I read Blue Like Jazz today...here are my reflections
- First, there is this honesty that precludes critique and excludes repentance. The whole book is filled with shocking honesty. It is almost James Frey-like, and I get the idea it is to cut off criticism from the outset. You see, that is the difference between self-deprecation and real sorrow over sin. If you point out your faults before anyone else does then you can just say, "yeah, I already knew that!" Also, it is easier to laugh about. If honesty is so dadgum good, where is Paul's? Sure, he was honest about having sin. But come on, not one single detail...just the struggle. That tells me that honesty does not enjoy a status of being always a good thing.
- Almost all "I" and little "He"
- His stories of living in community were inspiring and motivating.
- The content of the gospel got little press.
- Since when is autobiography an acceptable genre for Christian Spirituality? This may be the most distrurbing and dengerous part of the book. It only makes sense that a book on Christian Spirituality would look closely at the best resource for such a subject...the Bible. Whip me, beat me and call me a fundamentalist but I am stickler for looking to the Bible for help in these matters. Anecdotes of a personal nature might be helpful but they are shifting sand. Perhaps it would be easier to understand this book as one Christian's Spirituality instead of Christian Spirtuality.
- This book more than any in a while has caused me to ask the question of whether I lean towards mercy or justice.
- He seems to have it in for the Republican Party way more than the Democratic Party. And he assumes that evengelicals who "support" the Republican Party are naive and he equates the two. This straw man gets beat to death. I am an evangelical and I wholeheartedly will support any party that wants to end abortion. If that makes me naive, so be it.
- Also, he leads the reader to believe that the only involvement in governemnt and politics for the Christian is prayer and protesting. This is troubling. Political theory, the intellectual marketplace of ideas and theological tenets are not independent of one another. And beacuse of this truth we must not write off the policies and actions of others without discussion of them. To simply state that feeding the homeless on the street in America is more merciful and biblical than economic systems which make it possible for them to produce wealth and participate in the marketplace might fit on a bumper-sticker but it might not be true. I bring this up because it passes faddish witty quips off as intelligent statements. He may be right. But he has done little to show it or prove it.
- The whole book comes off as adolescent ranting. Do not get me wrong there is a lot of maturity too. But the tenor and tone of the book is marked by a tiresome immmaturity. this book will only sound profound to a college student or someone who thinks like one. I have elsewhere read that this book says old truths in a different way. That is true, there is not a whole lot of novelty here. But you can translate the "saying it a different way" to "saying it like a kid."
- I do not know if it is a good thing or not but the book reminded a lot of the last book I finished, Bob Dylan's Chronicles. Now to Miller that is probably a compliment. Maybe it is and should be. I liked Dylan's book but the writing style had an undistinguishable order to it that made it hard to know where he is and what he was talking about. That will be very attractive to the Postmodern-emergent types. To me it just felt lazy. The one word sentance is powerful when employed scarcely. Miller uses it everywhere. Literally.
Would I recommend the book. No, probably not. I especially would not reccomend it to less than discerning readers. College students are snatching this book up left and right. I am not surprised. Let's face it, the book sounds rebellious and cool, after all it is called Blue Like Jazz. The fact is that this is a poor book on Christian Spirtuality. It is a funny book and an poetic book. But it is not a book on Christian Spirituality. A good book on Christian Spirituality is Schaeffer's book, True Spirituality.
I do not fear books by Spong and other heretics. I fear books that have lots of truth but will still lead young Christians down the wrong path. This book will be very attractive to young believers who suffer from an aversion to authority, fall in love with what is cool easily, and love different for different's sake.
(update: I lead a Bible Study on Thursday Night of young couple's where I always learn more from them than they do from me. Last night was no exception. A girl named Allison gave me a quote (not original to me) that helped me think more about this book and why I did not like it. The qoute is, "True humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking about yourself less." Blue Like Jazz failed miserably if this qoute is right on.)
(another update: I read in Philippians 3 about this group of unbelievers who "glory in their shame" I am not convinced I know what this means. But it did get me thinking about how some people in giving their "testimony" seem to glory in the shameful acts they committed before they beleived the gospel. They use humor liberally or they speak about past sins in a trite way. Perhaps, that is why the "honesty" of Blue Like Jazz irked me so. Maybe he did not mean to sound so trite but it was very easy for me to walk away feeling as if he was.)