Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts on "Blue Like Jazz"

I so disdain "trendy" So when everyone and his grandmother are going to a particular place or wearing a particular thing, or reading a particular book--it is almost a given that I will not jump on the bandwagon.

Maybe it is a flaw in my character. Maybe it is a rebellious streak that fits my nom de plum for this blog. Maybe it is a Scripture informed suspicion about things that the majority pursues. Maybe it is God's hedge of protection around me. Maybe it's because I am too cheap to buy the book. Whatever the reason, I have not read Blue Like Jazz.

I have read so many reviews, pro and con (mostly pro) that have quoted so many passages, and have read other things that Don Miller has written that I have decided that the BLJ fan club is not in my future. It's not that I disagree with everything he writes. In fact with some, I have a real affinity. But then again, just because I like pickles doesn't mean that I want to marinate my whole body in a pickle jar.

And it seems that that is what many people are doing with BLJ--marinating their perspective in BLJ.

For what it's worth, here's an article from Karios Journal that discusses some of the red flag issues. Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

i thought "irresistible revolution" by shane claiborne was a better book on the same sort of topic. except claiborne really challenges the reader to take up their cross. i think the more interesting question is not "what is blue like jazz about?" but "what is this book touching on or addressing that appeals to so many people?" i was more interested in why people were intrigued by miller's perspective than what his perspective is. and what i've arrived at is that he calls people to a journey not judgement.

so what do we do we that?

ChosenRebel said...

I am working on a short pamphlet now (about 30 pages) on being a sojourner and what that means for both our personal devotion to Christ and our relationships in the world, so yes, I think it is important to see the journey and call people to an adventure with God.

As for why people are drawn to or intrigued with Miller's perspective--I try not to speculate on other people's motives. My motto is "it is a dangerous thing to think that you know what is somebody else's heart."

You said, "what I've arrived at is that he calls people to journey not judgment." If a church is imbalanced, or a person's witness has that imbalance then of course the imbalance has to be addressed somehow. The problem is that usually, when imbalances are addressed the pedulum gets swung to an equal but opposite imbalance.

I find that striving not for balance (J.I. Packer makes the comment in his book Knowing God, that even the word "balance" is a hideously self-concious word.) but for faithfulness is a safer path for my journey with Christ. Find the will of God in His word. Do it.

My two cents.

Robyn said...

Interesting post. Personally, I liked Blue Like Jazz. It didn't make my top 10 list, by a long shot, but it raised some interesting ideas. I like books that make me think, which is what BLJ did. I like Miller's raw authenticity. I've never felt like I "belong" at there's room for me...I'm still in process. Miller's book was a breath of fresh air after hanging out with religious folks!

Incidentally, I had the priveledge of seeing Donald Miller speak at Calivn College's Festival of Faith in Writing this last spring. It was a packed house, and he was an entertaining speaker. During the Q & A, a woman asked him something about his "ministry." Miller's response was straightforward and honest: He doesn't write books as "ministry," he writes them for his job, to earn money. That's certainly nothing to apologize for, but it's an important distinction. Blue Like Jazz isn't a theology book, or even anything new. It's a book. A good one, I think. But nobody should be basing their theology on it.

ChosenRebel said...

Authentic, refreshing, honest, interesting—all are great adjectives that I affirm. I love books that challenge and make me think outside the boxes that I or others have created. But that doesn’t mean that I should throw discernment concerning the perspective of a book out the window. Every book, religious or secular is filled with theology. And while I affirm that “nobody should be basing their theology on it (BLJ),” the reality is that many ARE basing their theology on books like BLJ.

Why should Don Miller get a pass on the theology that under girds BLJ just because his book/ideas are authentic and interesting. A number of years ago I read about the opening of the first topless donut shop in Colorado. Authentic and interesting yes but also deadly to the soul.

Ideas have origins. They come from our theological grid--the way we understand God, his work and our place in the world. Ideas also have consequences and some, if they are based on misguided and bad theology, can be deadly.

Writing to make money is nothing to apologize for and it is refreshing that he admits it but if that is the only or primary reason he writes it is revealing as well. He seemed to say that he didn’t write as a ministry. Is making money his highest value? Is being famous his highest value. (I’m not accusing, just asking a question.) If it isn’t his highest value, i.e. he really does write for a bigger, larger, more noble reason) then maybe he isn’t being as honest to the questioner at Calvin College as his audience was prone to believe because of his disarming, refreshing and entertaining style.

If he is writing to make money, if that is his ultimate and highest goal, how do I, the reader know that he believes anything he writes? Maybe he is just writing in what appears to be an honest way not because he is truly honest but because he knows that if he writes in a certain way and criticizes in a certain vein that his book will sell more copies.

Ultimately, I need to make a decision to trust or not trust a person. But I find it easier to trust the person, generally, who tells me that he/she writes their books with an interest toward helping me (ministry) over against the person who says they write their books to help themselves (make money).

Robyn said...

I agree completely that Donald Miller is accountable for the theology that undergirds his book. I think we agree here -- we should all base our theology on the Bible. Period. We should never just accept what we read as truth, regardless of who wrote it (unless we're reading the Bible).

On the flip side, I find value in what Miller wrote, and he raises interesting ideas in BLJ.

It sounds like you're encountering a lot of people who are basing their entire Christian perspective on BLJ, so I think we just live in different worlds here. I'm a stay-at-home mom who is lucky to just find a friend who HAS a Christian perspectiive at all and likes to read as opposed to watching "reality" shows...but that's another blog topic.

To clarify his comments at Calvin: he never said making money was his highest goal, he just wanted to clarify that he doesn't see himself in "ministry" in the traditional sense. He also said that he's glad people are helped and encouraged by his books, and that if they are prompted to embrace God again because of what he wrote, that's great. But being drawn to God is a God thing, not a Donald Miller thing.

You really should read the book. You'd like it. I'll even loan it to you if you're too cheap to buy it. :-)

ChosenRebel said...

Not too cheap, just limited in time and resources. Then again if I had it I would read it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry this is kind of random. But I heard about this and thought I should share it with you.

Rosie O'Donell, host of popular TV daytime show "The View" said the unthinkable on Sept 12, just one day after the 5 year anniversary of 9/11.

"Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America."

I couldn't believe what I heard. What's worse? The audience clapped in agreement.

Pretty soon it will be illegal to tell other people that the only way to God is through Jesus.

You can see video's of her comment on MSN video.

Patricia said...

I haven't read BLJ yet, but I have read his other book, Searching for God Knows What. Even though some of his theology is obviously flawed, he does have a point about some things like the need of some Christians to "impress" nonbelievers by adopting world values being harmful to our core message. I agree, though not with some of his emergent philosophies demonstrated in BLJ that are illustrated in the review you linked us to there.What I don't like about some churches (not talking about Newsong obviously) is their need to "advertise" events and go all out just to impress others while neglecting to really reach others for Christ and showing they really care. .

Dan said...

Wow. I haven't seen this much blog activity since I posted about the DaVinci code. Seriously though, if you want either BLJ or Searching for God Knows What, you can borrow our copies. I read SFGKW first and really liked it. I think it is the better of the two, but I honestly don't remember a lot about BLJ.

ChosenRebel said...

Thanks for the offer Dan. Robyn has already lent me her copy.