Blue Like Jazz
By: Donald Miller
The subtitle of this book is “Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality” and I think that sums the book up very well.
Miller has an endearing writing style: funny, sarcastic, very matter-of-fact and stripped of pretentiousness. On the back of the book, a critic says that Miller “is like Anne Lamott with testosterone...” This is a very accurate description, if you know who Anne Lamott is.
Miller seems (to me) to defy logic by basically being a progressive liberal evangelical Christian. I never would have thought such a thing were possible, but then again, he is from Oregon, and they’re all a little cracked out there, I believe.
He basically has an evangelical view of the basics of Christianity: God is an actual theistic Being; Satan is an actual Being and is in charge of the world and is responsible for trying to lead good people astray with temptation, selfish desires, bad thoughts, etc; Jesus was the divine Son of God, born of a virgin, died on the cross to save us from our sins, rose bodily on the 3rd day, and is now directly involved in the affairs of humans – leading, directing, guiding, supporting, answering prayers, setting forth a plan for our lives, etc. He believes fully in the Trinity, the Resurrection, and the divine inspiration of the bible, and he uses capitalized masculine pronouns to refer to God (i.e. “He” and “Him” and “His”).
Yet despite these things, he has a liberal progressive view of Christian spirituality. He speaks boldly and straight-forwardly about the hypocrisy of fundamentalist and even moderate Christians. He derides the Republican Party for their faux-Christian platitudes. He recounts a Bush protest he attended one of his friends, where they went around chanting and holding up war protest signs. He talks about how he enjoys the company of his atheist, hippie, pot-smoking friends a lot more than most of his Christian friends, and that those people taught him Godly love in a way that he never learned from other Christians. He talks about a pastor friend of his whom he refers to as Mark the Cussing Preacher. He speaks against the self-absorbed lifestyle of most Americans, including Christians, and all but endorses a basically communist economic view of society. He drives a motorcycle and drinks beer, and thinks that the primary role of a church should be community, love, and charity, with evangelism never even entering the picture.
I found myself constantly pushed and pulled by this book. At one point, about halfway through, I came very close to deciding to put the book up, because some of his evangelical ideas about the nature of God were so backward to me, and irritatingly in contrast with his otherwise progressive spiritual ideas. But I stuck it out and found several chapters later in the book that really resonated with me, particularly his chapters about the nature of love, money/wealth, and the human tendency for self-absorption.
If you’re interested in a witty, endearing, frank, partly-autobiographical book on the modern Christian lifestyle, this is a book that you will enjoy. It’s chock full of anecdotes, stories, humor, and even a couple of humorous, hand-drawn comic strips that he uses to illustrate some points.
If you’re offended by a Christian who talks about drinking, pot-smoking, and penguin sex, engages in Republican-bashing, talks positively about cussing pastors, atheist hippies, and atheist universities, and who uses the word “crap” continually, then this book is not for you.