It’s almost April 13. What happens that day? Blue Like Jazz hits the big screen, and I can’t wait to see one of my favorite books come to life that way.
Which is partly why I was a bit saddened, but definitely not shocked, when I read the post on Don Miller’s blog today. The title said it all: the Christian movie establishment is against Blue Like Jazz. You can read it here:
If everything that Steve Taylor, the movie’s director, wrote is true, then there are some powerful voices out there against the movie. And although my voice doesn’t come close to theirs in impact, I just have to get my thoughts out there.
So I’m raising my voice as loud as I can in support of Blue Like Jazz. Do I believe it would be possible to get whole church groups to see it? Maybe. But even if it’s just one person I get to convince, then I’d be glad.
Christian movies. Christian music. Christian books. Christian art. Christian merchandise.
The church subculture in general.
It’s a volatile subject, and it’s thin ice I’m treading on.
But I’m trying to be authentic, and that’s why I have to be honest.
So I’m opening my big mouth and jumping in.
I don’t limit my reading choices to what’s sold at the Christian bookstore.
I don’t wear “Christian” shirts.
The pen in my purse is a Lego Yoda one from my youngest son.
I don’t listen to Christian radio, and I don’t count Jesus-per-minutes.
I didn’t finish watching Facing the Giants.
I’ve never seen Fireproof.
I’ve never seen Courageous either—I’ve heard the Casting Crowns song once and figure I can tell what happened in the movie.
Let me make one thing clear: I’m not saying all of the above are bad. I’m just saying they are not for me. But that doesn’t mean I’m writing them off.
Like in the case of the movies, I do know that there are people who have found some answers through them. So don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to know all the ways that God works. And I know the movies did a lot of good for some.
What I’m stating here is simply a personal preference, not a rule I expect others to follow. Having said that, I also have to admit that I believe much of the art that comes out of the established Christian media world aren’t very accurate depictions of reality, and what the Bible may have to say about those realities.
I don’t ever want to confine art in a box that has been sanitized for the church-going crowd. I know life is messy.
My choice of books, movies, music and every other form of art has to reflect the real picture.
Life is convoluted.
I am far from perfect.
All I have to my name is God’s incredible grace.
I have accepted I will never be complete in this life,
that nothing will ever make perfect sense,
and evil is hard at work.
I am not home yet.
So I gravitate toward those who are authentic, that I may know better how to walk this road I’m on.
And we’re back to Blue Like Jazz.
If you’ve read the book, you most probably closed it feeling like either of the two: you lived it, having been easily fooled into thinking Don Miller was writing about you OR you hated it because some conflicts weren’t resolved and there were no easy answers to take home.
You can tell I am of the former. And that’s because I don’t see Blue Like Jazz as I do the Bible. Blue Like Jazz inspires conversation, the Bible remains the last word.
Fact is, Blue Like Jazz resonated with me because I lived through the same doubts and questions. And I still grapple with a few of them. In addition to several new ones.
The University of the Philippines was as close to Reed College as you can get back then, and I felt lost for most of my four years there. I didn’t quite fit in with the church-going crowd, and I stood out among the non-church-going crowd as well.
There was too much displacement going on inside of me, and the pat answers I kept getting from many of my church-going friends were cliches I’ve heard, and memorized, before. I didn’t want to self-medicate the way my non-church-going friends did either.
I remember a prayer walk the Christian student groups once organized, where we marched slowly across campus and stopped to pray at every building we came to. I went along, but I stayed within the crowd and spent more time fervently hoping none of my classmates and friends were among those watching from the sidewalks. I felt so ashamed. In more ways than one.
I remember a tirade I once gave over how we should all quit what we were doing and go to Africa, because dying children can’t wait. And would a diploma matter in the eternal scheme of things? I remember an audience that was simply, I could tell, humoring me. And while I was probably wrong—a diploma can matter—I realized I was asking questions no one else in that room was quite ready to ask yet. I felt so alone. In more ways than one.
I remember asking repeatedly if what I was doing was all there was to it, if showing up for Bible study and fellowship was really making a difference, and if clinging to my church subculture was what I was supposed to be doing. If we all stayed within the set boundaries of our prejudices, what does that say about Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman? Or asking Zacchaeus to come down from that tree and visit with Him? I was very confused. In more ways than one.
I remember during my senior year, I started hanging out with a group of friends who didn’t believe the same things my neat church circle professed. I believe one of the first reactions of some from that circle was that I would end up pregnant, you know, because I was hanging out with them. I was hurt and disappointed. In more ways than one.
Conflict, always conflict. But you see, once you start searching for authenticity, you’ll begin to see that the questions are there to help you. And in wrestling with them, you develop spiritual muscles that will prove invaluable on the next, and more difficult, levels.
Tonight I had an honest conversation with my sons.
I gave them permission to ask as many questions as they wanted.
I dissuaded them from accepting their parents’ answers at face value.
I challenged them to work out how their faith and their lives should mesh together.
I admitted there would be a lot of pain in the intersection.
I encouraged them to follow the real Jesus, the one of the Bible.
I warned them that if they cop out and accept the packaged bit the church subculture offers, then they would never amount to anything much in life. Even in they fulfill their current dreams and end up with successful careers as a doctor—Josiah—and a veterinarian—Elijah.
April 13. Go see it.