Blue Like Jazz Movie Review

There was a book written back in the early 2000s with the provocative title ‘Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality‘ written by a guy named Don Miller on his experiences living on Portland, OR and attending some classes at the local Reed College. The book slowly made it’s way on to the New York Times bestsellers lists and Christians all across the country soon learned that it was ok to ask questions of your faith and pursue relationships outside of the church (and drink a beer, swear and befriend homosexuals, Tim Challies has some helpful critiques of it as his blog). Being as successful as it was, it was only a matter of time that a movie would be made out of it.

I didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters as it was only on limited release and wasn’t near me (one of the disadvantages of living in Cheyenne, WY) but now that it’s in my local RedBox I rented it last night and watched it. My reaction is very mixed. On the one hand I was grateful that it wasn’t another feel good “Christian” movie with bad acting and clearly trying to hard to preach a point, but at the same time I don’t think a movie needs to have scenes of drunk parties, getting high and glorifying homosexuality to reach the “world” For those who haven’t read the book the movie probably won’t make too much sense. It follows the life of a conservative Don Miller who grew up in Texas and left to the Pacific Northwest to attend a godless Reed College because he discovered his mother was having an affair with his youth pastor. He goes on to explore all that the world has to offer and eventually reaches the conclusion that the writer of Ecclesiastes did, “everything is meaningless.” And without Christ, everything is meaningless. The movie ends on a positive note which is the scene most people remember from the book: the reverse confession booth where Don apologizes for the sins of so many Christians. Don apologizes by saying, “I’m ashamed of Jesus because I want you to like me. It’s like Jesus is the geek in the cafeteria and I’m the one pretending that he’s not my friend.” He goes on to ask, “Do you forgive me for misrepresenting God?” This should strike a chord with many of us in the church today who misrepresent God on a regular basis. We too often give in to the world or completely condemn the world who need us to give them an example of what a Christian really is – it gets down to even calling yourself a Christian, a “little Christ.” How many of us are defaming the name of Christ on a daily basis? We say we’re a Christian then cheat on our taxes, or lie or spread rumors about our brothers and sisters. On a retreat I recently went on a comment someone said came to mind during this scene: the Christian community is the best apologetic to the faith.

This movie does a good job of asking some questions but ultimately falls short of providing the ultimate answer – Christ’s atoning work on the cross. The book did a far better job of showing this answer. This isn’t a movie I’d share with a conservative youth group, but could be a good conversation starter for those who have grown up in the church and are planning to attend a public college with all the temptations the world has to offer.

*For a good review of the movie see this article by Mike Cosper.

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