Blue Like Jazz, by Don Miller
I skimmed Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality a few years ago and wasn’t that impressed. It seemed like the kind of book that was down on conservative Christians and that just doesn’t interest me much. But I saw it in the store a while back and decided to give it a real read. I wanted to give it the same kind of attention I give to the other books I review. So, I settled in and started reading and taking notes. This book took me on a ride that was somewhat unexpected. I went through many different cycles, I loved it, I hated it, I questioned it, and at the end I’m still not quite sure what I think about it. I usually try to give you an overview of a book, with this one I had to go a different direction. I ended up with so many pages of notes, it was hard to condense them into something readable. I’m separating this review into 3 sections, what I didn’t like, what I loved, and what I still don’t get.
What I Don’t Like
One thing I didn’t appreciate was that Don includes two stories of other people who hear God speak to them while drunk or on drugs. The reason I have a big problem with this is that the Bible is clear that we are not to be drunk with wine but filled with the Spirit. If being drunk impedes the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts then it’s hard for me to believe that God chose that time to audibly speak to them. It just doesn’t make sense with what Scripture says.
What’s with all the cussing? I don’t’ get why cussing is so glorified in this book. Don describes Reed College as cool because of cussing and smoking, he loves the cussing pastor, he just seems to love cussing. I don’t’ get the fascination with using dirty words as cool. It’s not cool, it’s just unnecessary. It seems immature to love cussing that much.
What I Loved
I do not have the space here to tell you everything I loved about the chapter on Grace, but I loved it. I identified with it. When he started describing his summer at camp and all the ways he tried so hard to be good. He makes a pact with his friends of all the evil they are going to avoid in order to be good. What I found particularly striking was that there is no mention of the good things he is going to do, just the bad things they are going to avoid. Anyway, Don explains how miserable he is the first time he breaks the rules on their year long pact. This is not the grace of God, it is simply man trying to earn God’s favor. I understood it. Grace is not a list of do’s and don’ts.
Authenticity. Wow. I know who Don is. I love that. He admits to unbelief, how sinful he is and his need of Jesus. I loved reading how he shared his beliefs and feelings with so many people. Not just the good stuff to make them admire him. He shared the bad stuff too and that is a behavior Christians can learn from.
He doesn’t shy away from sin. He calls it sin. He makes it clear that as humans we are depraved.
What I Still Don’t Get
What is with all the gay stuff? He seems to come back to this several times and I just don’t get it. Does he think homosexuality is a sin or not? Does he think it’s “cool” to be gay? I’m just confused.
Does he actually like any conservatives or republicans on a personal level? I know he says he loves fundamentalists, but is he friends with any of them currently? It seems he gravitates toward the liberal, as though they are better. They aren’t. Every group (in my opinion) has flaws. What is not flawed is Christ and we need him.
Don Miller is a popular guy among people in my generation and now I understand why. Young people crave honesty and transparency and Don Miller fits that description to a Tee. However it often feels as though he is just immature. Some ideas are good, but some are not accurate when it comes to theology, and that matters to me. A valid point mixed with bad theology doesn’t make a good book. I think that is what scares me about someone like Don Miller and Blue like Jazz. It becomes something more than just a book of a guys journey through Christianity. He has created a following of people who might not discern what is right and wrong. Blindly following this book or frankly any book that is not God’s Word is going to lead to a flawed world view. Should a Christian decide to attend and expound upon how much he loves a Unitarian church? NO.
There are things to ponder from this book. Is Satan using religion to keep us from God’s grace and to make us waste time? Yes, honestly agree with the author on this point.
If you are looking for a book to challenge the way you think pick up Blue Like Jazz. You will be forced to think about how you live and I would encourage you to compare that to Scripture. Read this book with a discriminating eye.
If you have read this book, I’d love to hear what you think about it. Tell me if you love it or hate it.