I was one of those that has not read the book Blue Like Jazz by Donald (Don) Miller. When it came out it seemed to be the trendy thing to read if you were a post youth group college-age twenty-something. I am not being pejorative with that descriptor it just seemed to me that most of the people reading this book fit into this category. I will read the book now but I first saw the movie which is something I like to do. Most people read the book then watch the movie. I usually do the opposite. When you read the book first you are always disappointed but when you watch the movie first then read the book then it brings wonder and excitement into the movie. Having said that here are my thoughts about the movie.
The movie, in a satirical way, shows some weaknesses of some evangelical churches in addressing the larger issues twenty-somethings struggle with. To be fair this is not a large stroke against every evangelical church but I do think (especially among the more conservative/fundamental groups) there is some disconnect with the theology some practice and how that theology contextualizes in real life. There was a scene where they had a youth-group lock-in and they were playing games, then it cuts to a scene where Don talks with his troubled father and troubled mother. It is like the context of church did not mesh with the context of his family. They were not syncretized but they were two distinct situations. In discussions with twenty-somethings there seems to be this disconnect where church is something we “go to” instead of something “we are.” The movie pointed to this disconnect very well.
I thought the movie did an excellent job at pointing to the complex journey of faith that young people take. Don’s journey (if I take it to being biographical) is very difficult. He deals with reconciling what God is doing versus the complex issues (homosexuality, mother sleeping with the youth pastor, etc.) that he has to face in this world. There is no escapism for Don and that is tough to deal with. Young people want genuine faith and the moralistic therapeutic deism that many churches are teaching simply does not fly with the younger generation. They want to learn more about God other than being a nice guy, wearing a tie on Sundays, voting Republican and going to services three times a week. Faith is more complex to them than that.
Christianity does not call for us to model culture but it also means we cannot escape it. The people Don encountered at Reed College were incredibly different than he was used to back in Houston, Texas. It seemed that Don’s effort was not to leave these people because they did not mesh with his views but to engage them in conversation and Christian love. In the end, it turns out that he was able to be frank with his belief and to allow his love for God help people.
This is a good movie to watch and I recommend twenty-somethings to watch this movie and take its content seriously. I think a challenge is understanding Don’s use of storytelling and how to interpret it for our own context. Story is powerful (which is why he sold over a million copies) but I think we cannot seriously advocate parties, drug use and flippant sexuality as part of our Christian journey. I think his story should be understood just as that…his story. He is not prescribing aspects of life but describing his own complex journey. Yet, each of us have our own complex journey so this story is so powerful for many people.
The movie does contain some cuss words and there is some partying and things that occur so appropriate ages should watch this only.
What am I missing?