Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller
“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. . . . I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.” In Donald Miller’s early years, he was vaguely familiar with a distant God. But when he came to know Jesus Christ, he pursued the Christian life with great zeal. Within a few years he had a successful ministry that ultimately left him feeling empty, burned out, and, once again, far away from God. In this intimate, soul-searching account, Miller describes his remarkable journey back to a culturally relevant, infinitely loving God.
This is like a meadering memoir of Miller’s spiritual journey. He makes some good, although by no means unique points. We need to be able to accept God’s love for us and we, in turn, need to love everyone, Republican or Democrat, poor or rich, straight or gay. Miller is also a strong believer in community, that people were not meant to be alone. He is cynical about most of the established churches, however, and he’s right, they are not perfect, but I think that most of them are trying. He talks some about the Gospels, and this is one of my favorite quotes. A friend of his is telling him about when she first became a Christian.
“Yes. We would eat chocolates and smoke cigarettes and read the Bible, which is the only way to do it, if you ask me. Don, the Bible is so good with chocolate. I always thought the Bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn’t. It is a chocolate thing.”
So, while I do agree with a lot of what he says, it’s all pretty superficial. We feel God calling to us, we feel the need for God in our lives. A lot of it is about feelings, and feelings can be hot and cold, kind of wishy-washy. And Miller provided no moments of inspiration, so to speak. Never did I say to myself, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been missing.” I don’t think he really brought anything new to the table, just added his comments to what’s already there.
The thing that I really disliked about this book, though, was the writing style. It felt like the ramblings of a high school student at times. It’s simplistic and self-indulgent. He’s trying to be clever and just not making it. I actually found myself reading part of it to my husband, introducing it with: “This is why I don’t like this book.”
However, a lot of people have been touched by this book, so maybe I’m just being picky. There is some beautiful writing in the midst of his musings.
There is something quite beautiful about the Grand Canyon at night. There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries, swirling in the blue like jazz.)
The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music. It is a music birthed out of freedom. And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality. A music birthed out of freedom. Everybody sings their song the way they feel it, everybody closes their eyes and lifts up their hand.
It’s interesting that both the quotes I chose dealt with jazz. It was the title that drew me to the book in the first place and the reason I borrowed it from the library.