My secular-college-student daughter is a fan of Donald Miller, Christian author of the bestselling Blue Like Jazz memoir, now made into a movie that released this weekend. It is showing in 150 theaters nationwide, and I took Cynthia to Denver last night to watch. On the hour journey, Cynthia took out her iphone and read to me some of the most profound Donald Miller quotes she recorded. He’s no light thinker (and neither is Cynthia), and his movie definitely delivers some heavy ideas.
So heavy that you may decide to stay away from Blue Like Jazz. Topics covered aren’t your typical Christian movie topics. There is nothing about purity rings and no one walks through the Four Spiritual Laws and has a salvation experience. Blue Like Jazz earns its PG-13 rating with shock more common for MTV than the Christian movie genre.
Here are just a few. Don’s agnostic father drinks beer in the morning, sleeps with a student intern and mocks Christianity. Don’s mother is discovered having an affair with Don’s spiritual mentor and youth pastor. Don meets and befriends a lesbian after meeting her in a co-ed bathroom. Condoms, homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, etc. Sitting next to my daughter in the theater, these topics made me uncomfortable – especially the humorous take on much of it – most of it unveiled in the first 30 minutes of the movie.
And one of the scenes has Chris & Wendy Jeub written all over it. Don and his new-found atheist friend play a “joke” on Christians by draping a giant condom over a church steeple. A sign beneath it reads, “Don’t let these people reproduce.” Our most loyal trolls couldn’t top that one.
But if you can stomach the edginess of it, go see Blue Like Jazz. It may be a college party movie, but the movie concludes with some of the most poignant Christian messages I’ve seen on the silver screen. Love, charity, forgiveness, good will, redemption – it’s all there, and it’s raw and believable. It’s sort of in your face at the end, leaving you few options but to open up your heart and accept two realities: (1) that our Christian culture doesn’t deliver all the answers, and (2) the real Jesus Christ does.
In fact, while the first 1/2 hour was uncomfortable, the last 1/2 hour was tough to keep up with. So many of the most profound Christian messages were unearthed in the complex journey of the main character. It makes me want to watch it again and take sermon notes. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but let me just say this: I found myself confronted with the love of Christ at the end. Far from a cheesy ending – it was real. I had a lump in my throat agreeing, “Yeah, that’s Him; this is the Jesus I know.”
Here’s the worst – but perhaps the best – reality of this movie: I’m more apt to invite my non-Christian friends to see it. Not because of the edginess, but because of the conclusion. One of the punctual messages is that a life with Christ doesn’t have a conclusion – a “resolution” in the end – but is more about a relationship than attaining perfection or having all the answers in life neatly packaged in a Christian box.
You know, this is a theme of our books and this blog. We’re often judged for our love of Christ and our desire to obey him – and our insistence that children are blessings – but what is sometimes missed in our message is our attempt to expose the fallacy of the perfect Christian. (Read our series on legalism to get the idea.) You mustn’t read Love in the House without coming away with similar answers Donald Miller has for his readers. Miller is pointing a finger at the religious pharisee in us – just as Christ does – and offers us a redemptive choice to follow God.
Maybe Christians should see this movie. I’m not sure if this was Miller’s intent, but it seems Blue Like Jazz is more for Christians than “the sinful world out there.” Cynthia and I found ourselves moved by the movie, which is perhaps exactly what Miller intended.