December 31, 2010

The Review- Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. This book was so amazing for me, I am worried about writing a long review that could scare someone away from picking up a copy. Yeah. It's that good. I was also worried that I wouldn't do it justice. My fears are not unfounded, because this review was such a drop in the bucket of how much I loved it.

For those with shorter attention spans:
The 1 word book review: Inspiring.
The 2 word book review: Perception changing.
The 3 word book review: Go get it.
The 4 word book review: It changed my life.
The 5 word book review: My best read of 2010.

The slightly longer version for those of you willing to stick with me (you can read the beginning of all of this here):

I have two main thoughts about this book; one, that it validated a lot of the opinions I already had, and I didn't think I would ever get validation for them from anyone. Two, that it brought a huge microscope to my tiny thoughts and actions, and forced me to examine some things about me that are ugly, things I didn't even know I disliked about myself until I really thought about the way I live.

The first point is the biggest reason why this is such a valuable book to me, if I'm being truthful. The reason that it meant so much is because I've never heard it before. I have gone to several different churches, heard tons of different pastors, and I'm not sure that anyone has had these opinions before; beliefs that Jesus wasn't a political guy who would only vote for a certain party, or even the belief that Jesus would be kind to people who were sinning. Growing up in the church, the point stressed again and again was that God loves you, but mostly if you do what he says. Otherwise, not so much. Sure, a sign from the Westboro Baptist Church that says "God hates fags" would make us all cringe and denounce them. But very few Christians I know would be able to have a gay friend who they could love and hang out with, someone who they could see value in without talking behind their back. That's how it is in Christianity, right?

It makes me mad. And I believe it made Donald Miller mad too.

It can be summed up in this paragraph from page 215: "I began to understand that my pastors and leaders were wrong, that the liberals were not evil, they were liberal for the same reason Christians were Christians, because they believed their philosophies were right, good, and beneficial for the world. I had been raised to believe there were monsters under the bed, but I had peeked, in a moment of bravery, and found a wonderful world, a good world, better, in fact, than the one I had know."

Saying pastors and leaders are wrong is not the most provocative statement in this book, believe it or not. There is nothing he leaves untouched. But walk around in a Christian bookstore for an hour- you'll walk out extremely grateful for his irreverence. He slices all the cliched teachings open, and he makes you think about what Jesus would really have said about the way most Christians are today. Maybe Christians can sit in a bar and drink a beer and not be evil. Maybe they can be Democrats. Maybe they can not be cheesy and say things like, "Golly!"

He dared to say he hated going to church. He talked about all the Christian-y words he used to impress people, and how empty they were. It was nice to hear the thoughts of someone who didn't just accept everything the church told him, because God may be without fault, but churches have plenty of them. That may be one of the biggest points of the book, really: God is God. Churches are not God, pastors are not God, Christians are not God. If I judge him based on those other things, I will walk away feeling disillusioned- and I have in the past.

For me, most of the reading was spent nodding my head in agreement. Yeah, I've been there. Yeah, I feel that way too. I found myself slowing down how the number of pages I read each time so I could make the book last longer.

The second part of this was the aforementioned microscope. This part was admittedly harder to swallow. I was grateful for it, though, because even this part of the book was non-judgmental. Miller discovers some of his bad qualities, and he shares them. Even things that no one else would have noticed, he confesses and brings to light, and in doing so, made me examine a lot of my own crooked thinking. After finishing the book, I've caught myself, so many times, being the kind of judgmental person I so despise. It's given me a new perspective on the way I act. I can honestly say it is helping me keeps tabs on my behavior, and hopefully, improve the way I think and what I do.

The way Miller describes God is the closest thing I've found to what I believe. It's the way I would like to raise Amelia. Because really, shouldn't the point of life be to love people like God would love them, not like a "Christian" would love them? Isn't it about being like God, and not like a particular belief system?

So there it is, my long-winded review. The book has so many dog-eared pages, I could go on three times as long, but I won't. My opinion is that you should read it. Let me know if you do.

2 kind comments from you:

Raychial Smitherzface said...

:-) this book sounds amazing.

-something you might not know about me is that while I love Jesus and believe in God, I don't consider myself a "christian". I believe that a good portion of the church and pastors and man exploit the gospel for their own gain (some unknowingly)... I consider myself a spiritual follower of christ, but i don't really go to church. I believe in relationship with God (talking to him, meditating, praying), but not blind faith..
And I enjoy a glass of wine (or several) now and then ;-)
I'm excited about reading this book, great review :-) it'll give me something to do when Eva decides to be a wakey girl at night.

love peace and chicken grease! lol

Beka said...

Wow, wow, wow. I have a feeling I'll love the book.
I'm got an uncle and a cousin on Dad's side who are gay. The cousin, from what I know of him (we aren't close to our cousins and uncles/aunts, not really) he has a big heart and works with disabled people. I really admire that.

My church's pastor, where my family's been going since I was a wee baby, preaches that God loves the person, but not the sin. But He loves them anyways. And we should too. They also say how it's wrong and everything, which is very typical of conservatives and all that....

Ooooh, "He slices all the cliched teachings open" that sounds really good!!

Hmmm.....I say golly!! That part made me laugh.
I actually say it quite a bit. *laughs to self*

I have a few friends --the close ones who actually live in other states, so our friendships have been long distance ones, but oh-so-blessed and through the high and low times-- they are human just like me, but I swear sometimes they have less faults than I do. They accepted me, they hugged me when I cried, and not just that, but they expressed the love of God to me in more ways than just reading the Bible and saying they loved God/me. They are so full of Him.

Yes. The point of it all is to be more like Jesus. Giving love, hope, grace to those around us. Fellowship no matter what their status. Taking them as they are.

I can't wait to read that book now!! Thanks for writing this, dear!

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