Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Review: Blue Like Jazz

I've had Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz on my TBR list for a couple of years now, since my friend's daughter had to read it in high school and absolutely loved it. Subtitled "Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality," this is Miller's journey toward reconciling the distant, institutional God with the relevant, working, loving God.

Miller is a fantastic writer. The chapters are anecdotes in his journey that touch on significant components of Christianity, such as: Worship—The Mystical Wonder; Church—How I Go Without Getting Angry; Confession—Coming Out of the Closet; Community—Living with Freaks; Love—How to Really Love Other People; Jesus—The Lines on His Face.

I turned down the corners on a lot of pages. (I wanted to underline things, but I find it distracting when people do this and then I read the book after them, so I didn't because I know that Dr. H. will read this book soon.) Miller rambles a lot sometimes, but in his rambling, he has all kinds of simple but profound statements, like this one: "Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hears of wonder."

And others that are just funny, like this: "Some of my friends have left their churches and gone Greek Orthodox. I think that sounds cool. Unless you are Greek. then it sounds like that is where you are supposed to go, as though you are a conformist.… If I were Greek, I would go to a Baptist church. Everybody there would think I was exotic and cool."

This isn't a deeply theological text. Miller is just trying to figure things out, to try to understand problems with the brand of Christianity that he'd been raised in:
"I had been raised to believe there were monsters under the bed, but I had peeked, in a moment of bravery, and found a wonderful world, a good world. … We were raised to believe this. If people were bad, we treated them as though they were either evil or charity: If they were bad and rich, they were evil. If they were bad and poor, they were charity. Christianity was always right; we were always looking down on everybody else."
He works though this in much of the book, and ultimately comes to realize the need to differentiate what is human tradition and failings and what is God's word.

This is a great read for anyone who struggles with the tension between what Christians claim vs. how we act. Again, this is not a theological text with passages of scripture referenced and footnotes; it's really one man's journey toward God.

Other, Much Longer Reviews of Blue Like Jazz
Mommy on Fire
Michael Krahn
Faith Based Blog
Convergence Review
Broken Masterpieces
Internet Monk


Seth said...

He really is a wonderful writer. His "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" is fantastic.

Natalie at Mommy on Fire said...

Thanks for the link, Sarah! We are like-minded readers.

Donald Miller is wonderful and up next for me is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

Great to meet you! :)

Pastor Michael said...

Thanks for the link.

Michael Krahn