.  Is the novel appealing to the other side though?  Well that is a tough call.  I think non-believers would enjoy this book because Miller puts his thoughts out there in an intellectual way that is rare in "Christian" writing. 
"The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music.  It is a music birthed out of freedom.  And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality.  A music birthed out of freedom."
I should probably mention the film again.  I have not watched it yet and when I do, I don't think I will like it. After listening to an interview with Miller about the film, it seems like he wasn't too pleased with it either.  Regardless, the book was a wonderfully refreshing read.  Miller met me where I was and really challenged my thoughts and helped put them into words and then put them into a "Christian" perspective.  While it isn't a literary novel, it still breaks the mold of what you typically see in the "Christian" section of the bookstore.
I can genuinely say that this book is a favorite of mine.  It really hit home for me with a lot of the ideas and it was refreshing and moving and also, at times, a bit poetic.  5 out of 5 stars!

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