Many years ago now I was living in an apartment above a ministry center with these two guys and one of them introduced me to Don Miller by way of handing me the book "Blue Like Jazz". It was right around the time when I was actually starting to enjoying reading again and also at a point in my spiritual walk when I was just starting to question what all this Jesus stuff I had been taught my whole life...and claimed to believe... really meant to me personally. So I gave the book a try. I ended up liking it so much that I read the whole thing in two days...which was some sort of record for me. I went on to read it over and over again through out the years...as well as picking up and rereading Don's other books, "Through Painted Deserts", "Searching for God knows What" and more recently, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years". So When I found out that a bunch of fans got together and raised a bunch of money on kickstarter to see "Blue Like Jazz" made into a movie, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy! It's taken a VERY long time for me to actually do that...but thanks to redbox, this weekend I rented it...and I got to say I actually thought it was pretty good. While it's a bit different from the book...since it's kinda hard to take a bunch of short essays and make them into a movie that's cohesive...I still found myself connecting with it in the same ways as I did while reading it.
The movie is basically the story of Don...whose grown up in a conservative baptist community his whole life....and then he finds out that his mother is having an affair with the youth pastor at his church.....and thus in his anger he runs away to this extremely Liberal College in Portland where he shed's everything he's ever believed about God and faith....and ultimately he journeys back to discovering who God really is for himself. In a lot of ways it's the typical "christian" story but not nearly as "cheesy" as most Christian films are! And while it shows life in extremes, I think it does a good job of taking a look at real issues that face people both in and out of the church. I resonated with a lot of it....not that I live an extreme life on either end of the spectrum....although some people would say I do....but because during so many scenes I found myself sitting there thinking, "I've been there".
For example, I grew up in a "Christain" home where every sunday... or really when ever the doors were open... we were in church. I was taught from a young age that there was a clear right and wrong in the world...and that if you did right God would love you and if you didn't He wouldn't. It was as if in my mind God had a checklist of all the things you were suppose to believe and say and do as a Christian....and I spent years and years of my life trying to make sure that I checked each and every box. It didn't matter that I didn't really understand why I believed what I believed. It didn't matter that it had no real impact on my heart. It didn't even matter that my relationship with God was nothing more than a ticket out of hell. All that mattered was that I looked the part.....a white washed tomb. And that's kinda how this movie starts off. Don's living the Christian life...doing what He's suppose to...believing all he's suppose to.....basically being the good little Christian boy. Then his world comes crashing down....
I also went through a period in my life where I threw away EVERYTHING I believed about God. I had spent years building this house of faith without a strong foundation and when the storms of life came and it fell down.. my whole understanding of God crumbled. God was like nothing or no one that I had ever known. He didn't play by the rules I was taught or I thought I knew....so I turned my back on Him. But....one of the most amazing things about God is that no matter how far away we try to push Him....no matter how much we question Him....no matter how much distance we try to create between Him and ourselves.....He ALWAYS still loves us. It was that love....a love that I had missed out on for years and never really understood....that overwhelmed me one day and drew me back to His heart...helping me discover who God is to me for myself. In the movie, there's a moment where you see that same switch in Don's heart....it's not a clearly defined moment....but still a moment where you can plainly see he's different. It's that moment of drawing....where God is unveiling His eyes... even if He doesn't realize it...that I connected with. My moment didn't look the same....but just like his moment....it changed everything.
And then finally there's this part in the book....which thankfully made it into the movie since it's one of my favorite parts....where Don sets up this confession booth at his school fair. Each year students come there and confess their sins...but this year Don turns the tables and as people begin pouring in, he begins to pour out his heart to them. He confesses....apologizes....and repents....on behalf of the church...and on behalf of himself....for misrepresenting God. Boy do I get that...and I can't tell you how many times I've felt convicted to do the same! Obviously, as a human, I have a lot of personal sin that I need to confess....and I'm learning to do that more and more....both to God and man. But I also can't help feeling the need to repent on behalf of THE church... for how we've treated those outside of our doors....for condemning those who are living homosexual lifestyles or who have had abortions......for not carrying for the homeless person or drug addict on the corner.....for ignoring the cries of the orphan and the widows.....for forgetting how to love! Sometimes it makes me sick how wrong we've gotten it...how wrong I've gotten it...and I think.....Forgive us God and forgive us world!
So yeah....the movie gets my two thumbs up. There's definitely a lot about the movie I liked...things that I connected with...reasons that I would suggest you all watch it. But I would also suggest you read the book....because as usually is the case....the book is always better!