Book 3 of 15 - Blue Like Jazz

I'm on a serious book-reading roll this month. I promise I'm calming down now, because, well, the next book on my plate is The System of the World...

After my mom saw that I was reading Jesus For President last fall, she thought I might like this one by Donald Miller, the sub-title of which is Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. The authors of Jesus for President footnote Blue Like Jazz a couple of times, so I was already familiar with the book by reference.

I have a hard time deciding which one I like better, to be completely honest. On the one hand, Jesus For President was a hard-hitting look at Christian discipleship in a time when we find ourselves pulled more and more toward secular positions. It made me feel a bit bad about times in which I should have been a better follower of Christ, and guilt can be a powerful motivator!

On the other hand, Blue Like Jazz makes me feel a little more normal about feeling bad. Miller is a fantastic personal story teller, and his insights into his own spiritual growth are engaging, enlightening and motivating. One of the underlying themes is learning to love (God, others, yourself), which Miller introduces as being like learning to appreciate Jazz music – he didn't like Jazz until he saw someone playing soulfully with their eyes closed, and then he loved Jazz. Being able to accept the forgiveness and grace that comes with salvation and a personal relationship with Christ is parallel to loving yourself (and everyone else).

He also spends a good amount of time recalling events from when he was auditing some classes at Reed College. I have an extended member of the family who went to Reed, and I'm now suddenly very interested in asking him about some of the more sordid events which supposedly take place there. I don't want details, mind you, but an additional perspective would be fascinating.

There's one story that sticks with me after turning the 181st page: Miller was part of a small group of Christians at Reed (a certain minority on one of the most secular campuses in the country). During the annual Renn Fayre celebration, the group put up a "confession booth" in the middle of the campus. Rather than accepting confessions, which was likely to cement them as the negative stereotype many viewed them to be, they did the confessing. They confessed their sins, the sins of the church and of Christians at large. They moved people and were changed by the simple experience of saying things like "Christ tells us to feed the poor, and I know I haven't done the best job of that." and "Christ said to love your neighbor, and I've certainly had a bad attitude when I'm woken up by loud noises from next door.", etc. This sounds like such a profound experience.

Now that I've thought about it a little more (ok, the span of a few paragraphs), I did like Blue Like Jazz more. A little, anyway.

Jan 29th, 2010