Have you read Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz? If so, did you like it? Did you know it’s been adapted into a movie project whose funding was crowd-sourced by Christians eager to see it committed to film?
I read the book after I heard The (now) Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia quote from it at a TENS conference a few years ago. Bishop Rickel, whom I then knew as Greg from Austin, talked about the quote on the first page of the book as illustrative of the Christian stewardship journey:
I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing a saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that I liked jazz music.
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.
So I read it. Liked it okay. Thought Miller was a cool guy with an interesting slant on faith who would probably be better appreciated by mainstream evangelicals than by – well, whatever it is I am. In short, I liked the opening quote just a hair better than the rest of the book.
And now I’m wondering whether I’ll have the fortitude to want to see the film, although I’m starting to see evidence of the same pressure to fund its box office as I felt among the Twitterati to donate to its Kickstarter project – by people breathlessly upholding Miller as somehow illustrating the substance of the Christian faith struggling to articulate itself and to continue to set us free in a postChristian era.
I like how Tony Jones expresses his ambivalence:
In spite of numerous invitations to see pre-screenings of the movie, I haven’t yet seen it. Many of my friends have. Some have loved it, and others have walked out because they found it to be horrible….
Now, my fellow Christians are beseeching me to see it. It’s not quite like when Christians proclaimed that The Passion was going to the be greatest evangelism opportunity since Peter’s sermon on Pentecost (Ed Young, Jr. said that). But the the pressure is on nevertheless. It seems likely, from what I’ve heard, that critics are going to pan this movie, or at least give it an overwhelming, “Meh.” Fearing this, many of my fellow Christians desperately want this movie to succeed commercially, because if it doesn’t, the thinking goes, they’ll never make another Christian movie again!
… until another film with resonances of faith makes another boatload of money. Whether these kinds of movies get made pretty much depends on the receipts, and if paying attention to Hollywood shows anything, it’s that American movie viewers can be fickle and unpredictable. But don’t buy into the logic that “Christian” films are only ever going to be made outside the main studios. If the audience is provably there to be entertained/enlightened, the products will come.
Those products will be overtly messaged to Christians with attendant marketing campaigns hitting churches. But that won’t make them documents of faith – it will simply mean that more widgets have been made, and some will perhaps be further motivated in their faith in Christ.
On the other hand, virtually nothing bearing an overtly Christian label that has come out of Hollywood has motivated me in my faith. I can think of a lot of films that were simply out there for mass consumption that helped me and my communities of faith than most any one explicitly “Christian movie.” (The Blind Side, a kind of Christian-values-driven, feel-good fest that worked for all kinds of people, being the sort of exception that proves the rule.)
And that’s why, despite the hearty endorsements by family and friends, I haven’t a stitch of interest in Fireproof or movies of that ilk, and won’t have the time for October Baby if it comes; and although I hope Don Miller does well, I will probably try to take a pass on Blue Like Jazz as well.