Donald Miller's spiritual memoir is a postmodern Augustine's Confessions. Miller explores culture, the Church, and his inner conflicts in a conversational style that can only be described as the kind of jazz he likes—cool. These aren't just irrelevant thoughts jotted down journal style; what emerges is a narrative of one man's journey out of spiritual cynicism to a faith that is relevant, compassionate, and as free of hypocrisy as he can manage.
It's become popular to slander the Church while celebrating "Christian pilgrimage." There's a bit of that here, but Miller also understands the importance of Christ's body. A lot of his struggles are about reconciling the need for the Church with common Christian behaviour, but he's as ready to examine himself as anyone else. In fact, self-reflection is his forte, and it's the main reason Blue Like Jazz is so relatable.
Many of the anecdotes relate to Miller's time at Reed College (a notoriously secular institution in Portland, OR) and center around the difficulty of being a Christian in a culture that disdains Christianity. The stories also reveal the deep desire of people to know God, whether or not they acknowledge that desire. One compelling story involves Miller's difficulty in sharing his faith with non-believing friends, and the results when he finally talks about Jesus with his friend Laura.
Not everything is rosy. Some of Miller's exploits seem immature, ill-advised, even outright bad. For instance, during one of Reed College's annual year-end debauches known as Renn Fayre, he set up a "confessional booth" in which curious people could come listen to him apologize for the sins and crimes of the Church. While he also actually confessed the faith, one wonders if apologizing for the sins of other people is really the best way to witness to drunk, drugged, over-sexed college students.
Miller's prose is well-crafted. He explores what it means to be a Christian, particularly in a society that has largely lost sight of the nature of Christianity. He isn't accusatory or terribly shocking—he's just a man trying to make sense of things. He has an incredible sense of humor and a disarming honesty which, even if you don't agree with all (or any) of his conclusions, will at least help you pay attention to what he's saying.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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