Jul 17, 2008

Blue Like Jazz

The infamous book somewhere between "Evangelical" and "Emergent" written by Donald Miller which swept my generation with its ideas and sincerity. I finally read it.

Hi Bethany, welcome to 2003. So glad you could make it.

Nearly everyone who asked me if I had read it (which is nearly everyone I have ever known) gave me mixed reviews. "I don't agree with everything it says" or "read it with a grain of salt." So I finally sat down last weekend, pen in one hand, salt shaker in the other ready to pummel this beast of Christian literature* to the ground. And I have to say, I loved it. Here is why:

1.) It was a book where words became art. He told stories in a way that you saw them, you felt them, and then you thought about them. Many authors are happy to accomplish one of these aspects, let alone all three.

2.) The style was "memoir" not "systematic theology". I love memoirs. I've never read one by a Christian before. It was a new experience. I also love systematic theology when the mood is right (candles, roses, a glass of wine) but the expectation of the book is completely different. Now I know that all Christians are and should be theologians. If not, they usually seem a little flaky. Like Miss Teen South Carolina or those really good Pillsbury biscuits. But when I started reading this book for what it was, a memoir by someone who desires to have and live good theology (a term which of course is a bit subjective), I began to enjoy it as a tale of another person's life. What he learned from it. What it makes me think about and around and over. Not a book about what one should think.

3.) It was written with love and humility. Looking at where "Don" is coming from, it seems like he could have written a very sarcastic and angry book. Like the book I would've written. Instead, he is careful to write with a loving and non-judgemental attitude which proves very effective considering his final premise is "hey, loving (and liking) people is really stinkin' important."

4.) He's friends with someone named Penny. And that's a cool name. Though now it makes me think of LOST. Still.

5.) It made me think about a lot of things but it also made me feel something. It's hard for a book to get to my heart these days. Especially one qualifying as Christian literature*. I don't know what it is about me. Somebody told my husband they thought I was a "hard-ass". I guess I don't really know what that means except that maybe it's hard for a book to reach all the way through my head to my heart. So maybe I am one. But I wasn't when I read Blue Like Jazz and that's gotta mean something.

Maybe I didn't "agree" with every word he wrote or every conclusion he drew. I can't think of a book where I have. I can also assume that Donald Miller's purpose in writing the book wasn't to have a bunch of people agreeing with him. I imagine, rather, he had a lot of things that he needed to write. He really needed to write them. So he did. Then he hoped people would read the things he wrote and maybe think about some of them and maybe relate to some of them and maybe just enjoy some of them.

Or maybe that's just what I did. Me and my pen and my salt shaker.

*by "Christian literature" I mean a book written by an author who is a Christian, not that the literature itself is saved and going to heaven when it dies. Just to clarify.


stanfill fifth said...

Bethany, I'm so excited to happen upon your blog and see that you read "Blue Like Jazz". If I were as witty in my writing my response would have been exactly the same. In any case, my thoughts and feelings after reading the book myself were the same. I, too, loved it! It has been disheartening to recommend it to people and find that the fact that his "theology" isn't up to snuff means his writing is invalid.
If you would like another book that makes a lot of Christians angry check out "The Shack". I am also a difficult person to reach through a book, especially a piece of Christian fiction. But this book (in spite of its incomplete and at times, perhaps, incorrect theology) was one of the few that has encouraged me and pointed me straight to God in a time when I needed to be reminded of some particular characteristics His word gives us. If you are looking for an in-depth doctrinal study stay away. Otherwise, stick with it for the first few chapters which are sort of difficult and then I'd love to know what you think when you reach chapter 11, which is where I was touched perhaps the deepest.
Thanks for blogging! I love read your humorous take on things!

Anonymous said...

Or, if you'd like, you can take The Shack and poop on it, like I wanted to after reading it.